Sunday, January 3, 2010
The decade ending 12/31/2009 gave birth to totally changed workplaces along with signs that the future workplace will continue to evolve. The "army of the unemployed" referenced by business tycoons in the 1920s led to vast legislative changes in the 1930s and 1940s: rights for unionized workers, social security, fair labor standards. The 50s and 60s saw the spread of equal employment opportunity legislation on racial and gender bases, followed by rights for older workers, disabled employees, and family leave. The 80s and 90s yielded piecemeal state and local non-discrimination legislation aimed at protecting gays, sexual orientation, transgendered, victims of domestic violence, and nursing mothers. The recession of 2008-2009 leaves high rates of unemployment among all sectors of society but unprecedented lack of private sector job growth, disproportionately high unemployment among black males and Hispanics, and the new "flexible" worker who seeks part-time, contingent, project work or work-from-home. At the same time, the EEOC and state and federal courts are facing unprecedented spikes in new case filings, which will lead to delays, longer time to trial or disposition, uncertainty and disappointment. These conditions should lead individuals and corporations to seek alternative dispute resolution processes to resolve workplace disputes in less expensive and more expeditious forums.