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

December 2009 Archives

Wage Theft Causes a Major Crackdown By Municipalities

Wage theft is on the rise as the recession continues. What exactly is wage theft? Wage theft is the illegal underpayment or nonpayment of workers' wages. Yet according to the AP, wage theft has been getting worse. It has especially affected immigrant workers who fear getting reported to immigrations authorities even if they are in the U.S. legally.

AP quotes Mr. Fabian Gutierrez as saying, "All of us took abuse. We were disrespected." He was forced to work more than 60 hours a week, paid less than minimum wage and was never paid overtime. He took the abuse because he needed to take care of his wife and daughter. He never voiced his concern because he was worried he would lose his job. Wage theft and no overtime is what workers' rights groups claim are the most often cited complaints of employers.

The Problem of Same Sex Divorce in Texas

How do you un-do something that doesn't exist in the first place? That is the question confronting gay married couples wishing to un-couple in the state of Texas. Under a 2005 amendment to the Texas Constitution, same sex marriage is not recognized in under Texas marriage laws. So what happens when a same sex couple married in another state sues for divorce in the Lone Star State?

Transgender New York Employees Get Workplace Rights

Transgender state workers will now get equal workplace rights.

Transgender New York employees will be protected from discrimination in the workplace under New York law.

It is the first step toward including gender identity and expression protections in state law.

Lego My Shoe Design: Balenciaga Sues Steve Madden

The legendary designer Coco Chanel said something like, a fashion that does not reach the streets is not fashion. It appears that the House of Balenciaga might take issue with the great Coco on that point. Balenciaga is suing the designer of the "street" version of their famous "Lego" shoes, Steve Madden. On December 15, 2009, Balenciaga filed suit alleging copyright infringement, unfair competition, and trademark infringement (among other claims) against shoe maker Steve Madden for copying, as exactly as the Madden price point would allow, the weird and wonderful Lego stilettos shown by the French fashion house in 2007.

House Passes "Jobs for Main Street" Bill

Recently, the House of Representatives passed what has been called the "Jobs for Main Street" Act.

The New York Times describes the bill as an attempt to create jobs in federal public works, aid in small businesses getting the loans they need, and provide for an unemployment benefits extension. This jobs package is something many Americans need during this recession.

What is the Jobs For Main Street Act Of 2010?

It promises to stabilize jobs through infrastructure investments, public service jobs, emergency relief for families hurt by the economy and expand transportation safety.

Ho, Ho, Hold My Pay? Paid Holidays not Guaranteed by Law

Can't wait for the holidays? Time to spend with your family can be a real treat, but don't expect the law to ensure that you get holiday pay. Although many of us have come to expect to have holidays such as Christmas and New Year, or even those festive favorites President's Day or Memorial Day off with pay, under state and federal labor law, its more like time off for good behavior.

News Employees Sue Tribune Company

In an opinion issued last Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer will allow a suit by employees of the Tribune Company to proceed against company chairman, real estate investor Sam Zell and the Greatbanc Trust Company, over the stock buy back plan that plaintiffs claim drove the company into bankruptcy. Employees claim that when Zell took the Chicago-based Tribune Co. private in an $8.3 billion stock buy back in 2007, the action violated federal pension protection laws. The company filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year.

NY Gov. Paterson Pulls A Scrooge, Pulls Money from Schools

New York Governor David Paterson recently announced his plans to withhold $750 million worth of aid to New York public schools, local governments and health insurers already promised, planned and budgeted for by those institutions. This action comes due to a failure of the legislature to cut state spending as much as the Governor would have liked. To ease the state's cash shortage, Paterson will keep the school funds in the state's pocket, for now. 

What Is the Medicare "Donut Hole" and Will It Be Filled?

Like the rest of the healthcare mess, the Medicare "donut hole" has been around for quite a while now and no one has done anything to fix it. And we hope, like the healthcare mess, someone is going to try to fix it now.

New Immigration Bill Debuts in Washington

A new immigration bill that is known as the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act has finally gotten some air play in Congress. The bill's official name is Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act (CIRASAP). With all of the focus on job creation and healthcare, immigration issues have been pushed to the wayside. However Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) wants to ensure that immigration issues are not forgotten. He is one of the congressmen supporting this proposed piece of legislation.

