Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Saturday, July 30, 2005

It Took Martin Luther 95 Theses - These Guys Are Up to 23

At the Future of Work Weblog, Charlie Grantham and Jim Ware have come up with 23 theses about the evolving nature of work. According to the introduction, they actually are a couple of years old now and the authors are finding the future is arriving "a bit slower" than they thought it might. Some of these ideas are similar to ones Tom Peters has been talking about for several years now-- think "Brand You" and each individual is a "unit of one." But with a purpose similar to Martin Luther's famous 95 theses, provoking thought and discussion, they are worth checking out, The ReFormation of Work.

Employment law gets its own theses, Number 12:
Employment law will change to recognize a new category of relationship of people to organization In the early years of the 21st century two basic forms of worker/company relationship existed in the United States and most other industrialized countries. There was either an employee/employer relationship or a contractor relationship. Both these forms have proved to be inadequate for the new, more agile and fluid kinds of social relationships required by knowledge workers (the so-called creative class). We believe the nascent form of the new relationships will be built on the concept of Limited Liability. Corporations or Partnerships pioneered in the legal, accounting, and consulting professions. Individual professionals will become in essence a "company of one" and band together for projects, which may operate as short-lived formal organizations for limited periods of time.
I am not quite sure I follow that one, since I think the relationships they are describing would end up "legally" the same or certainly similar to the current independent contractor relationship. This doesn't mean that the impact on employment law of changes reflected in the whole 23 if they come to pass will not be substantial, and it certainly seems likely that many will at least to some degree.

Maybe what they are saying is that since current law -- certainly statutory based law -- is tied to the employer/employee relationship that significant changes will have to be made. Opening up the whole body of employment law to negotiation on how to handle "a new relationship of people to organization" -- now that would be most interesting. But then most revolutions are.

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