Law and Daily Life: August 2010 Archives
Law & Daily Life - The FindLaw Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

August 2010 Archives

CA Senate Approves Photo Parking Ticket Law

If you've ever received a parking ticket for failure to move your vehicle for the street sweeper, you're going to want to keep an eye on a potential new photo parking ticket law in California. Because under the measure, AB 2567, which was recently approved by the California Senate, the street sweeper will be watching you. Big brother style.

Under AB 2567, authored by Steve Bradford (D-Gardena), cities would mount cameras on the front of streetsweepers, which will automatically capture photographic evidence of cars parked in the street during restricted times. The sweepers will have automated ticketing machines installed onboard.

"Having photo enforcement technology on the street sweepers allows for efficiently citing cars that are illegally parked and improve street sweeping,'' said Sen. Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego). But at what cost? Sen. Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga) spoke out against the measure, finding it premature until a study is completed San Francisco, The Los Angeles Times reports. The American Civil Liberties Union shares Dutton's concerns and has been vocal against the provision as well as similar attempts to automate the issuance of citations.

Coca Cola Faces ERISA Class Action Lawsuit

Soft drink giant Coca Cola has recently found itself in the middle of a large ERISA class action lawsuit. The suit alleges that Coca Cola violated ERISA when it cancelled the health care plans of almost 500 employees, following an ongoing strike that charges the company with employee surveillance, intimidation, and bad faith bargaining, reports the Star Global Tribune.

ERISA, which stands of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, is a federal law that promulgates minimum standards for employee health plans (among other things) in private industries. The general purpose of ERISA is to protect the individuals that are enrolled in the plan. There is an important distinction to take note of: while ERISA does not require an employer to establish a pension or health plan for its workers, once it does, the employer must meet its standards. In the case of Coca Cola, there was a health care plan in place and, by cancelling it, the company could be found in violation of the Act. Although the workers allege a pretty substantial motive on the part of Coca Cola, the crux of the class action really revolves less around retaliation and more around ERISA violations.

NJ Education Chief Fired for '$400M Typo'

Mistakes happen. However, when there is a $400 million typo in the Garden State's Race to the Top application, the mistake can cost dollars and now a job with the New Jersey Education Commission. The clerical error on the part of New Jersey Education Commissioner Bret Schundler has led to his very public firing. Schundler was a candidate for governor in 2001 and an outspoken proponent of education reform.

Race to the Top funds awarded $400 million to the top ten states with the most ambitious K-12 education reforms. The money for the state competition came from President Obama's economic stimulus package. A points-based competition, New Jersey placed 11th overall, missing out of the funding by 3 points, according to Reuters.

Facebook Sued Over Their Like Button

You don't get to be worth $11 billion without making a few enemies. Facebook has faced down not a few lawsuits recently (does Beacon ring a bell with anyone) but there is a new one to contend with, filed on August 26, in Los Angeles Superior Court. According to the suit, of course seeking class action status, the company's use of the "Like" button uses pictures of minors to market products without the permission of their parents. In other words, Facebook and its partners are making money off of kids without permission or compensation from said kid and/or parents.

According to the Complaint, Facebook uses its "Like" button function to market products with the names and often pictures of minors who liked the product or service. Under Cal Civ. Code 3344, if a minor is involved, the permission of a parent or guardian must be given before using "another's name ... or likeness, in any manner, on or in products, merchandise, or goods, or for purposes of advertising or selling ... merchandise, goods or services ..."

Court Allows Hooters Weight Bias Lawsuit

A Michigan judge served up a legal set-back to Hooters of Roseville, Inc. and Hooters of America Inc. in a decision announced on August 25. Macomb County Circuit Judge Peter Maceroni found that the case of two Hooters waitresses who claim they were illegally fired due to weight bais may proceed.

As discussed in a prior post on FindLaw's Injured, the case of former Hooters waitress Cassandra Smith (now joined by another waitress, Leanne Convery) alleged discrimination based on her weight. According to the suit, Smith claimed that she had received good reviews and a promotion to shift leader, before being placed on "weight probation," and told to join a gym. According to the Complaint, Smith is 5'8" tall and 132.5 pounds.

Heiress Huguette Clark: Elder Abuse Victim?

The oldest hath borne most; we that are young shall never see so much, nor live so long. --William Shakespeare, King Lear

It can happen to anyone, rich or poor. In this case, it may be happening to someone very, very wealthy so we are all talking about it. The questions surrounding the daily life of Huguette Clark the "reclusive heiress" are still mostly unanswered. She owns millions of dollars worth of beautiful homes, but lives in a single hospital room in New York City.

