Law and Daily Life: November 2009 Archives
Law & Daily Life - The FindLaw Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

November 2009 Archives

Is the Ohio BMV Trying to Enforce Immigration Laws?

The State of Ohio is in turmoil over motor vehicle registration laws.  A recent crack-down by the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) has resulted in a suit by the League of United Latin American Citizens, who claim the BMV's sudden move to require proof of identity to register a vehicle amounts to enforcement of the immigration laws by the state, circumventing the federal government's primary role in immigration matters.

WA Post Office Goes Postal on Worker Over Netflix

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A former postal supervisor in Spokane, Washington plans on suing over wrongful termination over his refusal to accept a late delivery of Netflix DVDs. He claims that the WA Post Office fired him because he refused to process the DVDs.

The Daily News Online reports that John A. Branda refused to accept the shipment of 20,000 DVDs because they arrived several minutes past 6:00 pm.

Mr. Branda was in charge of supervising the Postal Service's inbound bulk mail receiving area at a WA post office processing plant near an airport in Spokane.

Police Sued in ATL Over a Gay Bar Raid

It seems like walking in to a bar and being gay can subject you to being treated like a criminal in Atlanta.

CNN reports that a federal lawsuit against Atlanta police was filed last Tuesday. The lawsuit was on behalf of patrons of a gay bar called the Atlanta Eagle who claim that Atlanta police forcibly searched and detained them on the night of September 10.

The police who were sued claim that they were just trying to do their job.

The lawsuit was filed by the gay rights group Lambda Legal. The lawsuit named Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington and 48 officers in its complaint.

Clipping Sterling's Wings: B-Ball Owner Settles Housing Suit

L.A. Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling and wife Rochelle have more these days to concern them than the Clipper's record (last year, 19-63). Recent news reports show the pair has settled with the U.S. Justice Department in a housing discrimination suit for what is being called the largest settlement ever in a case regarding apartment rentals. According to the Proposed Consent Order, which is awaiting the approval of U.S. Dist. Ct. Judge Dale S. Fischer, the Sterlings will pay into a fund for people alleging harm from discrimination in the amount of $2.625 million. The Sterlings will also pay a $100,000 penalty to the government.

BJ's Wholesale Club, Inc. and Failure to Pay Overtime

What does your boss call you? It might matter more than you think. Mid-level managers for BJ's Wholesale Club, Inc. settled a class action lawsuit against the company due to mis-classification of their positions so as not to pay overtime.

Did Texas Accidentally Ban Marriage?

As Molly Ivins (the great Texas political commentator) might have written about this last go 'round in Texas politics; folks, you just can't make this stuff up. Or maybe you can, but no one would believe you. Believe this: Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a Houston lawyer and Democratic candidate for Attorney General claims that a 2005 amendment to the Texas Constitution bans marriage. Not gay marriage, all marriage.

Jobless Benefits Will Expire without Congressional Action

Congress better move their seasonal gift giving along, because without action, around 1 million laid off workers will see their federal unemployment benefits end right after the holidays. Although a new law was passed on November 6th, extending federal unemployment benefits an additional 14 weeks for workers who had already exhausted state and federal limits, these new extensions will end on December 31, unless the program is renewed by congressional action.

Faulty Reasoning in NY: No Divorce Over Ignoring You

Here is another reason why us New Yorkers are tough cookies: we always need a reason (even if its faulty reasoning), even when it comes to divorce. It has to be a divorce over something.

New York State is the only state in the country that has not adopted a unilateral no-fault divorce statute. As a result of this, there are six grounds of divorce in New York. The six grounds of divorce are:

Mediation of Jon and Kate: Kate to Get Custody of the 8

For those of you who loved watching the TLC reality show Jon and Kate Plus 8, we have some very sad news. Tonight is the series finale of the show. That's right, there will be no more new Jon and Kate dramas to be seen... on that television show, at least.

CBS reports that Jon Gosselin had brought a dozen red roses to a meeting that he had with his soon to be ex-wife Kate Gosselin. 

However, as you know from our previous posts, this was not a reconciliation. From their very open arguments over breaches of contracts with TLC, to rumors of affairs on both sides, it is clear that the couple is calling it quits. The meeting was actually a mediation in order for the couple to decide on important matters such as figuring out the fate of their eight children, alimony, and other issues from their impending divorce.

Work Email and Privacy: Rules of the Road and Tips

Most workers know they need to be careful because their bosses could be watching what they are writing on those personal emails that they send out from the office. Though a recent Wall Street Journal article details how companies are facing some increased difficulty from courts over unannounced monitoring of employee's private communications, employees should still assume that their employer can and likely is keeping tabs on what happens through their work computer.

