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

August 2011 Archives

Who is Eligible for FMLA Medical Leave?

If you've ever had to take time off work to handle family emergencies or because of a medical issue, you might have qualified for FMLA medical leave.

The FMLA, or Family and Medical Leave Act, is a federal law that grants employees the right to take time off work to deal with certain personal issues.

So, what are some of the basics of the FMLA?

Medical Bills, Debt Sends Many into Bankruptcy

What would you do if you were saddled with high medical bill debt? Would you declare bankruptcy? With the rising cost of healthcare, it seems that high medical bills and bankruptcy are starting to go hand-in-hand.

About 20% of Americans cite medical bills as the reason behind their bankruptcy when they seek financial consulting, according to a recent study by CredAbility.

This is an increase from just a few years ago, when about 12-13% of Americans cited medical debt as the reason behind their bankruptcy, according to The New York Times.

Why? With the rough economy, more Americans have gone through periods of unemployment, leaving gaps in their medical insurance coverage.

Top 10 States with the Highest Divorce Rates

Before you say "I do," maybe you should check whether or not you're living in one of the states with the most divorces. The Census Bureau recently released a study that shows which states have the highest divorce rates.

And, the leader for the most divorces? States in the South and the West, reports the AP.

So, which states were the "winners" in the recent study?

Children Sue Mom Over No College Care Packages

In a strange case of kids sue mom, Kathryn Miner, 20, and her brother Steven Miner, 23, filed a lawsuit against their mother two years ago, claiming that during their posh and often privileged upbringing in Chicago's suburb of Barrington Hills, her parenting caused them to suffer from emotional distress.

Last week, an Illinois appellate court dismissed that lawsuit, calling it no more than a case of alleged "bad mothering," declining to "open the floodgates" and "subject family child rearing to...excessive judicial scrutiny and interference."

NJ Laws that Punish Unfaithful NJ Wives Removed

Many states have anti-women laws that are relics of our nation's past. In New Jersey, some of these anti-women laws are now repealed. These old New Jersey laws date as far back as the early 1900s.

One law stripped a woman of her property rights if she "ravished" another man or gave "consent to the ravisher." That is, unless her husband forgave her and allowed her to move back in.

Another law allowed immediate marriages (foregoing the traditional 72-hour waiting period) for men arrested on charges of "bastardy, rape, fornication or having carnal knowledge of an unmarried female" if they consent to marry the woman.

Is comScore Collecting Our Personal Data?

A potential class action suit has been filed against comScore, an online consumer tracking service that sells marketing data to over 1,800 companies.

The comScore privacy suit alleges that the company has been collecting confidential user information, such as passwords and credit card numbers; altering firewalls and personal security settings; remotely controlling users' computers; and stealing files.

Are these allegations even remotely true?

New App Helps Cheaters Hide Calls, Text Messages

If you've been getting lucky with someone other than your partner or spouse, a new cheaters' app may be the app for you. "CATE" was released in the Android market last week and is already garnering good reviews.

The name of the app, CATE, is an acronym for "call and text eraser," according to WPTV-TV.

The app promises to live up to its name. It costs $2.99, and can store certain texts and calls within a password-protected system. This means that phone calls or messages you'd like to be kept private will remain locked away from prying eyes.

New Mexico's Driver's License Law: Lawsuit Filed

A New Mexico driver's license verification program implemented by Governor Susana Martinez has come under fire in a lawsuit filed by four Democratic legislators and a resident with legal status.

Believing that New Mexico's licensing program, which allows illegal immigrants who live in-state to obtain a driver's license, is ridden with fraud, the Governor's office sent 10,000 letters to registered foreign citizens to determine whether or not they live within the state.

The plaintiffs want the program to stop, alleging that it is discriminatory.

Legal to Send Students to Court Instead of Detention?

It used to be detention and a trip to the principal's office. Maybe suspension. But these days, school ticketing seems to have taken over traditional disciplinary measures in many of the nation's educational institutions, throwing children as young as 5 in front of a judge.

Citations, which can lead to hundreds of dollars in fines and community service, are given for running in the hallway, classroom disruption, and bringing soda to school.

How is this even legal?

And is it even right?

Missouri Facebook Law Challenged by Teachers

Missouri teachers are not going to lose their Facebook privileges without a fight. The Missouri State Teachers Association has filed a lawsuit against the new Missouri Facebook law, which prohibits private chats and online communications between student and teachers.

The Facebook law, otherwise known as the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, was implemented to curb sexual abuse of students by teachers.

But, the Teachers Association claims that the law goes too far. And, that it is unconstitutionally violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Any East Coast Earthquake Insurance Policies?

If you're on the East Coast, earthquake insurance probably isn't at the top of your list. But Tuesday's earthquake centered in Virginia caught millions of Americans off guard. How many East Coast earthquake insurance policies do you think were in effect at the time? 