"Who protects an old lady who has no children, and whose distant relatives have been prevented from visiting her? Who protects an old lady who secluded herself from the world, limiting her life to a single room, playing dress-up with her dolls and watching cartoons?" MSNBC asked these questions in just one of its many reports on the Clark case. Now all of us need to ask bigger ones. With our eyes opened by Huguette Clark we need to ask, who protects our older family members? Not just from physical harm, but from other types of harm as well?

Walmart Appeals Gender Discrimination Suit to Supreme Court

Walmart, the world's largest retailer, is asking the Supreme Court to block a gender discrimination suit that could have close to 1.5 million current and former female employees as parties to the class action. A 6-5 decision by a lower court gave the green light for what would be the largest class action against a private company in U.S. history, reports Business Week.

Attorney for the plaintiffs, Brad Seilgman says, "This ruling upholding the class in this case is well within the mainstream that courts at all levels have recognized for decades. Only the size of the case is unusual, and that is a product of Walmart's size and the breadth of the discrimination we documented." No stranger to the courtroom, Walmart settled a suit with the company's hourly workers (stemming from violations of break policies) for $640 million in 2008.

How To Reduce Child Support Payments

With the job market still struggling and the housing market in the tank for the foreseeable future, it still feels like the Great Recession is as great as ever. Since financial hardship still a factor in so many parents' daily lives, supporting their children can be stressful and sometimes nearly impossible. Non-custodial divorced parents usually have a child support agreement that they must abide by to do just that. But what do you do if, in these tough times, you have a major financial set back? The following may help you learn how to reduce the child support you owe.

Child support agreements (even if negotiated out of court) are finalized as court orders set up for the support of a child or children to care for their everyday needs such as schooling, living expenses and health care. Once the support agreement is finalized by a court order it is binding. If the agreement is violated by a parent who repeatedly fails to make support payments on time, that parent can face fines or even jail time.

Existing Home Sales Fall 27% to 15 Year Low

The housing market has, in the past, helped the U.S. economy pull itself out of recessions. This time, it looks like it just won't happen quite that way. According to the National Association of Realtors, existing home sales for the month of July were at their lowest levels in more than ten years. Sales fell across the country 27.2% from June numbers.

The Realtors Association report found the seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales was 3.83 million homes in July, not only down significantly from the previous month, but also a 25.5% drop from July 2009, according to the Los Angeles Times. Why the plunge? Many reports point to the expiration of the first-time home buyers tax credit for the sudden drop in sales. July showed the third month in a row with a drop in sales since the home buyers tax credit expired in April.

Complaint: Religious Discrimination at Disney

The House the Mouse built is currently up to its ears in controversy. Last week it was reported the Disney Corporation would not allow one of its workers to wear her hijab (head scarf) while working with the public at its StoryTellers Cafe. Small world indeed.

According to the Associated Press, Disney employee Imane Boudlal, 26, filed a complaint regarding the alleged religious discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. According to Boudlal, when she wore her hijab to work, she was told by her supervisor to remove it, work out of the public eye or go home. She opted to leave work several days running.

SeaWorld Gets $75K OSHA Fine for Trainer Death

In February, a tragic event occurred live at SeaWorld in Orlando when Dawn Brancheau, 40, was pulled underwater and killed by a six ton killer whale. As spectators watched, Brancheau was dragged and tossed by the whale, suffering terminal injuries to her spine, ribs and head.

SeaWorld Orlando has been fined $75,000 as a result of three violations discovered in the investigation into the trainer death caused by a killer whale. One of the violations was considered "willful" by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Legally, willful does not necessarily mean intentionally, but instead means acting with intentional disregard for someone's health or safety, or showing extreme indifference.

CA Filipina Nurses File Class Action Suit

Nurses in San Francisco are alleging discrimination for refusing to hire Filipinos. A class action suit has been filed against Sutter Health and the company's California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. Three former managers at California Pacific Medical Center made allegations in signed statements that between 2007 and 2009 they were told by supervisors not to hire Filipina nurses.

The union also contends that the number of Filipina nurses dropped from 65% to 10%, The Los Angeles Times reports. Union officials and Filipino activists have urged the San Francisco Human Rights Commission to investigate. Over 35 members of the Filipino community have signed a letter urging the hospital to investigate.

Report: Foreclosure Rescue Program Not Working

President Obama's foreclosure rescue program, the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), is struggling, according to a new report issued by the Treasury Department. According to the report, almost half of homeowners enrolled in the administrations mortgage program designed to provide relief have been dropped. Nearly 630,000 people who have tried to get their payments lowered through the program have since been turned away. The situation suggests there will be an increase in foreclosures over the next six months.