According to the Wall Street Journal, a 2009 study done by the Ponemon Institute showed that 52% of the workers surveyed admitted that they access personal email at work. This statistic shows how unaware workers are about company access to computers.

Did you know that a company can access personal email accounts if they are used on workplace computers? Employers can access all kinds of data that are stored on company issued computers and smart phones.

Does a Successful Career Hurt Moms in Custody Wars?

A new shift in how custody wars play out in court is occurring. Working Mother writes about how a trend with stay at home fathers coupled with working mothers has caused courts to grant primary custody to the fathers instead of the mothers. This has been primarily because of many mothers have a successful career.

Men have been affected by layoffs more than women during this recession. This means that more dads are staying at home with the kids. In fact, it was men who lost 74% of the 6.4 million jobs that have been lost during this recession.

Santa's Wish List: Swine Flu Vaccine Priority

It turns out, Santa really needs to get off that toy bench and get to the gym. Doctors warn that obesity is a risk factor for a severe case of the swine flu. And who is exposed to more germs than Santa?  That is why the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas (yes Virginia, such a group exists, here is the site: http://www.aorbsinc.com/) and the group Santa America, are pushing for our beloved mall Santa to be given priority for receiving his H1N1 vaccine.

After Death What Happens to Your Accounts Online?

After a fellow colleague from the University at Buffalo Law School passed away in a tragic plane crash this past summer, I was plagued with a question that is surprisingly common: After death, what happens to your accounts online? This seems to be a hot topic now. Here is a rundown on what happens to your online accounts when you happen to pass away.

Mr. Go, Katrina Damage and the New Orleans Recovery

As recently discussed in Findlaw's Decided, Wednesday was a day of consequences for the residents of New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward. The Lower Ninth took one of the major hits in the Katrina disaster and is still figuratively, if not literally, under water. U.S. District Court Judge Stanwood Duval, Jr. did his best Wednesday to throw a life preserver to the Lower Ninth and give a push to the New Orleans recovery. In a major decision, Judge Duval held in favor of four plaintiffs in their suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the negligent building and maintenance of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet canal, "Mr. Go." Judge Duval's decision may open the door to claims from as many as 100,000 more litigants.

So, who will this decision actually help?

Fraud May Bring Feds Millions from Forbes Divorce

The divorce between Walter Forbes and his ex-wife Caren could be worth billions... for the government. The AP reports that a new divorce decree issued by Bridgeport Superior Court Judge Howard Owens orders that the former Mrs. Forbes must transfer ownership of the couple's homes in Connecticut and Wisconsin back to Mr. Forbes as well as half of their jewelry and art collections.

What does this mean? It means that anything under the former Cendant Corporation Chairman's name is probably going to end up going to the government. According to the Connecticut Post, Mr. Walter Forbes was convicted of securities fraud charges back in 2007. As a result, he was sentenced to 151 months in federal prison as well as a restitution payment of $3.275 billion. USA Today reports that the accounting fraud occurred during the 1990's.  

Count on Me: Temp Jobs Available with Census Bureau

Let's take a head count, who's up for a few census jobs? A small bit of help is on the way to employ strapped Americans. The census of the U.S. will take place again in 2010, and Uncle Sam wants you.

Update: Hawaii Schools May Not Skip Class After All

As previously discussed in the Law and Daily Life post, Friday Furloughs: Judge Allows Hawaii to Cut Class, the Hawaii Department of Education (HDOE) was facing legal challenges to its planned Friday furlough program for Hawaii public schools. In a bid to save the state's crippled budget money, the HDOE proposed to dismiss school every Friday. In a surprising turn of events, angered parents sued.

Layoffs 2009: Could The WARN Act Protect You?

In recent news, employees of Premium Protein in Nebraska have filed a class action lawsuit that claims that the company violated their rights under the federal Worker Adjustment Retraining and Notification Act which is also known as WARN.

What is the WARN Act?

The WARN Act is a federal statute that has been enacted in order to protect workers and their families from mass layoffs or plant closings.

What Does It Require?

It requires that employers with more than 100 employees or more (not counting new employees, temporary ones, and part time employees) be subject to the Act.

NY Post Cartoon Leads to Harassment Lawsuit

A former editor for the New York Post, Sandra Guzman, has filed a harassment and workplace discrimination lawsuit against the paper for what she feels is an unfair termination over her feelings about a NY Post cartoon. New York Magazine reports that the NY Post cartoon was considered to be racist by many news outlets. 

