Law & Daily Life - The FindLaw Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

July 2011 Archives

TSA Discriminate Against One-Handed Man?

Can a one-handed man be a TSA agent? According to Michael Costantino, 32, the answer is "no." The one-handed boxer from New York applied to become a TSA agent, but was rejected because of his disability. Now, he is alleging a claim of discrimination against the TSA.

Costantino is alleging that the TSA violated discrimination laws.

He passed a test where potential screeners were asked to pick out weapons on the X-ray images, cleared a background check and a job interview, reports The Washington Post. He also had to go through a medical exam. Two weeks after the medical exam he received notice that he was disqualified from the position on the basis of his condition.

NC Abortion Ultrasound Law Moves Forward

The North Carolina House of Representatives has voted to override the Governor's veto of an abortion law that requires women to wait 24 hours and be shown an ultrasound prior to getting an abortion.

In refusing to sign the North Carolina ultrasound law late last month, Democratic Governor Beverly Perdue cited her belief that it invades a woman's right to privacy and to consent to medical treatment.

While some echoed similar sentiments during this week's House debate, others argued that the law, known as the Abortion-Woman's Right to Know Act, is intended to help women make informed decisions.

Saggy Pants Fine: $50, $100, $200 in Hampton, Ga.

The city of Hampton, Georgia has joined the ranks of a handful of municipalities in the state that have taken it upon themselves to enact a saggy pants ban, barring residents from wandering the streets showing off their underwear.

Citing complaints from members of the community, local legislators have voted to punish saggers with a graduated fine, starting off at $50 and capping out at $200.

Is this legal?

La. Family's Sign Supports Marine Son: Gets Sued

When Corey Burr shipped off to Afghanistan in January as a member of the U.S. Marines, his parents erected a banner in their front yard displaying his picture and reading, "Our son defends our freedom."

Residents of Bossier City, Louisiana, the Burrs live in a community that is governed by Gardens of Southgate Association, a homeowners' association.

The association claims the banner is against the rules.

How to Become an Emancipated Minor

It’s a common theme on E! True Hollywood Story, but the fact is that becoming an emancipated minor isn’t as easy as celebrities may make it out to be.

And it’s not always about money, either.

While it’s possible to become an emancipated minor via marriage or enlistment in the U.S. Armed Forces, emancipation is most often sought by minors who, as a result of a complicated familial situation, feel that they need to end ties with their legal guardian.

Here’s how they do it.

Aaron Pace's Blood Rejected for 'Acting Gay'

Seeking to donate blood for a $40 fee, Chicago resident Aaron Pace was shocked earlier this month when Gary, Indiana-based Bio-Blood Components rejected his donation on the grounds that he "appears to be a homosexual."

While Pace admits that his voice is noticeably effeminate, he is not gay.

Humiliated and embarrassed, he now plans to sue the company for sexual orientation discrimination.

OR Rep. David Wu Resigns Amid Sex Scandal

Allegations that he engaged in unwanted sexual conduct with the 18-year-old daughter of a longtime family friend and campaign donor have caused Oregon Representative David Wu to resign today despite no plans by the woman to file charges.

Referred to the House Ethics Committee, Wu had already announced that he had no plans to seek reelection. However, he has changed his tune and has decided to step down "upon the resolution of the debt-ceiling crisis."

File for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13. There are a variety of reasons why consumers may end up filing for bankruptcy. Maybe it's the lack of jobs after a stagnant economy zapped the market, or a business that had promise but ultimately crumbled. Whatever the reason, knowing the differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy can help consumers get back on their feet.

Both are forms of bankruptcy that can give consumers a level of protection against creditors, and in some cases, can even eliminate or discharge debt.

But, what should you file for? Below is a list of things to consider if you're looking to choose between the two.

NY Gay Marriage Lawsuit: Evangelical Church Group

The first New York gay marriage lawsuit has been filed by the New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a group led by Reverend Jason J. McGuire.

The lawsuit comes down days after the same-sex marriage bill came into effect on Sunday. Hundreds of same-sex weddings have already been performed in the state.

The lawsuit seeks to make the Marriage Equality Act null, and also seeks to overturn all of the marriages that were performed under the new act, according to the complaint. The conservative group is arguing that the state legislature violated the Open Meetings Law when they passed the bill.

Top 5 Tips to Buying a Home

Thinking about purchasing a new home? Need a home buying checklist or home buying tips?

You've come to the right place! FindLaw has got you covered.

