Labor and Employment Law

Ca. Labor & Emp't Rev. September 2020, Volume 34, No. 5


BY Erich Shiners

Erich Shiners is a Board Member at the California Public Employment Relations Board, where he participates in deciding appeals, formulating regulations, and overseeing agency operations. Before his appointment to the Board, he represented public agency and nonprofit employers in labor and employment matters. He can be reached at

This month marks the end of my term as Chair of the Labor and Employment Law Section. The Chair’s "farewell" message traditionally is a time to reflect on the past year and look toward the future. It’s an understatement to say this year has brought many unexpected challenges, and great uncertainty for the future.

As I write this message, COVID-19 continues to take the lives of many around the world, and the fight to contain it in the United States appears to have regressed back to where it was months ago. While I am optimistic that ultimately we will get the upper hand on the virus, this setback is discouraging. The lack of a clear answer on when things will get back to normal (if they ever truly do) sometimes causes me to fear for the future. These are common human feelings under difficult and unexpected circumstances, and I try to accept them as such. And while there are many opinions about the seriousness of COVID-19 and how to control it, we must be diligent to determine what the facts are, even as medical experts continue to revise their understanding of them based on new evidence. As for the political arguments over what should be done (or not done), I fall back on a quotation from John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty that was influential on our nation’s founders and the governing documents they created: "The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others."

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