Lecturer warns of changing workplace


Friday, February 23
BENNINGTON — Speaking at Southern Vermont College Thursday, New York Law School professor Carlin Meyer said the laws that will affect the workplace of the future are in flux.

Meyer's talk, the second in a series of five, was titled "Law and the Workplace: What rights will we lose and what protections will we have?"

Meyer said current trends have created additional divides in the employment world. "We're becoming not just a society of haves and have-nots, but also a society of those who have access to rights and those who don't," Meyer said. "The salary divide is beginning to be mirrored in other areas, like health coverage and free speech."

"Another divide is in access to law — there are business haves and have-nots," Meyer added. "Large corporations can afford to invoke and abide by the law. Smaller businesses often struggle (to do so)."

Meyer said the conventions of the old workplace are gone: People no longer work at one job for extended periods of time, no longer get promoted through seniority systems, are no longer member of unions, nor do they earn a "family wage."

"That system is on its way out, if not gone entirely," Meyer said. "Now, there's high-velocity job changes, the benefits responsibility is shifting to employees and there are few employees in unions."

Addressing the college-age crowd, Meyer said promotion opportunities for younger workers would likely be few and far between because of changing demographics.

An issue Meyer predicted would arise in the future is that of employer discrimination. Meyer said laws already prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, religion or age, and predicted that genetic profiling might be next.

"In the next 10 to 15 years, scientists will be able to predict who is more likely to get certain diseases," Meyer said. "This information will likely influence hiring, and that's a major concern at the federal level."

According to Meyer, that concern, and issues like it, will likely mark the end of employer-provided health insurance. She said the cost of providing health care is too strong an incentive for employers to discriminate.

Another potential hiring hazard is the sheer availability of information, Meyer said. She cautioned the students to watch what they put on the Internet.

"With easy information access comes more screening," Meyer said. "So change your e-mail address, don't write crazy stuff on your blog and watch what pictures you put online."

Once on the job, young workers will have to continue their electronic vigilance.

"Don't write anything on a (work) e-mail that you wouldn't want the whole world, and the New York Times, to read," Meyer said. "We live in the midst of an information revolution, and your company's edge may be solely information."

Meyer said she believed mandatory limits on work hours, and even mandated family vacation time, would be considered in the future. According to Meyer, the sheer number of hours that Americans work contributes to its large preventable health care costs.

Meyer did say, however, that there will be many chances to change the future.

"Between now and 2025, there will be 18 congressional elections, 5 presidential elections and innumerable opportunities to affect local legislatures," Meyer said.

The next lecture in the series will be held on March 22, and will discuss global technology and its effect on the workplace.


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