Article Summary

Every year the DC Bar offers Changing Currents in Employment Law, a three-hour "super CLE" that surveys recent changes in the field and features tips from some of the top practitioners in the D.C. area. Here's a quick Q&A about the 2017 event from its moderator and faculty chair.

This article by TELG managing principal R. Scott Oswald was published by The Employment Law Group, P.C. on October 12, 2017.

What Will You Learn at Changing Currents 2017?

By R. Scott Oswald

“What will I get out of this event?”

As the moderator and faculty chair for the DC Bar’s Changing Currents in Employment Law, I get asked this question every year. And in 2017, more than ever before, I am confident that our annual CLE event will deliver an enormous return on just 3 hours of your time.

Below, in Q&A form, is a snapshot of what you can expect from Changing Currents 2017. I look forward to seeing you at 6 p.m. on October 24!

What is Changing Currents?

It’s an annual CLE hosted by the DC Bar, and it has been offered for almost a decade now. Each year we assemble the D.C. area’s leading lights in employment law — from both the management and employee sides — to review the most important legal trends affecting employees, employers, and their counsel. It’s a “race across the rooftops” of recent court decisions, legislation, and rule-making that may change the way that we practice law.

Plus, just as important as the review of substantive law, our accomplished panelists will be sharing practice tips they’ve gathered from years — decades, in many cases — inside and outside the courtroom.

This is cask-strength stuff, distilled into three hours.

Many attorneys attend this CLE year after year. Why? Is it really so different each year?

Absolutely. Here’s a great example: This year, just like last year, we will offer a panel on the state of sexual orientation case law, with a special focus on Title VII. Same topic as 2016 — yet the environment has changed profoundly. Many courts continue to find that Title VII forbids workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, but Jeff Sessions just reversed the Justice Department’s position on this issue. The EEOC is under pressure to follow suit, and suddenly the courts look like a last line of defense for LGBTQ employees. The law in this field is still evolving and, to be frank, I expect our discussion to have a far different outlook than in 2016.

And that’s just one example. We deliberately focus on areas of law that have seen sharp changes lately — or where a gradual evolution has lately come into focus.

You mentioned tips on best practices. Any previews?

I’m especially eager to hear from Susan Andorfer, counsel for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She’ll be on our panel about how federal agencies and their employees should handle hiring freezes — but we’ll also ask about other topics relevant to government employment, such as new EEOC case law on calculating damages in the federal sector. If you’re an employment lawyer who represents federal employees, as I am, her perspective will have great practical value.

Changing Currents is a collegial gathering. Attorneys who face off during litigation often take the opportunity to highlight the tactics they wish they saw from opposing counsel — tactics that can produce the fastest, best resolution. These are insights that simply aren’t available elsewhere.

What other topics will be covered? Is there a common theme?

There’s no formal theme, but most panels will deal to some extent with the emerging effects of a new — and very different — U.S. presidency. There’s a discussion of whistleblowing in the Trump era, for instance, and a discussion of political speech and conduct in the workplace. Not quite as tied to politics: A comparison between the rights of government employees and the rights of employees of government contractors. Very distinguished faculty on that panel — John Remy of Jackson Lewis and Morris Fischer, who has his eponymous firm.

Who else is on the faculty?

It’s a stellar lineup. On the sexual orientation panel, Carter DeLorme of Jones Day and Carla Brown of Charlson Bredehoft Cohen & Brown. Discussing political speech in the workplace, Kara Ariail of Holland & Knight and Noah Peters of Bailey & Ehrenberg.

On whistleblowers, Nat Calamis of Carr Maloney and Jonathan Tycko of Tycko & Zavareei. And joining Susan Andorfer on the hiring-freeze panel, Michelle Bercovici of Alden Law Group.

You talked about what’s different from last year. What’s the same every year?

Employment law is changing: That’s the biggest constant. The workplace is a crucible for broader tensions in society, because it’s where they get translated into dollars and cents — and it’s where many of us spend a majority of our waking lives. Sometimes our field of law leads society; sometimes it follows. Either way it’s always in flux. It requires diligence and creativity, plus an annual CLE like this, just to keep pace.

The other big constant is the excellence of our panelists. Each year I am humbled by the quality of attorneys willing to donate their time — not just on the day, but in weeks of preparation — to educate their fellow advocates. In 2017 we’re especially rich in talent: Just look at the list above. But I say that every year!

OK, I’m in. What do I do?

Register here and I’ll see you on October 24!

I’d love to attend, but I’m out of town on October 24. Help!

You’re in luck: You can attend via webinar.


R. Scott Oswald is Managing Principal of The Employment Law Group, P.C. He was recently elected as a fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers.