Law and Daily Life: April 2012 Archives
Law & Daily Life - The FindLaw Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

April 2012 Archives

Your Boss Didn't Pay You. Now What?

Come payday, the only thing anyone is really looking forward to is a nice boost to their dwindling bank account. This is why, when your boss forgets to pay you, your initial reaction is probably somewhere close to pure ire.

Calm down. If your boss forgot to pay you (or just doesn't have the money), you are not without legal recourse. There are laws in every state that protect employees who are sadly disappointed come payday. Consider the following examples.

California. Employees must be paid at least twice a month -- no later than the 26th for wages earned between the 1st and 15th, and no later than the 10th of the following month for wages earned between the 16th and the end of the month. If an employer has a more frequent payroll period, employees must be paid within seven calendar days of its end.

Is Your Car's Black Box Spying On You?

On March 14, the Senate passed S. 1813, also known as MAP-21. The bill, which has not yet been passed by the House, would require all new motor vehicles, starting with model year 2015, to be equipped with an "event data recorder" or black box.

Privacy advocates are concerned about the legislation, but the truth is that 85% of all new cars each year are equipped with some sort of recording device. And chances are, your car's black box is already spying on you.

Mad Cow Laws: Is That Beef Safe?

With mad cow disease currently giving pause to every American beef eater, laws on how tainted animals are handled are in the public eye. Retailers in Korea have even halted the sale of U.S. beef.

Despite reports that the infected dairy cow found in California was a result of random mutation, people are still worried about beef safety. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), aka mad cow disease, is a fatal disorder that can wreck your brain and spine.

But are the current government regulations in place enough to keep people safe from bad meat?

Autistic Boy's Wiretap Show Teacher Abuse, Bullying?

Stuart Chaifetz is mad. He's so mad, he took his story to YouTube.

Confused as to why his "sweet and gentle" autistic son Akian, 10, was suddenly kicking school employees and throwing chairs, Chaifetz decided to wire the boy. He stuck a digital recorder in his son's pocket and was able to tape 6.5 hours of class time.

What he heard was shocking. The teacher and aide were yelling at Akian and calling him names.

KFC Manager Ordered to Serve Rotten Chicken

If you think Taco Bell meat is bad, you clearly haven't heard about the KFC rotten chicken lawsuit. A former manager is suing the owner of a KFC franchise in Seaside, Ore. for wrongful termination and retaliation.

He says the owner repeatedly ordered employees to serve rotten chicken -- even when it was "turning green and was several days beyond the expiration date." When employees refused to do so or complained about the practice, they were fired.

An ex-porn star turned science teacher plans to fight her firing, after coworkers exposed some of her pre-school exploits online.

Stacie Halas, 32, was placed on paid administrative leave after rumors spread around Haydock Intermediate School in Oxnard, Calif., about her porn video, the Ventura County Star reports.

School administrators initially failed to find evidence of Halas' alleged porn-star past, because the school's Internet porn filters blocked those sites. But fellow teachers did their homework.

A Marine sergeant's Facebook posts about President Obama have led to his discharge from the military, in a dispute over free-speech rights in the workplace.

Marine Sgt. Gary Stein, 27, a meteorologist at Camp Pendleton near San Diego, posted comments and images on Facebook that allegedly disparaged President Obama, The Press-Enterprise reports.

"Screw Obama and I will not follow all orders from him," one of Stein's posts said. Stein also created a Facebook "fan page" -- but not because he was a fan of his commander-in-chief.

NYC to Ban Smoking in Apartments?

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has continued his anti-smoking campaign and has now targeted residential housing. The alleged NYC apartment smoking ban, which isn't a ban at all, would require owners to be upfront with current and prospective tenants about the building's smoking policy.

If passed by the New York City Council, the legislation would require landlords to adopt a written smoking policy. It would need to address where smoking is and is not allowed, such as on balconies and in indoor and outdoor common areas.

Democrats Prepare for Supreme Court's SB 1070 Ruling

As a divided nation waits for the Supreme Court to tackle Arizona immigration law S.B. 1070, many are giving thought to what will happen once the justices make their decision.

If the Court upholds Arizona's immigration law, will more states pass similar legislation? Will the nation suddenly have 50 different sets of immigration rules? Or will Congress step in and prevent this from taking place?

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer hopes for this last option.

Arizona Immigration Law Oral Arguments at Supreme Court

Arizona's immigration law, S.B. 1070, will head to the Supreme Court on Wednesday, when the justices are scheduled to entertain oral arguments in Arizona v. United States.