According to a press release by the ACLU, the bill calls for border security, improving conditions of detention, protecting U.S. citizens and legal immigrants, protecting family unity, ending discrimination in immigration enforcement, employment verification, visa reforms, and finally earned legalization of illegal immigrants.

The response to the new immigration bill has been generally pessimistic. Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA) told the New York Times that the new immigration bill would bring in new waves of immigrants who will take jobs away from Americans in a time when Americans need all of the jobs that they can get.

Wage Theft? AT&T Lawsuit About Pay for Overtime

A lawsuit has been filed against AT&T about pay for overtime being denied to employees because they have been misclassified as managers. The AT&T lawsuit seems to ring true to calls around the country claiming wage theft is on the rise. ABC News reports that employees filed the AT&T lawsuit because they claim that since AT&T misclassified them as managers, meaning they were exempt from receiving pay for overtime.

The employees are from AT&T offices in San Francisco and Atlanta, so the AT&T lawsuit is actually filed in both California and Georgia. They are asking for over a $1 billion dollars in damages. The plaintiffs were classified by AT&T as "level one" managers.

According to Reuters, "level one" managers are the lowest level in the company's 7 level management tier. The plaintiffs claim that the role involves minimal supervisory work. Reuters quotes the lead attorney for the plaintiffs as saying, "If you call somebody a duck and it doesn't quack, it doesn't swim and it doesn't have wings, it ain't a duck."

Oklahoma Abortion Law: Putting Info Online Questioned

CNN reports that last Friday a judge may rule on whether the Oklahoma abortion law (that requires women to provide abortion online information to be posted on the internet) should continue. We wrote about this law previously on Law and Daily Life here.   

The Oklahoma abortion law requires that the details of women who undergo abortions in Oklahoma be posted online and viewable by the public. Under the Oklahoma abortion law,  the following information about women who have abortions would be posted online: the date of the abortion, the country where the abortion took place, age of the mother, marital status of the mother, race of the mother, years of education of the mother, state or country of residence of the mother, and total number of previous pregnancies of the mother.

While the law does not post information such as names, addresses or any other information that would directly identify the patient, critics of the law say that the information that the law requires is enough to identify individuals in small communities in Oklahoma.

Mayor Fenty Signs DC Same Sex Marriage Bill

DC Mayor Adrian Fenty signed the DC same sex marriage bill that recently passed in the DC Council twice. CNN reports that Mayor Fenty signed the DC same sex marriage bill at the All Souls Church; which is a religious institution that recognizes same sex couples and is known for its diversity. The bill would allow gay marriage for same sex couples in DC.

The DC same sex marriage bill now needs to gain approval with Congress. Congress will have a 30 day review period in order assess whether the bill should be passed or not. Congress has the power to reverse laws that are passed by the DC Council. Some speculate that the measure will pass since there is a Democratic majority on Capitol Hill at the moment.

Laundry Workers Settle Living Wage Suit in LA

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In an unusual example of government looking out for the little guy, Cintas Uniform company settled a living wage suit brought by its laundry workers today. Filed in 2004, the workers Union accused the company of failing to pay a living wage from 2000-2004 while under a contract with the county, as provided for by the Los Angeles County Living Wage Ordinance.

Update: Cobra Subsidy Extension Approved by House

As previously discussed in this blog, many unemployed Americans have been assisted in affording healthcare insurance by the federal Cobra subsidies which began last February. Yesterday, a House vote passed the defense spending bill which includes a COBRA extension, adding another six months onto the original nine month limit for the 65% subsidy. The bill now goes to the Senate for approval, which is expected to vote this week.

Two Drug Import Amendments Fail To Pass In Senate

Two attempts to introduce cheaper prescription drugs into the United States failed this week. Two amendments that called for drug import from other countries failed to pass in the Senate.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the proposed amendments to Senate healthcare legislation needed 60 votes in order to be adopted. The amendment introduced by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) failed to pass with 51-48 in favor of the amendment.