Borrowers have complained that the rescue program is a nightmare of red tape. CNN reports that many borrowers have complained that the banks have lost their documents and then wrongfully claim that the borrowers never sent in their paperwork. The banking industry disputes this claim. Bankers also say the Obama administration strong armed them into accepting borrowers into foreclosure rescue without insisting on proof of their income. They say many of the applicants were disqualified or dropped out after the banks attempted to collect the proper information.

What is a Property Easement?

A topic that comes up from time to time in the news is the property right known as a property easement. Put most simply, an easement is the right of use over the property of another. Due to the nature of the blog, we usually do not have the time to go into detail about what an easement entails. Today we will go over the terminology of easement rights for your future reference.

When dealing with a property easement, we start out with two basic types: appurtenant and gross. An appurtenant easement is normally for the benefit of adjoining lands, no matter who the owns them. With a gross easement, the easement rights are for a specific individual rather than for the benefit of the adjoining lands.

There are two further categories of easements: affirmative and negative. An affirmative easement is the most common. It entitles the holder to do something on another individual's land, such as cross over the land. A negative easement prevents an estate from doing something, such as building a high structure that blocks the view of a building.

What to Wear to Court

So, you have a court date. Much like the other kind of date, "what should I wear?" is not an altogether silly question. Believe it or not, judges have had to send people home for inappropriate attire, including daisy dukes, flip flops, and do-rags. Whether you are protesting a traffic ticket, your alimony settlement, or are on trial for robbing a bank, considering what to wear to court may help you get the system on your side.

American courts are based on an adversarial process. The founders of our country believed adversaries arguing before an impartial judge or jury was the best way to reach the truth. And if you are up against an adversary, doesn't it make sense to have everything possible working in your favor? If you don't think what you wear can or does make a difference, stop and think about the way that over-dressed anchor woman on TV, or the guy in torn and smelly pants next to you on the bus made you feel. That's right, it makes a difference.

Teacher Fired Over Facebook Comments

Yet one more reason we all should learn as much as possible about how to use the Facebook privacy settings. A teacher in Massachusetts was fired for her painfully straightforward Facebook comments made and posted on her wall. Comments calling school parents "snobby" and "arrogant," and the students "germ bags," did not go over too well. June Talvitie-Siple, supervisor of the high school math and science program in Cohasset, Mass, was forced to leave her position.

The school superintendent was notified of Talvitie-Siple's remarks while still on vacation overseas, according to ACB News. She promptly emailed (no Facebook necessary) and asked the teacher to resign.

What is Standing to Sue?

Who has the right to bring a lawsuit in federal court? One might think this is a universal American right, like the right to free speech. But, like the limits on the First Amendment that prevent citizens from feeling privileged to shout "'fire' in a crowded theater," the right to bring your suit in a federal court of law is likewise limited. It is limited by the legal concept of "standing."

Suddenly, standing to sue is an idea that is important to many not even considering legal action. It is now a key issue in the California Proposition 8 same sex marriage case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger. After the decision by the U.S. District Court was handed down, the proponents in the case moved the same court to stay the return of same sex marriage in the state. Judge Vaughn Walker considered the stay motion and denied it. The stay was then re-instated by the federal court of appeals, the 9th Circuit.

Increase in Bankruptcy: It's at 5-Year High

Personal bankruptcies are up. Jersey Housewife Teresa Giudice notwithstanding, the numbers of average Americans filing for bankruptcy in our wobbly economy is at its highest level since 2005, according to a report by Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. For the year ending June 30, there were 1.57 million bankruptcies, up 20 percent from the year before.

This increase in bankruptcy filings brings up several questions. First, why are the numbers measured against so recent a date as 2005? It was in that year that the law changed to make personal and business bankruptcy more difficult to file for. The second question is of course, if we are in recovery, why are the filing numbers still going up?

The 19th Amendment Turns 90

Brithdays are the best. So here's to wishing the 19th Amendment (yes, of the Constitution) a very happy 90th birthday. Hopefully this celebration will result in lots of ladies nights throughout the country, as it was the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote.

The United States was built on the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Just not in that order, or all at once for most groups. The Huffington Post reports that August 18, 1920 was the date the much-needed vote (thank you Tennessee) passed the 19th Amendment, and was officially part of the Constitution on August 26th (known as Woman's Sufferage Day). Parties ensued as women across the country were finally able to punch the ballot. The drawn-out battle for voting equality was almost 100 years in the making.