Buying a home can be a monumental step towards living out the American dream for most. But, the process can also be daunting, to say the least. In order to help offer some guidance and tips on how to ease the process, here are FindLaw's top 5 tips to buying a home:

Undocumented NYT Reporter Loses Driver's License

The state of Washington has revoked the driver's license of Jose Antonio Vargas in response to the undocumented reporter revealing that he has hid his illegal immigrant status from his friends and employers for the last 14 years.

Last month the New York Times published an article by Vargas entitled, My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant, detailing his arrival in the United States and the steps he took to conceal his status so that he could attend college and work his way to a promising career in journalism.

'Don't Ask Don't Tell' is Dead: Obama Repeals

President Obama has certified the repeal of the 17-year-old "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, meaning that after September 20th, gays in the military will be allowed to serve openly.

The move comes on the heels of two weeks of legal maneuvering, with the 9th Circuit ordering the federal government to explain why it should not permit a lower court's order permanently repealing DADT to resume.

Obama signed the document that made it official on Thursday, July 21, 2011.

Is it Legal to Leave My Child Home Alone?

With kids out of school for the summer and camps becoming increasingly expensive, you might be wondering when it's okay for you to leave your child home alone without adult supervision.

While many times you are within your legal rights to leave your child alone, there are certain situations where doing say may amount to child neglect, as it can cause the authorities to question the child's safety.

Unfortunately, there's really no definitive answer to this inquiry, with most situations requiring an analysis of state law and the overall circumstances.

MN Students Sue School District Over Gay Policy

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed suit against the Anoka-Hennepin School District in a Minnesota federal court this week, arguing that the school's anti-gay policy and its alleged failure to punish anti-LGBT bullying violates the law.

This isn't the first time the district has been accused of such activity, with the Departments of Justice and Education recently opening up an investigation into similar allegations as a result of a group of gay student suicides in the last two years.

Hybrid Cars Getting Bumped from Carpool Lanes

No longer able to drive solo in the state's carpool lanes, eighty-five thousand California hybrid owners may be questioning their choice of vehicle right about now.

Determining that the public no longer needs an incentive to purchase hybrid vehicles, state regulators allowed its hybrid carpool permitting system to expire, tossing Prius owners back into the throngs of bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Could this happen elsewhere?

New TSA Body Scans More Private, End Naked Images

It seems that the TSA's privacy issues came to a boil when they announced full-on body scans that seemed to let TSA agents get a complete eyeful of a passenger's naked body. New TSA body scan software, however, might make the privacy issue moot - at least in relation to body scanners.

With new software installed, the TSA full-body scanner will no longer display a person's naked body on the screen.

Instead, the new software will make it that the display will show a generic body outline, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Top 5 Ways Not to Lose Custody of Your Child

Thousands of parents lose custody or fight for custody of a child every year.

While there are certainly some pleasant joint parents out there, the majority of the time the public is bombarded with stories about two parents desperately fighting to keep custody of their children against the will of the other. 

And while most of these situations tend to focus on marring the character of a parent and painting him as unfit, the truth is that, in many situations, a parent seeking custody is better off focusing on herself.

So if you'd like to keep custody or your child, consider doing the following:

NY Gay Marriage Protest: 2 Town Clerks Resign

Protest in New York over the gay marriage laws have taken on a different spin: two New York clerks have resigned their posts in anticipation of the new same-sex marriage law.

For 10 years, Rosemary Centi was the official marriage officer in Guilderland, New York. In Barker, New York, Laura Fotusky had served as the town clerk.

Both women cite their resignation as a result of their religious views, which stand in opposition to the New York same sex marriage law. The law becomes effective July 24, reports The Christian Post.

Mich. Front-Yard Garden Charges Dropped

It's a strange thing how Julie Bass' garden has become national news.

Facing a fine and 93 days in jail for planting a raised vegetable garden in front of her home, the Oak Park, Michigan woman took to the internet, causing citizens far and wide to bombard city hall with letters of support.

Local prosecutors have reportedly dropped the garden charges, but are still going after her for failing to license her dogs.

OK to Track Cheating Spouses with GPS?

Anyone who has had the sneaking suspicion that our significant other is doing something behind our backs have had the urge to use a GPS to track a cheating spouse/partner.

And, if you ever need to satisfy that urge, move to New Jersey, where GPS tracking of cheating spouses is okay - at least that's how an appellate court recently ruled.

The decision arose out of a case where a man, sheriff's officer Kenneth Villanova, was tracked via GPS by a private investigator, Richard Leonard, who was hired by Villanova's ex-wife, reports The Star-Ledger.

Plaza Hotel Chef Thrown in Trash by her Boss

A former Oak Room pastry chef at New York's Plaza Hotel has filed a $25 million lawsuit against former Executive Chef Eric Hara, claiming that, as her boss, he subjected her to sexual and physical harassment for the year she was on the job.