The East Coast is generally not afflicted by earthquakes. Hurricanes and blizzards are more their cup of tea. But, the 5.9-magnitude quake was felt in the Carolinas, Virginia and several other Eastern states, including New York.

Many homeowners may be curious as to whether earthquake damages are included in your home insurance policy.

Don't bet on it.

Can You Lose Child Custody Over Tiny Pot Stash?

Is smoking pot child neglect?

A number of New York parents found with small stashes of marijuana have been investigated for  child neglect despite no grounds for criminal prosecution.

Penelope Harris, one of those parents, had her niece taken away for more than a year ago, even though she had only possessed 10 grams of marijuana--not enough for even misdemeanor charges under New York law.

NC Planned Parenthood Funds Restored by Fed Judge

In June, Planned Parenthood North Carolina met the same fate as many of its affiliates across the country, with legislators slashing funding for its family planning services and preventative health screenings.

But on Friday, a federal judge ordered the state to restore hundreds of thousands in funding promised to the organization during the upcoming fiscal year, questioning the legislature's decision to single out the group and pointing out that Planned Parenthood already can't spend government funds on abortion.

NY Lifeguard Fired for Refusing to Wear Speedo

Sixty-one year old Roy Lester, a fired lifeguard, says a Speedo swimsuit ended his career.

The Long Island native says he was forced out of his job as a lifeguard at Jones Beach because he refused to don a skimpy Speedo during his annual swim test.

Why did he refuse? Well, Lester himself probably put it the best when he said that "there should be a law prohibiting anyone over the age of 50 from wearing a Speedo," the New York Daily News reports.

Can members of the beach-going public really disagree with that sentiment?

Kansas Abortions Barred from Insurance, ACLU Sues

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit against the new Kansas abortion insurance regulations. They argue that the Kansas abortion law, which forbids private insurers from covering the procedure if it's elective, is unconstitutional.

The newly-passed law makes it illegal for private insurers to cover elective procedures. Abortion procedures that are necessary to save the mother's life can still be covered by insurance, reports The Kansas City Star.

The ACLU is hoping to get the law stopped on grounds that it is an unconstitutional violation of due process and equal protection. Thirteen states in 2010 passed similar legislation, though Kansas is the first to be challenged.

Is Woman's TSA Hair Pat-Down Discrimination?

Despite a clean body scanner image, Timery Shante Nance, an African-American woman with natural, unstraightened hair, was subject to a TSA hair pat-down last month while departing from San Antonio International Airport.

Laura Adiele, another young African-American sporting a "normal-looking puff," was also subject to a hair pat-down in June at the Seattle-Tacoma airport.

Again, she did not set off any alarms.

Is the TSA discriminating against black women with natural hair?

Bloomberg Pregnancy Claims Dismissed by NY Judge

A federal judge in Manhattan has dismissed the 2007 Bloomberg pregnancy discrimination lawsuit brought by the EEOC on the grounds that the government failed to show sufficient evidence that such discrimination was a company-wide policy.

The lawsuit, filed as a class-action, alleged that Bloomberg L.P. systematically targeted pregnant women and those who took maternity leave by reducing their pay, instigating demotions, and excluding them from meetings and other events.

Tobacco Companies Sue FDA Over Graphic Labels

Four of the country's largest tobacco companies have filed a cigarette label lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration, challenging its implementation of a law that requires the placement of graphic and disturbing images on tobacco packaging.

The group contends that the images, one of which depicts a pair of diseased lungs, violate their free speech rights, forcing them to urge consumers not to buy their products while also disseminating the government's message, which they claim is highlighted in an emotional, non-factual way.

Careful When Naming Pets in Your Will

Thousands of Americans own pets. And, many want to ensure their pets live long and healthy lives even after their owner passes away. As a result, pet owners might feel compelled to put their pets in their will. Or, owners may feel the need to create pet trusts. But, while your cat or dog may seem like family, in the eyes of the law they are actually your personal property.

As a result, pets are legally incapable of owning their own property. Property can't own property, so giving your pet puppy an inheritance in your will won't work. What can owners do?

Concerned owners can instead create pet trusts, available in certain states. These laws were enacted specifically with the concerned pet-owner in mind.

La. Sex Offender Law Challenged by ACLU Lawsuit

The ACLU has filed a federal lawsuit challenging a Louisiana sex offender law on the grounds that it is vague and overburdens the First Amendment rights of sex offender registrants.

The law, which went into effect on Monday, limits the ability of sex offenders with juvenile victims to use social networking sites, chat rooms, and peer-to-peer networks.

Arguably, the law also bars usage of traditional news sites, job boards, and e-mail.

'Anonymous' BART Hack: SF Users' Info Leaked

Protesting BART's decision to jam cell phone service at underground stations in downtown San Francisco on Thursday, hacktivist group Anonymous is taking credit for Sunday's BART hack, which left the transportation agency's in-boxes flooded, and riders' personal information revealed for the world to see.