Guzman's complaint has been posted by the Huffington Post. While the lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages, it did detail how Ms. Guzman felt that her voiced outrage over a political cartoon that depicted President Barack Obama as a rabid chimp shot by police was the reason that she was fired. The lawsuit also detailed some pretty shocking allegations of a racist and sexually charged workplace.

Firefighters Union in Philly Is Feeling the Heat

An organization of African American firefighters have filed a federal lawsuit against their union for being abusive and harassing them.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the firefighters allege that leaders of the firefighters union were predominantly white and were hell bent on eliminating many practices that were in place to ensure that black firefighters were hired in the first place. In fact, the union had submitted a proposal with the city back in December that requested that hiring quotas be eradicated.

The black firefighters are naturally upset that their membership dues are being put towards union activites not dedicated to their own advancement. Mr. Kenneth Green of the Club Valiants (President of the African American firefighter group) told The Philadelphia Inquirer: "They're using my union dues to do it. It's a slap in the face."

Modify This! Judge Rules on Making Home Affordable Program

More bad news for strapped home owners. In a decision announced Nov. 9th, in U.S. District Court in Minnesota, Judge Ann Montgomery found that borrowers don't have a right to modification loans under the Obama administration's Making Home Affordable program.

Claim of Rape, Sex Harassment at Teddy Bear Co. Settled

[Editor's Note: This post has been edited to emphasize that the claims involved (which were denied by the defendant) have been settled, and to remove discussion of any potential evidence claimed.]

An $80 million dollar lawsuit alleging harassment at the German toymaker Steiff, long famous for its teddy bears, has been settled this week. The AP reported that the lawsuit was settled on Tuesday Nov. 10. Details of the settlement were not disclosed.

The lawsuit was filed by Steiff marketing executive Jane Collins back in June of 2009. As noted by the AP, Steiff CEO Martin Frechen maintained that Collins' accusations were meritless.

Getting Criminal Records Expunged: Need Up as Jobs Down

In the down economy, job seekers are doing whatever they can to get a foot in the door.

For some, that means trying to clear their criminal records to boost their chances of getting a job in a tough market.

Joe Jackson Disinherited By Michael: Basics about Wills

By now you are surely informed that Michael Jackson, in his infinite wisdom, disinherited father Joe Jackson in his will as noted in the Findlaw's Celebrity Justice blog. You may think you know why this was the case, but what about how wills work, and what might be next?

 

The McCourt Divorce, the Dodgers and Marital Assets

The divorce proceedings between Dodger's owner Frank McCourt and his soon to be ex wife Jamie McCourt have been... well, dodgy.

There are reports that Frank has fired his wife and called her an adulteress while she has claimed rights for spousal support that are worth more than some of the team's star players.

Jamie McCourt filed for divorce proceedings shortly after her husband Frank McCourt fired her from her post as Chief Executive of the team under the accusation of insubordinate behavior. She also claimed half ownership of the Dodgers as well as half of the couple's $1.2 billion dollars worth of assets.

What's in a Name: Settlement Affects Citizenship Applications

As discussed in a recent post in FindLaw's Decided blog, on November 9th, attorneys announced a settlement approved in U.S. Distritct Court in Santa Ana showing the government has agreed to major changes in its processing of applications for citizenship. 

Friday Furloughs: Judge Allows Hawaii to Cut Class

One of the cornerstones of our national success is the requirement that all children regularly attend school. Except in Hawaii, not on Fridays.

Legal Joint Custody for Levi Johnston?

Levi Johnston, the man who fathered former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's first grandchild, Tripp, is planning to seek legal joint custody.

According to People Magazine, Johnston, 19 claims that Sarah Palin and the rest of the family are making it difficult for him to see his 10 month old son Tripp.

He told Insider: "It's not working. I'm done. It's going to have to go to court. They just finally pushed me over the edge."

Levi's situation is not too different from many Americans. From Jon and Kate's problems to Sandra Bullock's own child custody dilemma, we all have questions that we need to ask our family attorney if we are going through some family changes such as a divorce.   

Here are some major questions you should ask your attorney.  

Unemployment Benefits Extended: Obama Signs Bill

Right on the heels of news that U.S. unemployment has reached 10.2%, Obama has signed off on the bill that would grant an extension of time on unemployment benefits.

CNN  reported that Obama called the unemployment rate "sobering." He released a statement that said that he hoped that the bill he signed "will help grow our economy, help create and save jobs, and help provide necessary relief to small businesses."