Lesbian Teen Sues Over Tux Senior Picture Ban

Senior year of high school can be stressful, so many demands and so many changes. It was more stressful than normal for Ceara Sturgis, who after having her senior picture taken for the yearbook, found that she would be completely excised from the class list: no picture, no name. Why? Because Ceara Sturgis choose to have her picture taken in a tux, as is traditional for boys, instead of the drape that is often traditional for girls. Her school in Mississippi's Copiah County School District, declined to allow her picture to appear. Like Constance McMillen before her, Ceara sued.

The ACLU of Mississippi is having a busy year. The Associated Press reports that after successfully concluding McMillen's case to be allowed to attend her prom with the date of her choice, they will be representing Ceara in her suit for discrimination based on gender and gender stereotypes under Title IX, and for violation of equal protection, under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Flight Crew Takes Slapped Baby Mid-Flight

On a Southwest flight from Dallas to Albuquerque on Monday, August 16, a mother slapped her crying 13 month old baby. This was witnessed by the flight crew. An attendant then asked the mother if she could help with the baby and took the baby into her care. The incident was reported. On arrival at the Albuquerque International Sunport, the police were waiting to examine the slapped baby for signs of injury. None were found.

The comments following online reports of this story vary widely. One line of thinking says the flight crew had no right to take the child from the mother, some even suggesting the attendant who did so should be sued. On the far other side of the spectrum, readers felt the slap was within the definition of child abuse and the parents should have been arrested upon landing. Those in the middle asked was it a disciplinary / attention getting message (a slap on the leg) or was it the result of anger and frustration (a slap on the face)?

How to Break a Lease

Times are tough and getting stuck in a long-term lease can complicate things when you need to relocate, or simply cannot make your monthly rent payments anymore. To understand how to break a lease, here is a quick primer on the rationale behind long-term rental contracts ...

Most residential lease agreements are for a duration of 6 months to 1 year, which provides security for both the landlord and the tenant. During this time, there are certain things in place to secure the renters' rights: the landlord may not raise the rent, change the terms of the lease, or act contrary to the lease. The lease also provides some assurances for the landlord, mainly the guarantee that the tenant will be in the unit, paying rent during the entire duration of the lease. By signing a long-term lease, a tenant cannot just decide to leave and not pay rent.

Billionaire Child Support Case Head to Trial

When a California billionaire fathers two children out of wedlock, how much should he have to pay in child support?

It appears the question is headed to an Orange County jury in a massive child support case.

Billionaire land developer and Irvine Company chairman Donald L. Bren is being sued by his former lover, Jennifer McKay Gold (super ironic last name), and two of his children which he fathered with her. His children, Christie and David, 22 and 18 respectively, are seeking back child support payments of $400,000 a month, each. According to the attorney for the children, Bren spends between $3 million and $5 million a month to support his lifestyle, which Bren's attorney disputes. Bren, 78, is reportedly worth $12 billion; he was listed 16th in Forbes magazines 400 richest Americans.

Appeals Court Stays Gay Marriage in CA

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has put the brakes on the journey of the suit over Prop 8, California's law banning gay marriage. On August 16, a three judge panel granted the motion for a stay by proponents of the law. This means that same sex marriages in the state will be on hold at least until the court of appeals hands down its own decision in the case.

Yesterday, the court gave no reason in its two-page Order as to why it is reinstating the stay. However, the court did decide to speed up the process of the appeal. The parties now have until early fall to ready their court briefs, with the first brief from the appellants (proponents of the law) due in September. The case itself will be heard before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on December 6. This may seem like a very slow pace, but in terms of appellate court decisions, it has moved into the fast lane.

Social Security: The Retirement Program Turns 75

Social Security has been eligible for Social Security for a decade, as of this past Saturday. The retirement program, signed into law by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, has turned 75. However, aging has not taken the zap or sting out of the "third rail of American politics" and both Democrats and Republicans are eager to paint the other party as the ones who would do the most to dismantle the program.

In an election year, voters will hear much about Social Security, whether it is the Republican cry of "privatization," or the Democrats claiming they are the guardians of the program designed to keep senior citizens from falling into poverty.

What is 'Birthright Citizenship'?

The current proposals to end birthright citizenship are in the headlines of late based on the argument that illegal citizens are coming into United States borders in order to give birth, and have their children become automatic U.S. citizens. Putting an end to birthright citizenship would require amending the Constitution, no easy task -- especially for such a hot button immigration issue. 

But what exactly is birthright citizenship and how does it operate differently than other modes of gaining citizenship in the U.S.? Put simply, birthright citizenship is the process of gaining citizenship by virtue of being born on U.S. soil. It does not require that the parents of the child be citizens of the country, and the only paperwork involved is the birth certificate. This privilege also extends to those children born in certain U.S. territories. The one exception to this form of citizenship is for children born to foreign diplomats while visiting the U.S.