In addition to promising further hacks and technological mayhem, Anonymous has organized a large protest at downtown's Civic Center Station during tonight's evening commute.

While it's clear that Anonymous' BART hack is illegal activity, can the same be said for BART's Thursday response?

Black Voters File Lawsuit against Fayette County, GA

The NAACP, along with 11 residents, have filed a federal voting rights lawsuit against Fayette County, Georgia, alleging that the way in which it conducts its elections is disenfranchising black voters.

As evidence, the plaintiffs point to the fact that, despite housing a population that is 21% African-American, no black candidate has ever been elected to the Board of Commissioners or the Board of Education.

The complaint states that Fayette County's at-large voting method "guarantees precisely this result."

Sperm Donor Child Support: Is He Legally Liable?

Is a sperm donor the parent of your child? Well, biologically-speaking, he is. But, is he a "parent" in the sense that he is financially obligated to help you out? Several court cases say yes, forcing sperm donors to pay child support.

Concerned sperm donors should note that these cases are probably considered outside the norm.

The child support-paying sperm donors usually have a closer than normal relationship with the children and the family.

Workplace Safety: What Are My Rights?

Have you ever sustained an office injury, or noticed some sort of hazard at your workplace? As an employee, do you know that OSHA regulations often mandate that employers maintain workplace premises up to a certain standard?

OSHA, short for the Occupational Safety and Health Act, was passed in order to ensure that every American has safe working conditions at their place of employment. All businesses that "affect commerce" are regulated under OSHA, so practically every business falls under OSHA regulation.

As an employee, it's critical to recognize what kind of rights you might have under OSHA, and what workplace safety might mean for you.

PA Man's 'Pyscho Ex Wife' Blog Shut Down by Judge

If you're looking for "The Psycho Ex Wife" blog, look no further. The blog, written by amateur blogger and Pennsylvania resident Anthony Morelli, has been shut down by a family court judge.

In its place, the website is now redirecting to another site: "Save," a site that is soliciting donations for a legal fund.

Morelli says a family court judge's order to shut down the site was violating his right to free speech as well as his right to due process.

Are Courtroom Dogs Too Cute For a Fair Trial?

While recently testifying that her father had raped and impregnated her, a 15-year-old girl from New York was accompanied by Rosie, the state's first judicially-approved courtroom dog.

Trained to sense emotional distress, the Golden Retriever nudged the girl and gave her comfort as she spoke about the abuse, helping her through testimony that she might not have otherwise been able to give.

Now her father's attorneys are appealing the conviction, saying that Rosie and other courtroom dogs unfairly sway jurors.

After all, what's cuter than a child nuzzling an adorable dog?

Muslim Man Fired for Not Shaving Beard

A Muslim man was fired from his post as a security guard. The reason? He was fired over his beard.

Abdulkadir Omar, 22, was working for American Patriot Security in May 2009. Omar is from SeaTac, Washington. When he was hired, he had facial hair, but was never told he had to shave, the Seattle Times reports.

A few months after he was hired, Omar was told that he had to shave his beard. Omar, a Muslim, keeps his facial hair a certain way as part of his religious beliefs, according to the Seattle Times. Despite the fact that he informed his supervisor about his beliefs, Omar was fired.

Is CA Forcing Out Single Family Homes?

Are California's planning laws "waging war" on single family homes? Zoning laws in the Golden State might be making it more difficult for homeowners to buy detached single-family housing in the future.

About 70% of Californians prefer single family housing, according to a survey by the Public Policy Institute of California.

But, new policies that push for "urban containment" or "smart growth" instead advocate for creation of more dense housing, such as apartments or condominiums, reports New Geography. What does this mean for consumers and buyers of single family homes?

Legal for BarSpace to Stream Video from Bars?

BarSpace, a new iPhone app and website, is installing cameras in bars and nightclubs across the San Francisco Bay Area and then transmitting the video for the public to see.

CEO Mike Deignan says the product allows users to determine whether a bar is busy, who's on staff, and what the dress code is, helping them decide where to go for a night out.

This may be the case, but is streaming live video without patron consent illegal?

How to Apply for Food Stamps

If you’re currently in a situation that requires you to seek out government assistance, it’s important to understand how to apply for food stamps, particularly when it comes to required documentation.

Though it is run by local and state agencies, the national food stamp program, which is known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), is actually a federal program, meaning that the requirements are the same regardless of where you live.

How to Request a Reasonable Accommodation

If you have a disability, you may be wondering how to request a reasonable accommodation from your employer if one becomes necessary.

Because the Americans with Disabilities Act bars an employer from asking an employee about a visible or hidden disability, it is ultimately your responsibility to make the request and provide your employer with the requisite information.

