Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Labor Law Makes an Appearance on The Good Wife

ThegoodwifeFrom Harris Freeman (Western New England), a lighter entry on pedagogy and popular culture. Harris writes:

A rare cultural phenomena – labor issues driving the plot of a prime-time TV show. This week’s episode of The Good Wife (#21), a legal drama on CBS starring Julianna Marguiles, featured a plot devoted to labor law:  Attorney Alicia Florick (Marguiles) was ‘tricked/coaxed’ into representing a group of computer coders at a software company who sought to form a union. 

Much to my surprise, a series of hearings before an administrative law judge at the NLRB provided the adjudicatory framework.  Legal issues included whether: workers were employees; engaged in concerted activity; suffered from discrimination because they chose to form a union, and; whether employer electronic surveillance was lawful. What’s more, the firm’s representation of these employees proved a catalyst for the law firm’s administrative staff to complain about their own workplace conditions and a justifiably cynical take on how employers “lawfully” handle employee dissatisfaction. 

If you can get a hold of the episode, excerpts would make for some effective use of popular TV culture for classroom teaching and conversation.   A summary of the episode is available at Entertainment Weekly here.  

Does all this also mean that labor law is again bubbling up in Americans' consciousness? Have the events of Wisconsin, Michigan, and the NLRB finally got some in Hollywood to take notice of the importance of these issues to the future of our country?

OK, probably not. But one can dream.



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Paul beat me to this post, but I actually watched the episode when it aired. The good news is that anytime the NLRB and other labor law issues get such a public airing, we should be happy. The bad news is that if you made a drinking game based on spotting all of the legal errors, someone might end up in the hospital. So much for fact-checking. For those that care--if there are any such people--one show that must've had a reformed employment lawyer on its writing staff was King of the Hill, the animated sit-com. There's a particularly good episode (Junkie Business) that involves sex discrimination and a bunch of ADA issues. It even accurately portrays the drug addict rule under the ADA and has the main character save the day for the employer by manipulating the small employer exception.

Posted by: Jeff Hirsch | Apr 24, 2013 8:01:15 AM

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