The second amendment which was introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) was basically the same as Sen. Dorgan's but it allowed for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to certify that the drug import would be safe and lower costs in order to take effect. This amendment failed to pass with 56-43 in favor of the amendment.

District Court Rules In Favor of Work Email Privacy

The DC Federal District Court has ruled in favor of work email privacy even if those messages are personal ones.

The Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press reports that the court ruled that a U.S. attorney's personal emails are private even if they are from a work issued email address. The ruling was surprising because most employees expect that they have no rights to privacy when it comes to work issued email addresses. According to The National Law Journal, the ruling hinged on the essential fact that federal prosecutors are allowed to use their work issued email addresses for personal use.

Nothing Certain About 2010 "Death Taxes"

Now here is a drop dead date: even though the House of Representatives passed a bill on December 3rd to permanently extend this year's estate tax rates of 45% (with a $3.5 million exemption), if the Senate does not take up the legislation by Jan 1, the federal tax on inherited assets would disappear altogether in 2010. However, the estate tax would return with a vengeance in 2011, at much higher rates and lower exemptions. Cue the zombie music.

The DC Same Sex Marriage Bill Is Approved

The critical DC same sex marriage bill was approved by members of the the DC City Council on Tuesday. The New York Times reports that the bill which would allow gay marriage south of the Mason-Dixon line, passed with an 11-2 vote.  

It is important to realize that this bill still faces some major hurdles. As we wrote about in Law and Daily Life, Congress does have the power to block such legislation.

A Republican from Utah who oversees the district plans on using a variety of methods to block the measure. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah told ABC News: "Some people legitimately and often ask: 'Why is it that a congressman from Utah, or anyplace else, is sticking their nose in this? Article I, Section 8 of our Constitution says that in all cases, the Congress shall oversee the laws of Washington, D.C., and that is what we're trying to do."

Employee Jury Duty: Lawsuit Reminds Us It's a Right

We all know that serving time on a jury can be a pain. Imagine if your boss fired you for doing your civic duty? That is exactly what allegedly happened to Ms. Jackalyn P. Strachan in Miami. Her story serves to remind us about employee jury duty and rights of employment.

According to the Sun Sentinel, Ms. Strachan was wrongfully dismissed from her job as a security guard when she served time on a jury for a murder trial. How long was her jury service? She served on the jury for three days. Adding insult to injury, her employer refused to pay her for the time she served. As a result, she sued her employer and the jury awarded her $150,000 in damages.

The Sun Sentinel quotes Ms. Strachan's attorney as saying, "The irony is amazing. I think the jury in our case understood jury service is a fundamental part of what makes our system work. They wanted to send a message that you can't punish people for doing their duty."

No one is exempt from jury duty, not even Kobe Bryant!

"Cash for Caulkers"? Obama's Home Retrofit Program

The AP reports that President Obama is pushing for Congress to embrace a critical part of his clean energy initiatives: the home retrofit program. He called the program's goal of making tax breaks for home retrofit initiatives "sexy" during a visit to a Home Depot. Homeowners and out of work contractors likely don't care if a "cash for caulkers" program is sexy, as long as it helps ease energy costs and creates some jobs.

According to USA Today, Pres. Obama told employees and company officials of a Home Depot in Alexandria, Virginia: "Here's what's sexy about it, saving money." President Obama hopes that by encouraging home owners to do a home retrofit, they will be encouraged to either purchasing new doors, windows, and better insulation, and do it themselves, or hire vastly underemployed construction workers to do it.

Either way, the Administration sees it as a way to save homeowners money and create some much needed job growth.

USA Today quotes Pres. Obama as saying, "It spurs hiring because local contractors and construction workers do the installation. It saves consumers money, perhaps hundreds of dollars off their utility bills each year. And it reduces our energy consumption in the process."

Supreme Court of U.S. to Rule on Text Message Privacy

Do you have a right to text message privacy on a work issued electronic device? Apparently some sexually inappropriate police officers in Ontario, California think so.

The Supreme Court of the United States will rule on text message privacy and the workplace. According to the Baltimore Sun, the four police officers sued their police department after their text messages were read by the police chief. Some of the text messages were sexually explicit in nature.