The Court will focus on the four sections of the law enjoined by the Ninth Circuit in April of last year. Those provisions:

(1) require police to verify the immigration status of anyone they stop if they suspect he or she is undocumented;

(2) make it a state crime for a non-citizen to be without registration papers;

(3) make it illegal for an undocumented immigrant to apply for a job; and

(4) authorize police to arrest anyone they believe has committed a deportable offense.

NY Woman Fired After Donating Kidney to Boss

Would you ever donate a kidney to your boss?

Probably not, but Debbie Stevens of Long Island did, and now she's filed a discrimination complaint with state regulators. In what is being called the "kidney donor case," Stevens claims boss Jackie Brucia turned on her after the organ donation. She even demoted her when she took time off to deal with the pain.

And then, when she complained, she was fired.

A gay Iowa teenager's suicide was preceded by bullying at school, the teen's mom claims -- including a cruel Facebook page allegedly created solely to harass the boy.

Kenneth Weishuhn Jr., 14, of Primghar, Iowa, told family and friends he was gay about a month ago. The teenager received a barrage of hate for coming out: Classmates heckled him with anti-gay slurs, left death threats on his cell phone's voicemail, and spewed hateful comments via social media, the Sioux City Journal reports.

"When I talked to him, he blew it off like it wasn't a big deal," Weishuhn's mother told the Journal. But the 9th grader took his own life last weekend, and now law enforcement is stepping in.

Is Streaming or Watching Movies Illegal?

Online streaming is gaining in popularity, and for some, it's replaced illegal (and legal) downloading altogether. The entertainment industry is undoubtedly annoyed, having tried so hard to kill Napster and BitTorrent sharing. But will it be able to do the same to online streaming?

The answer to this question hinges on whether or not streaming songs -- and streaming movies -- is illegal for both the viewer and the poster. And as explained below, current law is a bit of a mixed bag.

Legal to Grow Weed in a Rental Unit?

You knew it was coming. We couldn't let April 20 pass without at least a few posts about marijuana and the law. And this time, we're going to discuss whether you have a legal right to grow weed in a rental unit.

Unfortunately for pot aficionados and medical marijuana patients, the answer isn't pleasant. Even if you are licensed by the state to grow, sell or use pot, chances are your landlord can prohibit you from growing on the property. And if you still choose to do it, he can kick you out.

Shut Up or Pay New Airline Cellphone Fine

New York and New Jersey flyers may be facing a new airline cell phone fine if they don't turn off their devices.

The new regulation would require travelers to shut down their cell phones and other tablet devices prior to takeoff. The restriction is currently being considered by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Fox News reports.

Should it pass, airline customers could face stiff new penalties for not complying.

NY Stripper Sues for Wages, OT Pay

A New York stripper has filed a wage lawsuit against Dial-A-Dancer, a company that sends erotic dancers (and porn stars) to private parties in the tri-state area. Crystal DiCesare claims she only made $200 a week despite working three 12-hour days.

She's sung the company for an unspecified amount, requesting back wages and unpaid overtime. She's also accused owner Roger Otway of skimming a portion of her nightly tips, which she says usually came in at about $500.

When asked why she's chosen to sue, Manhattan employment attorney William Rand told the New York Daily News that his client "didn't like getting screwed."

'I Heart Boobies' Bracelets a Free Speech Issue?

The "I Heart Boobies" First Amendment case is back in the courts. The question before the courts: Vulgar sexual innuendo or constitutionally protected free speech?

Breast cancer awareness bracelets with the slogan "I Heart Boobies" began making their way to the wrists of public school students across the country. Different courts came to different conclusions. Yesterday, a Philadelphia federal appeals court heard oral arguments in the case of two students at Easton Area Middle School.

What Happens If You Don't Pay Your Taxes?

You don't want to pay your taxes. Who does? Not only is it expensive, but the forms are simply confusing. But as you know, tax collection is serious business.

If you're a salaried or a contract employee, your employer likely has to file W-2 or 1099 forms with the government. The IRS examiner has access to the information on these forms. So if you don't file, you can expect that the IRS will start a collection process against you.

CA Man Fights Traffic Ticket with Physics

Are you a physicist? No? Then you probably can't fight a traffic ticket with physics. But Dmirti Krioukov, a physicist at the University of California, San Diego successfully managed to accomplish this task.

Krioukov was busted for failing to completely stop at a stop sign --  what we here in California know as the original California roll. Instead of paying up, he got busy. He wrote a 4-page paper explaining that what the officer thought he saw wasn't what he saw at all. According to the laws of physics, that is.

Lindsey Vonn Owes $1.7M in Taxes

Paying taxes is one of the few activities everyone must participate in, celebrities included. And U.S. Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn's taxes are overdue to the tune of $1,705,437.