Is Online Gambling on School Grades Legal?

Have you ever wished that you could gamble on school grades to see whether you could get an A in a course? A new website called Ultrinsic.com, which is currently in beta, is letting students at select universities do just that. They also offer "grade insurance," in case you fail a course. The site originally offered its services at New York University and the University of Pennsylvania, but now plans to expand to 34 new campuses, including Princeton University, Duke University, and Stanford University.

CEO Steven Wolf told the Associated Press that the wagers are an incentive to study, and denied that it constituted online gambling because the wagers are based on skill. Wolf said that the site works similar to Las Vegas sportsbooks, by selling odds on a student's ability to achieve different levels.

Judge Won't Stay Gay Marriage Decision

Chief Judge of the Federal District Court in Northern California, Vaughn Walker, lead the parties in the Proposition 8 case one more step down their long legal road today. On August 12, Judge Walker refused to put a hold on his decision to overturn the law banning gay marriage in the state of California. In his opinion, the judge found the law denies same sex couples of the right to due process and to equal protection as guaranteed by the Constitution.

In his ruling today, the judge found that the supporters of Prop 8 had not made their case that unless the court stayed its decision, irreparable harm would come to them as proponents of the law. Instead, the judge found that not only did the Prop 8 proponents not show what harm would come to them, they did not show they would be likely to succeed in their appeal, or that the opponents or the public as a whole, would remain unharmed if the judge did issue the stay as requested. For a more complete discussion of the requirements for a stay that Judge Walker discussed in his Order, see FindLaw's Decided blog.

Comedian George Willborn Denied Home Due to Race

After having their $1.8 million Chicago house on the market for over two years, one would think that homeowners Daniel and Adrienne Sabbia would jump at the chance to finally sell their home to a local comedian and radio personality for close to their asking price. When George Willborn and his wife Peytyn agreed to purchase the Bridgeport neighborhood property for $1.7 million, the owners wouldn't sign the sales contract -- claiming that they changed their minds, and were taking the house off the market. Willborn suspected some other factors were at play.

George Willborn has filed a claim with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development charging the homeowners, their real estate agent, and a real estate broker with refusing to sell him a home based on his race -- a violation of the Fair Housing Act. The Wilburn's real estate agent is quoted by ABC News, "They are absolutely still reeling from this. It's hurtful, unacceptable in this day and age. You can't choose who you can sell your home to."

More Mortgage Aid for Unemployed Homeowners

Homeowners who are unemployed and facing foreclosure have one small reason to be a bit less worried. On August 11, the Obama Administration announced a $3 billion package to aid struggling homeowners. This aid is meant to supplement the "Hardest Hit Fund" originally set into motion last February by the President.

The money in the Hardest Hit Fund is supposed to be used by government officials to create programs to provide direct mortgage aid to unemployed homeowners, according to the New York Times. The first $1.5 billion of funding was sent to those states hit hardest by the collapse of the housing market: Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan and Nevada.

5 Reasons You Can't Be Fired From Your Job

Donald Trump has made the dreaded words, "You're Fired' his catch phrase on his reality show, The Apprentice. Outside the bright lights of television, getting fired from a job is never a welcome event. Financial strain and job-search stress are just two of the issues that the newly unemployed face. Companies and work situations are as different as the jobs themselves. Where there is some consistency is when it comes to an unlawful termination. State and federal wrongful termination laws, as well as internal policies (often found in an employee handbook or an employment contract) serve to protect an employee from an illegal firing. Familiarizing yourself with the reasons you can't be fired from your job is always a good place to start.

Florida AG Proposes New Immigration Law

Fans of the new Arizona immigration law, SB1070, are apparently undeterred by the fact that a large part of it was recently blocked by a Federal judge who issued an injunction that prevented the state from allowing police to question people about their immigration status. Now Florida AG Bill McCollum and State Representative Bill Snyder, a republican, have introduced a draft of an immigration law modeled after Arizona's SB1070.

Under SB1070, police are expected to "make a reasonable attempt to determine the immigration status of a person stopped, detained or arrested" if the arresting officer has a "reasonable suspicion" that the person is an illegal immigrant. McCollum said the proposed new Florida immigration law is actually an upgrade to the Arizona law, as he believes it overcomes the legal issues that led a federal judge in Arizona to block parts of the Arizona law. "This is our law, not their law," McCollom said via CNN. "Arizona is going to want our law."