The House of Representatives approved the measure shortly after it passed in the Senate.

Healthcare Reform: 3 Bills and What You Need To Know

Like many Americans, you are probably aware of the fact that Congress has been agonizing over public healthcare.

But do you know what the specifics are? If you don't and even if you do, you will want to read this post.

Forbes did a wonderful job detailing the information you would want to know about each of the healthcare bills being discussed at Capitol Hill. There is one caveat: Forbes could not discuss the Senate bill in detail because it is not public yet. That means that the specifics of that particular bill are unknown.

Here is what they said in a nutshell:

Unemployment Benefits Get a Boost From Senate

The Senate voted to give unemployed Americans some relief with an extension of time for unemployment benefits as well as an $8,000 homebuyer tax credit.

This was after weeks of debating over the issue. The legislation passed with a vote of 98 to 0.

According to CNN, "[t]he closely watched legislation would extend jobless benefits in all states by 14 weeks. Those that live in states with unemployment greater than 8.5% would receive an additional six weeks. The proposal would be funded by extending a longstanding federal unemployment tax on employers through June 30, 2011.

The measure would apply to those whose benefits will run out by Dec. 31, which is nearly two million people, according to Senate estimates. Those whose checks have already stopped would be able to reapply for another round."

There are 15 million unemployed Americans. Millions of these Americans depend on unemployment benefits.

Texting While Driving Laws on The Rise

Cell phones are causing otherwise prudent drivers to become distracted while they are driving. One particular concern among Americans has been texting while driving.

As recently discussed in Findlaw's Common Law, about 97 percent of Americans support a ban on texting while driving, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll.

This seems to fall right into line with a new law that has been put to the test in England recently.

The New York Times  reports that Philippa Curtis was given jail time for causing a fatal car crash that killed Victoria McBryde because she was texting while driving.

Maine Gay Marriage Law Defeated by Vote

Yesterday voters decided the fate of a law that would have allowed gay marriage in the state of Maine. In a close vote, the voters decided to overturn that law with 53% of the vote. The law was passed by the state legislature and signed by Maine Governor John Baldacci in May 2009.

Civil Rights History

This was a pivotal moment for the gay rights movement. Advocates of gay marriage were hoping that this would be the first time that an electorate would uphold a law that supported same-sex marriage. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

It was also hoped that Maine would illustrate popular consensus within a state for gay marriage. Many critics of gay marriage have used California as an example of how voters do not agree with same-sex marriage. These critics will most likely use Maine as an example now too.

Divorce Alimony Reform: A Necessary Evil?

More and more baby boomers are facing a whole new problem during the economic downturn: ex spouses from the past asking for alimony payments or asking for an increase in alimony.

A lot of people are questioning the fairness of this system.

The Wall Street Journal  reports: "Now, the idea that a husband should continue to support his wife forever, even after the demise of their marriage--long a bedrock of divorce law--is being called into question. Pressures are mounting to change a practice that some see as outdated and unfair."

However, husbands are not the only ones who can be on the hook for alimony. Sometimes if the wife is making more than her husband at the time of divorce, she can be required to pay him alimony.

Abortion in Oklahoma: Restraining Order Upheld

In our ongoing reports on a new law in Oklahoma that would make public certain details of women who undergo abortions, there is an update on the restraining order that was issued in order to halt enforcement of the law.  The state was unsuccessful in its attempt to compel the court to dismiss the temporary restraining order.  Oklahoma County Judge Twyla Mason Gray's denied the state's bid to begin complying with the state bill, Oklahoma House Bill 1595.

GINA Regulations and How They Affect You

The wellness incentives offered by your employer will be restricted by the government pretty soon. Starting Nov. 21, 2009, employer offered wellness programs will have to comply with new regulations under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. This Act is commonly known as GINA.

What is GINA?

GINA is the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act passed in Congress in 2008. It is intended to prohibit using genetic information in health insurance and employment improperly. Some improper uses are: denying health coverage, charging higher premiums based on genetic information, and using such information while hiring/firing/promoting.

Hooters Waitresses Sue Over Having to Buy Uniforms

Two waitresses from New York have filed a class action lawsuit in Brooklyn Federal Court against the risqué restaurant establishment for forcing them to buy and dry clean their skimpy uniforms without reimbursement.

The outfits which consist of orange hotpants, a tanktop, pantyhose and thick white socks costs less than $20 but under New York State labor law, an employer must supply its workers with uniforms if they are not regular street clothes.

Well the Hooters outfits are definitely not regular street clothes that's for sure!