Back to the Future! What Are the Odds of Seeing These Future HR Headlines?

by Pat DiDomenico on October 21, 2015

When Marty McFly does his time-travel thing in the 1985 movie Back to the Future II, he lands on the way-off date of October 21, 2015 … today. 

So in honor of what’s being dubbed Back to the Future Day, today’s Soapbox takes a peek into the future of HR and, more specifically, what our Wingtipped Overlords will be doing in the halls of Congress and the federal agencies over the coming months and years.

One of the big headlines in McFly’s 2015 future was that the Chicago Cubs won the World Series that year. (UPDATE: They came close this October, but it didn’t happen.) Here we tackle a handful of fictional headlines that promise change, chaos and outright comedy in the HR world in 2016 and beyond. We give a bit of outlook and firm, take-it-to-the-bank numerical odds of these headlines ever seeing the light of day …




By the end of 2017:

Department of Labor Introduces Regulations Guaranteeing Predictable Schedules for Retail and Food Service Workers (details)

Expect no new regs, just lots of sound and fury from the U.S. Department of Labor that’s aimed to scare employers away from tough scheduling practices, such as “clopening” (closing a retail establishment late at night only to return a few hours later to open in the morning).

Odds: 7 to 1


By the end of 2015:

Retaliation Complaints, Having Hit a New High in 2014, Break a Record Again in 2015 (details)

Like spaghetti onto the wall, plaintiff’s lawyers continue to throw retaliation claims onto every employee lawsuit just to see what sticks.

Odds: 1 to 1 

By summer 2016:

DOL to Make Major Change to Duties Test for Exempt Workers (details)


DOL didn’t float duties-test changes in their official proposed overtime regulations. So dropping such a bomb into the final rules would be seen as a major end-around the regulator process. But the DOL may not care about the short-term public black eye to earn what it sees as a major win for workers. 

Odds: 3 to 1 

By the end of 2016:

Poll: HR Pros Now Worry More About Electronic Sabotage of Company Records Than Overtime Violations (details)



Electronic sabotage (from China or from Fred in IT) is still a big head-in-the-sand issue for employers until it happens to them. Overtime lawsuits are a real risk that employers do (or should) fear every payday.

Odds: 20 to 1


By the end of 2020:

Major Companies Recruiting Through LinkedIn More Than Via Job Postings on Craigslist, Data Shows (details)



LinkedIn is still the top online spot to search for passive job applicants, but the continued growth of the site could turn that recruitment effort into more of a two-way street.

Odds: 4 to 1



By the end of 2017:

Major Rollback of Affordable Care Act Causing Endless Headaches for HR Pros (details)




“Too Big to Fail” meets “Mend It, Don’t End It.”  ACA-haters in Washington won’t have the political will (or the votes) to dismantle the law, but tweaks will continue for years to come.

Odds: 12 to 1

By the end of 2030:

Last Formal Performance Review Given; HR Pros Reminisce About the Tradition’s Final Days (details)



Traditions don’t die that quickly. (I actually saw a co-worker tapping on a typewriter last week.) Look for performance reviews to become more informal, more frequent and more digital. Example: GE now has an instant feedback app that lets workers gain real-time feedback on their performance.

Odds: 50 to 1


By the end of 2020:

Employee Sues Employer For Not Recognizing the Signs of His ‘Workaholism’ and Failing to Cut His Hours to Thwart His Health Breakdown (details)



Employees who grew up with Helicopter Parents will now expect their Helicopter Employers to shield them from all slights and pains, self-inflicted or not.

Odds: 1 to 1


By the end of 2016:

Total Number of States With Workplace Anti-Bullying Laws on Record Rises to Three (details)



Employees who grew up being bullied will now expect their government to protect them from bullies at work.

Odds: 2 to 1



By the end of 2017:

National Minimum Wage Rises to $10.00 per Hour (details)



Republicans in Congress can only keep their finger in the minimum wage dike for so long. Expect the GOP dam to break within the next three years.

Odds: 2 to 1

By election day of 2016:

End of Term Near, Obama Pushes Even Harder to Boost Employee Pay, Benefits; New Initiatives Launched (details)


With zero help from Congress, Obama will continue to lean on his regulators and executive orders to change policy.  In January 2017, expect a rush of pro-employee “midnight regulations” pushed through in the waning days of the administration.

Odds: 1 to 1

Category: HR Soapbox