There were a lot of strange allegations, including Melissa Rodriguez accusing Hara of throwing her in the trash, and dumping cream, chocolate sauce, and honey in her hair on a near-daily basis.

TX Gov. Rick Perry Sued over Prayer Day

Texas Governor Rick Perry has been sued over his prayer rally. Gov. Perry's prayer rally has met the ire of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which has filed a federal lawsuit trying to prevent Gov. Perry from taking part in the prayer day.

Freedom from Religion Foundation alleges that Perry's participation in the prayer rally would  violating the establishment clause, the constitutional ban that prevents governments from establishing a religion, reports KXAN-TV.

The prayer rally is set to take place on August 6, and is called "The Response." The event will be 7-hours long, and the event has been endorsed not only by Gov. Perry but also by many Texas-based pastors and religious groups.

CA Law Orders Gay History in School Textbooks

In a first for the nation, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation on Thursday that requires the teaching of gay history in the state's schools.

Focusing on the contributions of gay, lesbian and transgender Americans to the development of California and the United States, the law directs school districts to adopt curricula and textbooks that emphasize the role of these groups in present society.

For months, Republicans have vehemently opposed the gay history bill, arguing that it is an attempt to force a "gay agenda" on students, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Green Card Lottery Lawsuit Dismissed by Judge

For millions, the green card lottery is their ticket to the American dream. Winners of the green card lottery, open to citizens from countries that have low rates of immigration to the U.S., have the chance to apply for a green card. But now, a green card lawsuit has been dismissed by a federal judge.

The reason for the lawsuit? A glitch in the State Department's computer systems made it so that the "random" selection of the 15 million or so entrants into the lottery was not so random, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The result has been heartbreaking for hopeful-citizens. The State Department did not realize its error until it had already notified 22,316 applicants that they had been selected for the lottery. And, in finding the error, the State Department voided the results, launching a new lottery. A class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of the "winners."

Top 5 Legal Reasons to Stay Married

Love is not always sunshine and roses. Many marriages often lead to bitter disputes, and unfortunately, divorce. But, for those who don't necessarily want to call it quits, what are some reasons to stay married and not get divorced?

Okay, there are the generic reasons. Maybe you're still in love with your spouse. Maybe you think you can work through your problems. Maybe you want to stay together for your kids.

But, there are also some legal reasons that you may want to consider.

Can Your Laptop Plead the Fifth Amendment?

Can the government compel you to decrypt your laptop?

Ramona Fricosu says no, which is why she's fighting federal prosecutors in Colorado who want access to her encrypted laptop, which they believe contains information relating to her alleged criminal activities.

Refusing to handover her encryption key, Fricosu is pleading the Fifth, claiming that she has a constitutional right to deny the request.

Utah's Happy Hour Ban: Liquor Lawsuit Filed

A new addition to the state's incredibly limiting liquor laws, Utah's happy hour ban went into effect at the beginning of the month, depriving stressed workers of discounted drinks every day of the week.

In addition to the ban, Utah's SB 314 drastically cuts down on the availability of liquor licenses, issuing them based on the local population and number of police officers.

Of course, someone has sued.

New Palm Beach Pet Law: No Chaining Animals

Dog owners in Palm Beach County, Florida are now subject to a new dog chaining law, which prohibits the tethering of dogs to a stationary object unless under direct supervision or at a show.

A coup for animal rights activists, the new Palm Beach pet law also requires residents to provide their canine companions (and guard dogs) with ample backyard space, a roof during extreme weather conditions, and sufficient exercise.

Not everyone is happy.

Casey Anthony Juror Quits Work, Goes into Hiding

With the trial now in the past, it appears as though the public has refocused its wrath onto the Casey Anthony jurors, instead of Casey Anthony herself.

With the amount vitriol spewed in their direction, it's no wonder that they've been overwhelmingly quiet, refusing to talk to the media and wishing to remain anonymous.

And according NBC News, at least one of them has gone into hiding.

AZ Recalls Russell Pearce, SB 1070 Sponsor

Maricopa County election officials have certified that Citizens for a Better Arizona has collected over 10,300 signatures, nearly 3,000 more than necessary, in its Russell Pearce recall effort.

The group opposes the Arizona Senate President, who represents the area around Mesa, on the grounds that he supports guns in state parks and sponsored and fully supported the state's controversial anti-immigration bill, SB 1070.

What's going to happen next?

Pa. Restaurant McDains Bans Kids Under Age 6

Annoyed with those crying, whiny kids dining right next to you on your date night? Maybe you should take your date to McDain's, which has imposed a kids ban against all children under the age of 6.