Florida AG to Probe Falsified Foreclosures

Foreclosure Fraud is causing the Attorney General to investigate some Florida-based law firms to determine whether clerical error or intentional fabrication is the cause of growing problem. Foreclosures have been soaring since the economic downturn, however some of these foreclosures are said to be the product of fraudulent paperwork filed by banks seeking to prematurely foreclose on a property.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, law firms working for the banks fabricated necessary documents, including backdating assignments and falsifying notary seals in order to expedite the foreclosure process on many of their clients. Sandi Copes, spokesperson for the Florida AG is quoted in the Florida Times Union, "Our primary concern is that Florida homeowners have access to due process."

Survey: Assaults on ER Nurses Rising

Bruises, scratches, and a chipped tooth sound like a pretty normal sighting at a typical hospital emergency room. The problem with this description is that it is increasingly being applied to ER nurses, as a new survey reveals that assaults on ER nurses is on the rise. The increase in alcoholics, drug addicts, and psychiatric patients coming to ER facilities is the primary factor for the climb in hospital violence.

MSNBC notes the causes for this disturbing increase: "the problem has only been getting worse ... because of the downturn in the economy, as cash-strapped states close state hospitals, cut mental health jobs, eliminate addiction programs and curtail other services." President of the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety, Joseph Bellino is quoted in MSNBC: "It's come to the point where nurses are saying, enough is enough. The slapping, screaming, and groping are not part of the job."

Model Shane Stirling Fired for Being Pregnant?

Bob has left the building, but his lawsuits follow after him. Former Price is Right host Bob Barker has been hit with a pregnancy discrimination suit by one of the former Price Is Right models, Shane Stirling. Stirling is suing ol' Bob for more than $25,000 in damages for allegedly forcing her into an early pregnancy leave and keeping her off the set until the show had crossed over into new management. She was let go soon after, and is claiming that had she been allowed to return as planned, the firing may not have happened.

Ironically, Stirling is claiming Barker forced the model out of work due to his fear of "liability issues." The biggest liability Barker will now face is the resulting discrimination suit. TMZ reports, the fearful Barker allegedly told Stirling it was "dangerous" for her to work while pregnant.

IRS Ends Underwriting for Tax Refund Loans

About 10 million Americans received tax refund loans last year, and the IRS is going to do something about that. Many of us look at the Internal Revenue Service as the bad guy, depriving U.S. taxpayers of their hard-earned cash. But this time, the IRS says it is trying to do just the opposite. The agency will no longer provide certain information to banks letting them know that a tax refund will shortly be available for deposit, therefore making it riskier for the banks to underwrite tax refund loans.

The agency says it will now withhold a digital indicator that tells banks when taxpayers qualify for the refunds claimed on their tax returns and that a deposit will shortly be made, according to Bloomberg. The new decision to eliminate that indicator is aimed at helping to regulate the tax preparation industry. Many taxpayers have been pray to unscrupulous tax preparers; the Department of Justice filed a suit against five more tax preparers just this past January.

School Bullying: Student Suicide Leads to Suit

Another case of a student suicide, apparently caused by bullying, has resulted in a wrongful death suit seeking $10 million in damages. Alise Williams, the mother of a high school freshman in York County, Virginia, is suing school officials and one sheriff's deputy for failing to enforce the anti-bullying policies she believes would have saved her son. The suit claims the defendants were aware of the actions of the student who harassed her son, but did not act. Christian Taylor hanged himself on May 31.

The defendants named in the suit are Grafton High principal Paul Hopkins, assistant principals Craig Reed and Karen Fahringer, counselor Joseph Erfe and school security officer Deputy Ralph Hood, of the York-Poquoson Sheriff's Office, according to a report by the Daily Press. The bully is not specifically named in the suit, but is claimed to have "presented an unreasonable risk to the security and well-being of other students." The suit details a meeting that took place concerning the bullying, with all defendants present. The defendants should have been aware of the risk of emotional damage caused by such harassing behaviors, and should have enforced anti-bullying policies as mandated by the Virginia Department of Education, according to William's suit.

HP CEO Resigns After Sexual Harassment Claim

Personal computers are not the only thing putting Silicon Valley giant Hewlett-Packard in the news these days. The latest headline has nothing to do with computers, as the 53 year-old HP CEO, Mark Hurd, resigned after a sexual harassment claim investigation revealed an alleged inappropriate personal relationship between the CEO and a contractor. Mark Hurd was a well-regarded leader of the computer giant, and served as the company's CEO for the past five years.