Vonn owes the amount from her 2010 tax year earnings, USA Today reports. Via Facebook, the two-time Olympic medal winner claimed she only "recently became aware of the outstanding balance."

So what kind of punishments could Vonn face if she doesn't pay up?

Legally Required to Take a Lunch Break?

If you're a non-exempt, hourly employee, you're probably entitled to a lunch break under state law. But there's undoubtedly been a time when you've wanted to work through lunch.

Because this scenario can cause a number of problems for employers who want to comply with lunch break laws and overtime rules, you may have been told "no." But this answer may soon change if you are a California worker. The state's highest court has said that employees can choose whether or not to take a lunch break.

A spouse's adultery, once discovered, can lead to arguments, resentment, and even divorce. But do courts look less favorably upon an adulterer in a divorce case?

Generally, no -- thanks to the concept of "no-fault" divorce, now available in all 50 states. In a "no-fault" divorce, either spouse can seek a divorce for any reason, and it doesn't matter who's at fault.

But some states still allow the option to pursue a "fault" divorce, in which adultery may play a role. Here's how adultery can factor in to a "fault" divorce case:

What is a QDRO? If you have a retirement account, and you're facing a divorce, you may become quite familiar with this acronym, which stands for Qualified Domestic Relations Order.

A QDRO is a court order that allows an alternate payee -- a spouse, an ex-spouse, a child, or some other dependent -- to collect money from a retirement account. This may be needed for spousal or child support, for example. In some states, a retirement account may also be considered community property that must be divided upon divorce.

Because QDROs can be complicated, it's probably wise to consult an attorney experienced in dealing with them. But here is some basic information about QDROs:

Arizona lawmakers have approved a controversial 20-week abortion ban that would also impose additional requirements on doctors, abortion clinics, and the state's health department.

Arizona's House of Representatives voted 37-22 in favor of the bill, which already passed in the state Senate, Reuters reports. The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Jan Brewer for approval; Brewer has not announced her position on the bill, but a spokesman emphasized her "strong and consistent pro-life record."

Supporters of the bill have cited research that suggests a fetus can feel pain beginning at 20 weeks of gestation. But critics, including some Republicans, say the bill goes too far.

Texas Teen's Suicide Blamed on 'Wolf Pack' Bullies

Despite celebrity-laden campaigns against bullying, the practice seems to go on unabated. Last week, a Texas high school freshman committed suicide after enduring years of bullying from a group of classmates dubbed the "wolf pack," NBC reports.

Ted "Teddy" Molina was a 16-year-old Flour Bluff High School student in Corpus Christi, Texas. He killed himself with a hunting rifle. Teddy, who is part Korean and part Hispanic, was taunted and received death threats due to his mixed race, his family says.

Representatives from the Flour Bluff School District have denied being aware of a bullying problem in their schools, but some parents seem to disagree.

Anti-bullying measures meant to protect gay teenagers are "indoctrinating" kids with a pro-gay message, a national Christian group believes. There are new efforts to counter that message, in schools and in state legislatures.

Focus on the Family, a Christian nonprofit, is spearheading a national "Day of Dialogue" on April 19 -- one day before a national student-led "Day of Silence" is set to raise awareness about anti-gay bullying in schools.

The dueling "Days" come as Christian groups are stepping up efforts to change or scrap anti-bullying laws they feel carry a pro-gay agenda, The Huffington Post reports.

A Michigan teacher is petitioning for reinstatement after she was suspended, and then fired, for allegedly helping students try to organize a Trayvon Martin fundraiser. The school, however, denies that's why she was fired, the Detroit Free Press reports.

More than 50,000 people have signed an online petition at Change.org, demanding the Pontiac Academy for Excellence rehire journalism teacher Brooke Harris.

Harris claims the charter school fired her after she supported her students' plan to wear hoodies and hold a fundraiser in support of Trayvon Martin, the Free Press reports. Martin was wearing a hoodie when he was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida.

But the school's superintendent says that's not exactly what happened.

New Tax Laws for 2011 and Other 2011 Tax Tips

We're in the home stretch for tax season 2012 and what better way to prepare yourself for the inevitable than to get up to speed on the new tax laws for 2011!

There have been some changes since last year. We've compiled a list of some of the most obvious changes for your 2011 tax filings.

OK's Personhood Bill Next Roe Challenge?

Oklahoma legislators may intentionally be tempting the U.S. Supreme Court, according to Reuters. Oklahoma Senate Bill 1433, also known as Oklahoma's Personhood Bill, is gaining traction, and if passed, would give embryos, from conception, the same rights as already born persons.