Here's what you need to hand over and some things you should keep in mind when making your request.

NM Mayor Was Drunk When He Signed City Contracts

Was the mayor drunk? The question has surely been asked before. This time, mayor of Sunland Park, New Mexico and future congressional candidate Martin Resendiz is attracting the ire of fellow city councilmembers this week after admitting that he was inebriated while signing 9 contracts with a California company.

The mayor has caused the city to potentially be on the hook for $1 million in work done by Synthesis+ despite the council's failure to approve the contracts.

Yes--even if he was drunk at the time of signing.

9/11 Cross: Atheists Sue Over World Trade Cross

One man found himself a symbol of hope while he was digging through the rubble of the World Trade Center - a cross. The twisted steel beams, now familiar as the 9/11 cross, was then taken by many as a symbol of hope and faith after the tragedy struck the twin towers.

But, a group, the American Atheists, have filed a lawsuit to stop the cross, now familiar as the "World Trade Cross," from being displayed in an exhibit in the National September 11th Memorial and Museum, according to ABC News.

American Atheist say that the cross would promote Christianity over other religions, which would infringe upon the rights of non-Christians, reports ABC News.

NRA, Gun Dealers Sue Over Bulk Gun Sales Rule

The NRA is backing two Arizona gun dealers that have sued over the new bulk gun sales reporting requirement that is being instituted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

The NRA is asking for an injunction to stop the rule from being enforced, according to The New York Times.

The ATF rules would require gun dealers in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas to report certain gun sales. Specifically, the reporting rules would mandate reporting of multiple gun purchases in a short period of time, The New York Times reports.

NY Teacher, 80, Fired Over Bathroom Breaks?

Lillie Leon may be a teaching veteran, but that does not mean her job is secure - the New York teacher was fired recently. According to Leon, she was terminated because she complained about escorting her students to their bathroom breaks.

Leon, 80, has three decades of teaching experience, according to the New York Daily News.

She has bad knees and uses a cane to help her walk. Because of the school policy, she is required to escort her kindergarten students to the bathroom which is all the way across the cafeteria and on the other side of the school.

Top 5 Tips to Get Your Child Support Payments

Divorced parents everywhere sometimes get a crash course in child support law not because they want to, but because they have problems getting the monetary support they need in order to take care of their kids.

What do you need to ensure you get your payments for child support? A court order? An airtight divorce agreement?

Getting child support may mean more than just a court decree. There are many ways to help parents ensure that they are able to get their child support payments, not limited to just the law.

Hilton Newspaper Suit: Charged for USA Today

A recent guest at a California Hilton has now started a class-action Hilton newspaper lawsuit. The Hilton is being sued over newspapers that they leave outside guests' doors.

Rodney Harmon, 55, stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Sonoma County Airport in late March, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Outside his door in the morning was a copy of USA Today. Harmon checked his bill, and then noticed that he had been charged for 75 cents for the newspaper, which he never requested, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

'Facebook Law' Bans Teacher-Student Friends

In an attempt to create boundaries and protect students from sexual abuse, a new Missouri Facebook law places strict limitations on teacher-student friendships on social networking sites, calling into question the future of social media in the classroom.

The new rules, which are part of the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, require all school districts in the state to adopt a written policy by January 1, 2012, listing appropriate types of oral and nonverbal personal communication, including electronic media.

Can I Deduct Child Support on My Taxes?

Is child support tax-deductible? In the same vein, is alimony tax-deductible?

While the dissolution of a marriage is undoubtedly personally difficult and emotionally draining, there’s no doubt that it can also create a strain on a person’s finances.

And, it can raise some serious questions as to what should go on your tax return and what shouldn’t.

How to File a Lawsuit

While filing a lawsuit in small claims court often requires little more than filling out a few forms and notifying the defendant, filing a civil lawsuit in federal court or a higher-level state court is a little bit more difficult.

In addition to proper forms and notice, you need to determine which court to file in, as well as how to write a complaint that conforms court rules.

To help you through this sometimes tough process, here is a step-by-step guide on how to locate what you need to file a lawsuit.

How to Choose a Lawyer: What Should I Look For?

When it comes to legal representation, finding a lawyer isn't a problem. Choosing a lawyer, however, is.

With a glut of attorneys out there, it's difficult to determine who you should interview, as well as which criteria to even apply when narrowing down your choices.

Though there are dozens of reasons to hire a specific attorney, we consider the following five things essential when choosing a lawyer.

Noisy Neighbors? How to Handle Neighbor Disputes

There’s no good way to put this, but noisy neighbors suck.

They play loud music at all hours of the night; they scream and throw tantrums; they have an odd affinity for power tools and revving their car engine; they bang around in their apartment at 3 a.m.

Besides taking the passive aggressive route and making your own noise, what can you do about it? Is there legal recourse for noisy neighbors?