The 9th Circuit Court held that the officers had a "reasonable expectation of privacy" because they were led to believe that they could use their pager for personal use. This is the first appellate court ruling that applies work issued electronic devices to rights of privacy as outlined in the Constitution.

ICE Cracks Down on Criminal Aliens in California

The United States Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a recent crackdown on criminal aliens in California. In a press release, ICE stated that the crackdown resulted in 286 arrests of criminal aliens.

The arrests were made in an attempt to protect the public from criminal aliens. "Criminal aliens" refers to illegal aliens who have committed other non-immigration related crimes. The ICE press release quotes Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary John Morton as saying, "Enhancing public safety is at the core of ICE's mission. Legal immigration is an important part of our country's history and the American dream exists for many immigrants.

However, that dream involves playing by the rules and those who break our criminal laws will be removed from the country. Sadly, many of the people victimized by aliens who commit crimes are other members of the immigrant community, who are following the rules."

Love in the Time of Recession: Money and Marriage, Part II

A Two Part Series on Marriage and Divorce Rates in the Current Economy

Part Two, Mad Men: The Mancession and Marriage

As discussed in Part I, the recession has had a marked effect not only on American lives, but on the state of American marriage, and the results can be somewhat surprising. In this section, we will briefly review the effect of recent job losses on men and marriage.

Love in the Time of Recession: Money and Marriage Now

A Two Part Series on Marriage and Divorce Rates in the Current Economy

Part One: Great Recession, Better Marriage?

The Great Recession has shown us many paradoxes about our economy, ourselves, and now our marriages. Free markets are good, but not as good as Alan Greenspan thought. The recession is "ending," but jobs are still scarce. Financial stresses are up, but divorce is down. Nothing is quite what we thought.

Michigan Finally Passes Workplace Smoking Ban

This change, like so many others, has been a long time coming. After a decade of work by anti-smoking advocates, on December 10th, Michigan sent a bill banning smoking in most workplaces to Governor Jennifer Granholm for her signature. Following in the timeworn footsteps of states like California, which placed a statewide ban on smoking in enclosed workplaces in 1995, Michigan becomes the 38th state to ban smoking in public places and workplaces. According to the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation, as of October 2009, 71% of the U.S. population lives under a ban on smoking in "workplaces, and/or restaurants, and/or bars, by either a state, commonwealth, or local law."

Child Support in Michigan: Child Support Debt Rises

Detroit News reports that child support debt keeps growing in Michigan. The reason for the child support debt growth? Laws governing child support in Michigan require that a surcharge be placed on payments for child support of delinquent parents.

The surcharges, which started back in 1996 was put into Mighigan child support law in order to encourage timely payments of child support. Instead, it now accounts for approximately $9.2 billion dollars in back child support that is owed to the state of Michigan. Michigan now ranks at number three among states with the largest amounts of child support debt.

Marilyn Stephen, director of the state Office of Child Support told Detroit News that the state surcharge is a key reason for the child support debt because it compounds the debt of delinquent payers by adding interest onto overdue back payments. She said: "The reality is that it seems to have disincentivized payers."

Ceasar's 2nd Hand Smoke Lawsuit by Employee Dropped

Gamblers at Caesars Palace Casino in Las Vegas will live to smoke another day. Casino employees will do the same, whether they want to or not. Yesterday, lawyers for plaintiffs suing Caesars Palace and its parent company Harrah's Entertainment, Inc. dropped their suit for exposing workers to unsafe levels of second hand smoke. According to the plaintiffs' counsel, this had less to do with the merits of the suit and more to do with the undefined circumstances which now prevent the firm from representing the lead plaintiff, Tomo Stephens.

New Jersey Gay Marriage Vote Postponed

A vote on the New Jersey gay marriage bill, slated to take place in the New Jersey Senate, has been canceled by the bill's sponsors. The New York Times reports that the sponsors canceled the vote in order to allow a hearing in the General Assembly where they claim support for gay marriage law will be stronger.

The bill's sponsors are Senators Raymond J. Lesniak and Loretta Weinberg who are both Democrats. The decision was made because the proposed New Jersey gay marriage law seemed like it was unlikely to pass through the Senate.