Some believe the bill would restrict contraception, in vitro fertilization and abortion. But others claim it will do no such thing, and is merely a political statement that, "in Oklahoma, we value life."

Push for Medical Marijuana in NY Heats Up

The push for a New York medical marijuana law is heating up. State Senator Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) has plans to introduce a medical marijuana bill in the coming weeks, just months before the legislative session ends in June.

But as far as Governor Andrew Cuomo is concerned, the medical marijuana bill is a bit premature.

The Governor has signaled that he has no intention to sign the legislation if passed. He needs more time to analyze its risks and benefits, and as of right now, the risks are winning the debate.

A baby born in midair on a U.S.-bound plane is doing well, and the father claims the newborn is American -- though the boy was actually born over African airspace to a Nigerian mother.

The boy, named Ebosalume, was born three hours into a 12-hour flight from Ghana to Atlanta on March 23, The Tampa Tribune reports. Flight attendants and fellow passengers -- a doctor and two nurses -- helped with the delivery, which occurred 36,000 feet above Africa.

With no medical equipment, the impromptu delivery involved scissors and a passenger's shoestring, both sterilized in -- appropriately -- Skyy vodka. Questions about the newborn's citizenship could have become just as complicated -- but apparently they've been resolved.

How Can You Lose Permanent Custody of Your Child?

Some parents will never fear having their rights terminated. Others will voluntarily make the choice. And still others will be forced.

For this last group -- those facing a court order stripping them of their parental rights -- information is the first step to maintaining the parent-child link. Courts involuntarily terminate parental rights only when a parent is unfit and doing so is in the best interest of the child.

Here are some criteria they most often consider:

So You Want to Legally Change Your Name

Perhaps your parents decided to be creative when they named you. Maybe they were a little too creative. Now that you're an adult, you might wonder how you can legally change your name. And if there are any laws that govern changing your name.

There are. But, it's not a particularly taxing process. That's why so many Americans opt to change their names -- including celebrities. After all, Los Angeles Lakers player Ron Artest changed his name to "Metta World Peace".

Clearly you can change your name to just about anything you want. Though, there are some requirements you should know about.

Settlement Reached in Brooke Astor Estate, Millions to Charity

After five years battling it out before the probate courts, Brooke Astor's estate has finally been resolved, with a significant amount going to philanthropy.

The story of the estate of Brooke Astor is a complex one, involving allegations of elderly abuse, fraud and deceit, reports Thomson Reuters News & Insight.

But now, with millions going to charity, it seems as though the saga has come to a productive end.

What Happens to Your Facebook When You Die?

What happens to your Facebook when you die?

For better or for worse, social networking sites are the modern day shoebox. They hold our thoughts, our photos and our personal mementos. But unlike physical artifacts, they can die right with us.

Indeed, if you're not careful, your digital life may be deleted before your family has a chance to preserve the memories.

They're mad as hell, and they're not going to do takeout anymore.

A New York couple is suing the people in charge of their apartment building after a prolonged gas shutoff allegedly made their kitchen inoperable and forced them to eat takeout food for 10 months, the New York Post reports.

Louis Maione, 68, and wife Beverly Taki, 66, say they dished out $27,000 to cover restaurant bills because of the gas shutoff. Now they want the apartment building's co-op board and management company to pick up the tab.

NY Woman, 73, Sues Walmart for Age Discrimination

Walmart has been hit with another discrimination suit, this time from Anne Squatrito of Long Island, New York. The 73-year-old grandmother is accusing the big box store of conspiring to fire her in violation of age and disability workplace laws.

More specifically, her Walmart age discrimination suit claims that managers altered her responsibilities shortly after she returned from disability leave. Though they were aware that she had a heart attack, they instructed her to move 200 loads of merchandise.

By herself.

MegaMillions Jackpot All Mine, MD Woman Claims

If Mirlande Wilson is telling the truth, then the public should brace itself for yet another MegaMillions lawsuit.

The self-proclaimed Maryland MegaMillions winner is already inviting controversy, having announced that she has no plans to share the jackpot with her McDonald's co-workers. The alleged winning ticket, which she refused to show the New York Post, may have been purchased with lottery pool funds.

Sound familiar? It should.

How to Monitor Your Attorney: 3 Easy Tips

You're hiring an attorney but you really don't know if the attorney's on top of their game. That's a valid concern, after all, you're coughing up big bucks for your retainer fee just to have your attorney represent you.

It makes sense to want to keep an eye on your lawyer. But attorneys don't always like it when clients get in the way of their work. It can actually impede your case if you over-direct your attorney. 
So how do you monitor your attorney, without crossing the line?