While investigating the sexual harassment claim, the HP board learned that there was some financial foul-play between Mark Hurd and the female contractor. From late 2007 to 2009, the unnamed contractor involved in the company's marketing activities received compensation and reimbursement without a legitimate purpose, reports Reuters. HP General Counsel Mark Holston adds, "The board investigation found that Mark demonstrated a profound lack of judgment that seriously undermined his credibility and damaged his effectiveness in leading HP and Mark agreed." The expense account issue spanned over the course of two years and left almost $20,000 unaccounted for.

10 Things You Can't Be Asked at a Job Interview

Applying for a job can be a stressful pursuit as an applicant prepares answers to those predictable questions, and hopes that his research will help him stand out amongst the sea of eager applicants. Whether fresh out of college, or re-entering the workforce after a long hiatus from the nine to five grind, one way to prepare yourself for an interview is to know which questions you don't have to answer.

Drum roll please .... below are 10 Things You Can't Be Asked at a Job Interview:

Suit Alleges Exploitation of Filipino Teachers

If you ask, most teachers will tell you their job is much more difficult than it looks. Most will tell you they feel underpaid and under-appreciated. However, a lawsuit filed in California on Thursday, August 5, takes those difficulties and pushes them to the level of exploitation, at least according to the claims of the plaintiffs. This class action suit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of plaintiffs claims that 350 Filipino teachers were lured to the U.S. and forced by debt, high fees and confiscated passports into virtual slavery.

The suit was filed against the Los Angeles-based Universal Placement International Inc., its owner Lourdes Navarro, her husband, Universal's sister operation in the Philippines, and the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board. Charges include racketeering and fraud on behalf of the plaintiff teachers working in schools in New Orleans, according to a report by the Associated Press.

PA School Anorexia Bullying Case Settles for $55k

In what is being dubbed the first case of its kind, a Pennsylvania schoolgirl has sued her local school district under claims that her classmates' bullying, and the school's knowledge and failure to act, caused her to become anorexic. The Pittsburgh public school district settled the anorexia bullying case for $55,000 -- a figure that the unidentified girl feels represents defeat.

The mother of the girl is quoted in the Post-Gazette, "I just don't feel that their settlement was fair. I thought something would change in the school and it's all about money, and it was never about the money. This little amount of money -- it doesn't matter what this child went through." The harassment often occurred during the lunch hour and would cause the girl to throw her lunch away instead of eating it. The mother partly atrributed the family's disappointment in the settlement to their private school tuition bills -- they now pay $6,000 a year to send her daughter to private school, and the girl is now ineligible for certain public school college scholarships.

Notice of Appeal Filed in CA Gay Marriage Case

What a difference a day makes. Or in this case, less than a day, as the proponents of California's ban on gay marriage, Prop 8, filed late on Wednesday their notice of appeal on the district court decision in that case. As discussed in a prior post, Judge Vaughn Walker ruled yesterday that the California law was an unconstitutional violation of the rights of same sex couples.

While the notice of appeal was filed promptly, the actual hearing on the appellate briefs in the case will take a bit longer, unless the court decides to expedite the case. According to the Mercury News, the schedule for the case was set this week, with Prop 8 proponents' (the appellants) court papers due in November and the opponents (appellees) due the following month.

Stripper Christina Gamble Charged: Workers' Compensation Fraud

A 43 year-old Pennsylvania waitress is being charged with two counts of workers' compensation fraud and one count theft. Why? Because you are not really injured if you can still strip. Christina Gamble filed a workers' compensation claim based on slip and fall-related back injuries sustained while waitressing at a local restaurant in October 2008, and has been collecting monthly benefits ever since. Her restaurant chain's insurance company then did some dirty detective work and taped Gamble working at a Gentleman's club.

Having collected $22,727 in disability benefits and $4,118 in medical expenses, Christina Gamble had been working more than just the stripper pole for the last couple years. Gamble claimed that she was unable to work as a waitress because her injuries prevented her from standing or changing positions. Lucky for her, she'll be sitting before the court on charges that could land her in prison for seven years and cost her $15,000 per count, NBC reports.

Proposition 8 Overturned, Now What?

The Beatles said it best; the legal journey to decide the fate of Proposition 8, California's ban on gay marriage, will be nothing if not a long and winding road. Today, there is a signpost in that road. U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker handed down his decision in the first federal court challenge to the constitutionality of the law. Despite the court's holding that the law does violate the constitution, not much will change today for same sex couples in the Golden State who wish to marry. Even before the decision was announced, supporters of California's ban on same sex marriage petitioned Judge Walker for a stay on his decision if he found, as he did, that the law should be overturned.