This has caused both opponents of the bill and supporters of the gay marriage bill to be disappointed. The supporters of the bill are trying to push it past the Senate before January 19, 2010 because that is when Democrat New Jersey governor Jon Corzine (who said he will sign the bill) is going to be replaced with a Republican governor-elect Christopher Christie. who said he will not support a New Jersey gay marriage law.

Bankruptcy Rate for Consumers and Businesses Rises

When you think of bankruptcy, do you think of GM, Chrysler? But it's not just automakers facing bankruptcy this year; it's your co-worker, the guy down the street, maybe even you. A growing number within the country are facing bankruptcy now, according to figures released Wednesday by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. For this year's July to September period, there were 388,485 bankruptcy filings, up from 292,291 a year earlier. This number was up 2% from the second quarter. This is the highest number since 2005.

Coming Soon: New Jersey Gay Marriage Law?

The New York Times reports that there is a proposed New Jersey gay marriage law working its way through the state's legislature.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted yes on clearing a New Jersey gay marriage bill for a vote by the full state Senate this upcoming Monday.

According to the New York Times, the approval for the gay marriage bill was the first time a legislative body has approved of a bill for same-sex marriage.

This approval comes at the heels of the New York State Senate's rejection of a gay marriage bill last week.

Google Lawsuit Highlights Home Work Scam

Many people need a job these days. And unfortunately, desperate need for income is the perfect bait for scams offering too good to be true workk from home opportunities.

Google has taken aim at one such alleged scam operation which Google claims used the search engine company's trademarks to lure in consumers.

Google filed a lawsuit against Pacific Webworks of Salt Lake City, Utah for trademark infringement this week. The Google lawsuit puts the spotlight on a larger home work scamthrough which the company is allegedly targeting vulnerable consumers.

PC World reports that Pacific Webworks offers a toolkit to help people work from home, but uses the Google trademark without any permission from Google in order sell the toolkits.

The company would sell unwitting consumers toolkits that were marketed as "The Home Business Kit for Google," "Google StartUp Kit" and "Google Adwork." They would then charge these consumers continually after the initial purchase. The Google lawsuit alleges that the company offered "little of value, or nothing at all, in return for their payments."

Transgender Teen Files Complaint Against McDonald's

The BBC reports that a transgender teen who has gone from male to female over the course of six years has filed an employment discrimination complaint against McDonald's with the Florida Commission on Human Relations.

Ms. Zikerria Bellamy claims that the popular fast food chain denied her employment on the grounds that she is transgender.

She also claims that one of the managers from this particular chain left her a message that referred to her with a gay slur. The New York-based Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF), which filed the complaint on Bellamy's behalf, posted a recording of the message on YouTube. You can listen to the voicemail here (warning, contains the aforementioned gay slur). Please keep in mind that this voicemail was posted by Ms. Zikerria's attorneys and has not been verified by news outlets at the moment.

Facebook Safety: Board Works On Kids and Safety Policy

CNN reports that the popular social networking site Facebook plans on working with five internet safety groups in order to create a board that will decide Facebook policy on kids and safety.

A vice president of Facebook, Mr. Elliot Schrage released a statement this past Sunday that read: "We believe that the only way to keep kids safe online is for everyone who wants to protect them to work together."

The new Facebook safety board will address issues that impact the safety of children. The members of this new advisory board are: Common Sense Media, ConnectSafely, WiredSafety, Childnet International and the Family Online Safety Institute. It is move from Facebook to keep its younger users safe from online predators such as sex offenders and other online criminals. Other issues that affect children are cyberbullying and phishing.

Hell Hath No Fury: Tiger Woods & Postnuptial Agreements

Yahoo Sports reports that Elin Nordegren is now renegotiating her prenuptial agreement with Tiger Woods. It is speculated from other third party sources that she is seeking an immediate $5 million dollars from Tiger Woods as well as an additional $55 million dollars to stay in her marriage with Tiger Woods for two more years.