McDain's, located outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, started the policy because of customer complaints, reports WFMY-TV.

Mike Vuick, the owner of McDain's, said that reactions have been mixed, WFMY-TV reports.

Houston Woman, 52, Fired Over Her Gray Hair?

The news is littered with stories of women who are fired for being overweight, but given the laws against age discrimination, it's rare to hear about someone being fired over gray hair. But Sandra Rawline alleges just that.

In a lawsuit filed against Capital Title of Texas, the 52-year-old Houston woman alleges that she was fired from her branch manager position after refusing to adopt a younger image and dye her gray hair.

Is this legal?

Top 5 Questions for Your Home Inspector

Do you know what to ask your home inspector? Getting a home inspection before you buy a house is important, as it may reveal hidden problems about the property that you were not aware of. And, asking the home inspector questions can help further increase your knowledge and help you determine if your dream home really is your dream home.

Knowing that home inspections are important is one thing. Knowing what to ask your home inspector is a whole other issue.

So, what are the top 5 questions you should ask your home inspector?

1 in 4 Americans Have Challenged Property Taxes

A new survey has shown that about 1 in 4 Americans have challenged their property tax. And the result? Often, a property tax reduction.

The survey found that around 24% of the homeowners asked had challenged their property assessments at some point of their home ownership. And, around 75% of those who challenged their assessment found their property tax reduced as a result.

The net reduction in the property tax was between 1 and 4%. As a home owner, what do you need to do to challenge your property assessment and get a similar reduction in your property tax bill?

Government Appeals DOMA Bankruptcy Ruling

Supporters of gay rights and same-sex marriage were on the receiving end of mixed-messages last week when the Obama administration decided to appeal the recent DOMA bankruptcy ruling that deemed the law unconstitutional.

Just days later, the Department of Justice also weighed in on a lawsuit brought by a federal employee who claims that DOMA unconstitutionally requires the federal government to deny health insurance to her same-sex spouse.

In the second case, the government argued that DOMA is irrational and based solely on hate.

School Vouchers: Are they Legal?

The fight over Indiana's school voucher program has just begun. A lawsuit filed by teachers in the state claim that school vouchers are unconstitutional with respect to the Indiana Constitution, and that school vouchers are not legal.

The school voucher plan would allow low and mid-income families to use public money towards enrolling in private schools, reports the Chicago Tribune.

But, is it constitutional under federal law to allow public, state funds to be given over to private schools - many of which are religious institutions?

KS Abortion Rules Temporarily Blocked

New Kansas abortion rules have been blocked by a federal judge. The Kansas abortion regulations would have meant that two out of the state's three abortion providers would have been unable to continue operations.

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri was the only abortion provider to receive a license that would have allowed them to continue their services if the new regulations went into effect, reports the Associated Press.

The regulations apply to abortion providers who perform more than five non-emergency abortions a month, requiring them to get a license. The regulations mandate what drugs and equipment the clinics, hospitals and doctor's offices must have. They also regulate the minimum sizes and temperature of recovery rooms, and also have regulations on procedure, according to the AP. The rules also mandate the size of janitor closets and requires that patients be given lockers, reports Time.

Breastfeeding Laws: Public Breastfeeding OK?

Should there be breastfeeding laws? And, should breastfeeding in public be a protected right?

Maybe it should, given the stigma and the difficulties some women face in breastfeeding their children. In one case, a Detroit mother, Afrykayn Moon, was nursing her 2-week old infant on a public bus. She was asked to leave the bus after the bus driver told her to either cover up or get off.

In Michigan, breastfeeding laws protect women from indecent exposure charges. But, they do not protect women from discrimination, reports the Detroit Free Press. What states do - and don't - protect women and to what extent?

Can Employers Discriminate Against Smokers?

In a recent story out of Arizona, health care insurer Humana has decided to internalize a policy of smoker discrimination, announcing that it will screen new employees for nicotine, and no longer hire those that test positive.

Humana is not the first company to refuse to hire smokers. With businesses trying to cut insurance costs by cutting back on employees who raise health concerns, smokers have come under fire in recent years.

Is such smoker discrimination legal?

Third Abercrombie and Fitch Headscarf Suit

A Muslim woman filed the third Abercrombie & Fitch headscarf lawsuit on Monday in a San Francisco federal court, alleging that she was fired after she refused to remove her hijab while working.

The incident, which took place in one of the company's Hollister stores near San Francisco, was deemed to be an illegal firing by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which has also reportedly filed its own lawsuit against the company.