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May the Force Be with You in (a Changing) 2018

Star Wars geekdom is strong in my family. I have it. My sons have it. My wife… well, she’s coming around. Like many my age, I grew up on the original Star Wars trilogy, idolizing the litany of iconic characters that include Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Chewy, Darth Vader, and so many others. As a young adult, I was crazy with anticipation for the new prequel trilogy that commenced with The Phantom Menace, and experienced disappointment at some aspects of those movies, but also some of the highs that have aged better with time.

Source: BrendanHunter / iStock Unreleased

As a father, I have a newer prism with which to view the Star Wars universe–whether it be with the new movies in the main Star Wars “saga”, the stand alone Star Wars story movies such as Rogue One, or the endless other TV and media compendiums. Specifically, I have gotten to re-experience the joy of Star Wars through my two sons’ youthful eyes. While they portray a new cast of characters, such as Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron, I counter that by being Kylo Ren and letting them win every light saber battle we have. Our house is littered with Star Wars trappings for my kids (and maybe a little for me), legos, clothing, books, masks, costumes, and of course the aforementioned light sabers.

Recently, like many moviegoers, we finally got around to seeing The Last Jedi. While I certainly enjoyed the movie, and my kids loved it, what has been interesting is the alleged divide among audiences. As of today, on Rotten Tomatoes, The Last Jedi has a very good 90% score among critics, but only a 50% score among audiences. There have been reports that this low audience score may have been artificially lowered through bots or other organized cyber-attacks by certain groups with their own agendas, and stronger audience reviews on different sites back up this theory. Even if true, there remains enough evidence that various criticisms of the movie do exist and have had a bearing on some of the rift among audiences.

I won’t get into the varying types of criticisms of the movie, some of which are dubious, while others do have some credence. However, one criticism in particular has been that the movie too easily dispatches or ignores lingering questions and takes the Star Wars universe in a totally different direction. There’s even been a petition requesting that The Last Jedi be removed from the Star Wars canon entirely, claiming that the movie has changed the Skywalker and Jedi legacy beyond recognition.

Personally, I wouldn’t go that far. But there’s a reason why Kylo Ren says in the movie, “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.” It is a foreshadowing of things to come, and the fact is that in order to survive and remain relevant, Star Wars must stay fresh, adapt, and move the story forward into the future. Change is unavoidable, and those who cling to the past and expect it to continue on the same path may be disappointed.

As we turn the page into the new year, this concept may be just as relevant. Change is unavoidable and employers must be able to adapt to such change. On the one hand, the federal Department of Labor under the Trump Administration will likely continue its shift to more employer-friendly policies, including just recently its announcement that it will move to a less rigid “primary beneficiary” test in determining whether internships are appropriately categorized as unpaid under the Fair Labor Standards Act. On the other hand, state and local agencies have been actively attempting to combat this by enacting their own employee-friendly laws and regulations.

At least 18 states will increase their minimum wage in 2018. Many states have passed, and will continue to pass, pay equity laws aimed at combating wage disparities based on gender, including laws that ban asking for salary history during the interview process. Paid sick leave laws continue to be on the rise, and now paid family leave is being enacted in additional states, including New York, in 2018. Predictable scheduling laws continue to be a source of discussion in various states, particularly targeting industries with retail and food workers. Continued expansion of marijuana laws will require employers with multi-state operations to rethink or reformat their drug testing practices. And of course, the #MeToo movement is not just limited to Hollywood or politics, but demonstrates a heightened recognition of sexual harassment in the workplace–which not only requires employers to evaluate their sexual harassment training and complaint procedures, but which could result in state and local governments instituting certain mandatory training programs or other guidelines.

Employers can certainly complain about these changes and how they will affect their operations, just as moviegoers have the right to complain about the changes made to the Star Wars canon in The Last Jedi. But unlike moviegoers, employers can’t simply decide not to “show up” for future installments. They will have to monitor these developments and adapt in order to ensure compliance to avoid risk. While employers have always had to do this in the past, it always feels like changes are coming fast and furious and 2018 will be no different. As for my fellow Star Wars geeks, I say try to embrace the future while also remaining thankful for the past. It’s not just our Stars Wars anymore, it’s a Star Wars for the next generation as well. New plot lines, new characters, and a new direction are inevitable. Of course, you should still feel free to nostalgically put on your Darth Vader mask and start telling everyone within earshot, “No… I am your father” even as your wife tells you “Dave, please take that mask off and get the kids ready for dinner.” It’s perfectly normal and appropriate.