The initial terms of the prenuptial agreement between Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren were reportedly $20 million dollars after being married for 10 years. Yahoo Sports reports that Chicago Sun Times reporter Bill Zwecker has speculated that Elin Nordegren may receive immediate payment and that the 10 year timeframe would be shortened.

Yahoo Sports also reports from other sources that Ms. Nordegren must "be a dutiful wife in showing up with him at social events and in public as if they were still the perfect couple, and sign a nondisclosure form that will prevent her from ever telling her story."

Military Divorces Up Again

Military divorces are up again this year. AP reports that despite the Pentagon's efforts to prevent the military spouse divorce rate from rising, it went from 3.4% last year to 3.6% this year.

The rate of military divorces has been creeping up over the past nine years as Americans have been fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The percentage of divorces is in a stark contrast to the rate of divorce in the military back in 2001. The rate of miltary spouse divorce back in 2001 was 2.6 percent.

Lots of critics have blamed the wars for the increase in divorces. Joe Davis, spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars told AP: "Every marriage has controllable and uncontrollable factors. But when you interject eight years of war, preparing for war, being at war, coming home and having to think about going back to war again -- and when you have children -- it just has a tremendous impact on the family unit."

Sharia Divorce By Text? Divorce Messages Seem Universal

The UK Telegraph recently wrote about how a Saudi man divorced his wife via text message. The man, who claimed to be waging jihad in Iraq, reportedly sent the phrase "I divorce you" (Talaq, Talaq, Talaq) three times to his wife.

This is not the first time we've heard about a wish to divorce via text message. However, it does bring up some new divorce law norms. Three years ago back in November of 2006, we all can remember the memorable text message Britney Spears sent to her then husband Kevin Federline. 

MSNBC reported that a video of Kevin Federline getting a text message from Britney Spears informing him of her intent to divorce him got over 1 million hits on YouTube.

Off the Clock: Walmart Settlement Brings Up Workers' Rights

'Tis the season for hiring a new round of seasonal hourly workers. However, it is also a season where employers could potentially be violating their workers' rights.

Walmart's $40 million class action settlement over meal and rest breaks and work "off the clock" (discussed in FindLaw's Decided) brings up some important issues for all hard working Americans: workers' rights.

Do you know exactly what your rights are as an hourly wage worker?

Some common violations of employers are:

  • Not paying the correct minimum wage.
  • Paying the lower "training wage" or "youth minimum wage" to workers who should be paid more.
  • Not paying overtime.
  • Making employees work "off-the-clock," and not paying them for it.
  • Deducting too much for tips.
  • Deducting for wages paid in goods, such as meals or food.

Healthcare Bill Amendment Adds Services For Women

After much debate for the past three days, the Senate has finally voted yes for a healthcare bill amendment that would require insurance companies to offer healthcare services for women (such as mammograms) for free.

The New York Times reports that the vote was 61 to 39. 3 Republican senators voted in favor of the amendment.

Senator Barbara Mikulski (MD, Dem.) introduced this healthcare bill amendment. She claims that insurance companies treat services for women as treatment for pre-existing conditions. The New York Times  quotes her as saying, "The insurance companies take being a woman as a pre-existing condition. We face so many issues and hurdles. We can't get health care. We can't get health insurance because of pre-existing conditions called a C-section."

Cost to Keep Unemployment Benefits Extended: $100 B

It will cost the United States government approximately $100 billion dollars to keep unemployment benefits extended to the masses of unemployed Americans out there.

As we wrote about earlier in Law and Daily Life, the unemployment rate had reached 10.2% at the beginning of November 2009.

As a result of this news, President Obama signed a bill that would grant an extension of time on umemployment benefits. 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."

Big Brother Watching You? The EFF Sues for Info

The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) is worried about big brother watching you on social networking sites.

The civil rights group released a press release on Dec. 1 that announced that it (in conjunction with the Samuelson Law, Technology, and Public Policy Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law) is filing a lawsuit because half a dozen government agencies refuse to disclose their policies for using social networking sites for investigations, data-collection, and surveillance.

With more and more government agencies using social networking sites like Facebook as evidence in various investigations, EFF made FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests asking for information about how the government collects and uses this sensitive information. When EFF did not hear back from the agencies, it filed this lawsuit.