Judge Walker's opinion, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, was based at least in part, on the recent historical affect of gay marriage in California. After the California Supreme Court allowed same sex marriages take place, none of the societal harms predicted by the opponents of gay marriage occurred, according to the court. "California is able to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples," Judge Walker wrote, "as it has already issued 18,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples and has not suffered any demonstrated harm as a result."

Facebook Used to Catch Bigamist

Facebook is a great tool for getting in touch with old friends, keeping current with family, and catching your husband marrying another woman in a lavish Disney World wedding. Ok, maybe the last one occurs less frequently than the other two, but that is exactly what happened to a Cleveland, Ohio woman.

The Ohio housewife turned Facebook detective discovered all the key details of her husband's second marriage through the "public" Facebook profile of wife number two, according to NBC News. "We were able to decipher that they were getting married at Disney World. That she was registered at Target. They had been together since '07. She was living at his home in Florida. We found that all through Facebook." No news as to whether she has switched her Facebook profile to private following the discovery.

VA Health Care Lawsuit will Go Forward

On Monday, August 2, a federal judge in Virginia handed down a first round victory to Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in his attempt to challenge the federal health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, passed earlier this year. Judge Henry Hudson refused to dismiss the case and set further hearings for October.

This ruling is the first of many legal hurdles Attorney General Cuccinelli will have to jump in making his case to the court that Virginia's law opting out of health care reform, among other issues, is not a prohibited interference of state law with federal law. There are more than twelve other suits by states over health care reform; Virginia's is the first to reach the courts.

New Debt Settlement Protections Unveiled by FTC

If it's possible for a consumer to win against the battle of unmanageable debt, then the Federal Trade Commission's recently unveiled debt settlement protections are a step in the right direction. Aimed at cracking down on debt settlement scams and better informing the consumer, the FTC is placing some pretty substantial demands on debt settlement companies that have seen business flourish since the recession hit.

Perhaps the biggest role these new laws will play in debt management is to better inform the debtor of the nature of the process. MoneyShow reported that now, "debt settlement companies will be required to make certain pre-contract disclosures, including how long it will take to get results and how much it will cost." Translation: debtors need to be informed of the advantages and disadvantages associated with using a debt settlement company before they enter into an agreement with the company. Currently, the new laws will only apply to for-profit companies that offer services over the phone.

FDCPA Laws: What Happens To Decades Old Debt?

What happens when you stop paying an old debt and a decade goes by? Generally, the debts are sold to debt collection companies for pennies on the dollar, who continue to come after you, sometimes using dubious tactics.

The New York Times had an interesting piece on July 30 titled "FDCPA laws and out-of statute debt". "Out of statute debt" is a debt that is too old to sue for in court due to the passage of the statute of limitations. The subject of the piece, Timothy McCollough, had a credit card he had stopped paying on in 1999, due to a head injury and subsequent job loss. McCollough was sued over the debt in 2007, despite the fact that the debt was beyond the statute of limitations. The Times found that attempts to collect expired debts are common, and in most states it is legal, as long as the collecting party does not sue or threaten to sue. The laws vary by state, but generally the statute of limitations ranges from three to ten years.

What is Child and Dependent Care Credit?

The ubiquitous back to school campaigns serve as a constant reminder that the end of summer is quickly approaching. One way to help pay for new school supplies is to have the IRS help pay for your summer babysitting expenses. Yes, you heard right. The popular Child and Dependent Care tax credit can help your pocketbook by allowing for dependent care deductions that include summer day camps.

Generally speaking, most types of child day care will qualify for the credit, but there are some notable exceptions. Where summer day camp programs qualify for the credit, an overnight camp does not, according to the Kansas City Star. So yes, those summer day camps that you send your children to can help you save money come tax time. Even camps specializing in a sport or skill (such as soccer camp or computer camp) qualify for the credit. Also, a family day care, home, or church falls under the Child and Depdendent Care credit, but if the taxpayer receives free child or dependent care, then that care will not qualify.

Heidi Montag and High Net Worth Divorces

Heidi Montag recently filed for divorce from her husband of just over one year, Spencer Pratt (yes, they were actually married). Although this announcement has coincidentally coincided with the end of their reality television show, there is a lot of buzz about the specifics of their divorce, and anticipation as to how it will play out. In her divorce petition, Montag specifically asked that her soon-to-be ex does not receive any spousal support payments.

Pratt told US Weekly, "Well, some say if you can't handle the heat get out of the kitchen. Heidi couldn't handle King Spencer's fame so she got out of the marriage." Although the heat of a kitchen may be a slightly different intensity as compared to that of a high net worth divorce, getting out of a marriage is not always as easy as one might think.