NY Post Obama Cartoon Leads to Another Lawsuit

Another former employee for the New York Post has filed a discrmination lawsuit against the newspaper over his unfair dismissal when he expressed his sentiments over the controversial NY Post Obama cartoon which depicted the President as a dead chimpanzee. We previously wrote wrote about how another former employee of the New York Post, Sandra Guzman, filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Post.

The Huffington Post reports that Austin Fenner, an African American city desk reporter was "routinely humiliated," "openly cursed at" and subjected to "Jim Crow"-style segregation while he worked for the New York Post.

Mr. Fenner has hired the same attorney that Ms. Guzman is using for her discrimination lawsuit against the Post. Mr. Fenner claims that he was fired from the Post for being a minority, complaining about racist coverage, and for his feelings over the controversial NY Post Obama cartoon. He was fired by the Post the same day that Ms. Guzman sued the Post for her own unfair dismissal.

Botax: New Federal Cosmetic Surgery Tax?

Feeling like there is more jelly to your belly than you would like? We all know that the holidays bring a whole host of body image issues thanks to endless feasting coupled with critical family members.

Then comes the holiday season that ends with the New Year's resolution to get into shape. All of these stressful moments may convince you that you may need some cosmetic surgery help... but you may have to pay more than you would like for it if the Senate gets its way.

Slate recently reported that the Senate healthcare bill proposes a new federal tax on injections and elective surgeries for cosmetic reasons. The proposed federal tax on the procedures would be 5%. This new tax would cover procedures such as injections for cosmetic reasons such as Botox, collagen injections, face lifts, breast implants and the like, leadng some to dub it the "botax.".

COBRA Subsidy Subsides: Millions May Lose Insurance

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The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which included a COBRA subsidy to help laid off workers afford health insurance. That COBRA subsidy begins to expire today. These payments were designed to last nine months for unemployed workers, so those who joined the unemployment rolls in March stand to lose their COBRA subsidy starting today. As of October, an estimated 15.7 million Americans were out of work. 

The DC Same Sex Marriage Vote

A monumental moment is about to happen in the District of Columbia. DC is almost set to allow same sex marriage.

The Washington Post reports that the DC council voted on Tuesday to allow gay marriage. This will put DC in the company of five other jurisdictions that have similar measures passed. The other states are: New Hampshire, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and Massachusetts.

While the DC same sex marriage bill has been passed, it must still survive a second vote in two weeks. The vote is slated to take place on Dec. 15 according to ABC News. Once it is passed again by the Council, it will then be sent for signature by DC Mayor Adrian Fenty who has gone on the record to say that he supports the bill.

Department of Justice Task Force Targets Mortgage Fraud

Assistant Attorney General Tony West, who oversees the Civil Division at the Department of Justice, announced last Tuesday, Nov. 24, the newest addition to the fight against financial and mortgage fraud: an Executive Order by President Obama creating the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The Dept. of Justice Task Force will combine the efforts of approximately 20 government agencies working with states' Attorney Generals and even local District Attorneys to criminally prosecute all types of financial fraud

Lawsuit Filed over State Treatment Of Illegal Immigrants

The Arizona Republic recently reported that a lawsuit filed against the state or Arizona claims that the state treatment of illegal immigrants is an unconstitutional policy that affects local development practices. It also claims it affects how cities enforce requirements to receive government benefits.

The lawsuit was filed by 90 municipalities that claim that state treatment of illegal immigrants could open the municipalities up for lawsuits if they acccidentally provide a public benefit to illegal immigrants. Public benefits can range from granting a library card all the way to using a city street or sidewalk. I am pretty sure all people (illegal or not) use city sidewalks.

The lawsuit was filed by the municipalities because they lobbied against the provision, but it still passed anyhow.

Desperate Homeowners & More Loan Modification Scams

Different day, same old scam. While homeowners across the nation are struggling to hold on to their homes, quick thinking cons are doing all they can to separate consumers from the last of their money. With this in mind, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a complaint in Florida federal court on November 18th against First Universal Lending for preying on just this sort of frantic homeowner with false promises of loan modification to rescue them from foreclosure.