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

September 2011 Archives

Teacher's Aide Taped Kinder Student's Mouth Shut

What do you make of the elementary school teacher's aide who allegedly taped a Georgia student's mouth shut?

Some might consider this an acceptable form of corporal punishment, some might not.

Corporal punishment is a term used to describe physical discipline in schools.

Many states have outlawed corporal punishment entirely. Georgia is not one of them. But is taping a student's mouth shut going too far?

The teacher's aide in question reportedly placed the clear tape over the kindergartener's mouth when she wouldn't stop talking. The girl removed the tape after only a few seconds, but that didn't stop the aide from getting into some serious trouble.

Want to Track Work Hours, Wages? App for That

Think you aren't getting paid enough? Or just want to make sure that you are? There's an app for that.

The Department of Labor has recently released DOL-Timesheet, a free hour tracker app that allows iPhone users to keep track of hours worked and wages earned.

This includes overtime pay and mandatory break periods. The iPhone app may eventually track bonuses, commissions, holiday and weekend pay, and tips.

MA Alimony Now Capped Based on Length of Marriage

A new Massachusetts alimony law will go into effect early next year, changing the way in which judges order payments.

Judges will now apply a strict formula, which bases the number of payment years on the length of the marriage. Alimony will also end when the payer retires, or when the recipient moves in with a new partner.

Only marriages of considerable length can result in lifetime alimony.

Though strict, the new law seems to represent a trend in divorce settlement.

Confederate Flag Sparks Anger Among SC Neighbors

In South Carolina, the Confederate flag remains a hotly contested symbol of this nation's past. But in one historically black neighborhood, it continues to be an integral part of the present.

Residents of Summerville are currently embroiled in a year-long battle over Annie Chambers Caddell's Confederate flag. The white woman moved to the neighborhood last year, angering residents with the flag's display.

Now her neighbors have built 8-foot high fences, and she's erected a flagpole.

Can You Legally Adopt an Adult?

Adult adoption is legal, and it is on the rise .

Though laws vary widely, most of the country permits some form of adult adoption. And with it comes the legal rights and responsibilities of more traditional parent-child relationships.

But why would anyone want to adopt an adult? Or be adopted as an adult?

Most commonly, for personal reasons, the ease of inheritance, and health care.

Top 5 Ways to Be Wrongfully Terminated

Have you ever been wrongfully terminated?

It's natural to answer this question in the affirmative, but the truth is that wrongful termination exists in limited situations.

Legally, wrongful termination only occurs when an employee is fired in violation of a contract or employment laws.

To put this in perspective, the following are the most common ways to be wrongfully terminated.

Longshore Union Sues Over 'Brutal' Protest Arrests

Protests during a heated labor dispute has led to police brutality, a Longshore union claims. The Washington union has sued the sheriff and police chief in response to the violence.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) accuses Longview police of intense harassment and following protestors home.

The union is locked in a months-long labor dispute at the Port of Longview. The ILWU claims that its members should be allowed to work in the newly-built grain terminal.

Banned Books Week: Can Schools Ban Books?

Perhaps in honor of Banned Books Week (Sept. 24 - Oct. 1), a school district in southwest Missouri has chosen to partially remove two novels from its list of banned books.

Slaughterhouse-Five and Twenty Boy Summer will now be available in the school library. However, only parents may check them out, and they cannot be assigned as mandatory reading.

Isn't it unconstitutional for schools to ban books?

Bass Pro Shops: Racial Bias Suit Brought by EEOC

Does outdoor sporting retailer Bass Pro Shops discriminate against non-white job applicants?

A lawsuit filed by the EEOC points to evidence that the 55-store chain has a pattern of discriminating against African-American and Hispanic job applicants.

Seeking back pay and other damages, the Bass Pro Shops discrimination suit was filed after settlement negotiations fell apart last year. The agency had been investigating the company since 2007.

Mom Sues Abandoned Son for Parental Support

Shirley Anderson of British Columbia abandoned her three children 30 years ago. Now she's suing them for parental support.

Under Canada's little-used Family Relations Act, adult children must provide parental support in instances of old age, illness, and economic hardship.

She wants $750 a month per child.

Would this ever happen in the United States?

Same-Sex Couples Get Tax Exemption, AK Judge Rules

Alaska's same-sex couples will now be enjoying some additional tax privileges. An Anchorage judge ruled last Friday that same-sex couples will now qualify for tax exemptions traditionally reserved for married spouses.

At issue is a property tax exemption that requires local governments to give seniors and disabled veterans a $150,000 exemption on their primary residence.

Same-sex couples that qualified for the property tax exemption ran into problems with the law. Married couples get the full amount of the exemption even if only one spouse qualifies and the other owns the home.

Should Making Fake Facebook Profiles be Illegal?

Depending on who you talk to, and which federal prosecutor you encounter, creating a fake Facebook profile may be a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a law designed to punish unauthorized access to computers.

Relying on language that makes it a misdemeanor to "exceed authorized access" to computer systems, a number of people have been prosecuted for violating a private website's terms of service.

Senators Al Franken and Chuck Grassley would like such prosecutions to stop.

Is Your Pet Sitter Insured?

Many Americans consider their pets to be part of the extended family. Selecting a pet sitter for your furry loved-ones can be an arduous process. You might want to know more about a pet sitter's experience and qualifications. But, have you ever thought about asking if the pet sitter has insurance?

Responsible pet sitters will often have written proof that they have commercial liability insurance.

What exactly is liability insurance - and why is that important when you're hiring a pet sitter?

How Young is Too Young to Walk to School?

For many children, walking to school is a daily activity. For many American children, the exercise may be a welcome excursion. But for parents who let their child walk to school, are they actually violating child endangerment laws?

How old should kids be before they are allowed to walk to school without parental supervision?

And, are parents liable for what happens to their kids on these walks?

NY's Gramercy Park Hotel Settles ADA Suit

Ritzy New York establishment Gramercy Park Hotel’s ADA suit was settled this Thursday. The government had alleged that the Hotel’s disability access was not up to par with federal standards.

This isn’t the first time the hotel was put on notice. The government expressed its concerns earlier after complaints from guests. And, in 2006, the hotel underwent a $200 million renovation that was meant to address the claimed deficiencies. Instead, the suit alleged that the renovations actually made the situation worse.

The hotel lobby, bathrooms and guestrooms were all considered noncompliant, according to DNAinfo.

Can an Employer Use Your Criminal Record?

For a person with a criminal record--or even a prior arrest that never led to a conviction--making it through the hiring process can be very difficult and nerve-wracking.

Because background check laws vary by state, there's no definitive answer as to whether a potential employer can conduct a background check, ask about, or use an applicant's criminal record when making hiring decisions.

But as a general rule, most states allow employers to consider some portion of an applicant's criminal history, even without obtaining prior consent to conduct the investigation.

Cancer Patient Fired, Co. Must Pay $846k

A California cancer patient was fired after limiting his travel during his ongoing treatment. Charles Wideman was 59 when he was discharged. He had planned on working for his employer, Acme Electric, until age 67.

Acme Electric, a Wisconsin-based company, said that they fired Wideman because he was not living up to his job duties - which included traveling to meet with customers, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

California's Fair Employment and Housing Commission disagreed, saying that the company's conduct was discriminatory. Wideman was awarded $846,000, the agency's largest award in a discrimination case, according to the Chronicle.

Disabled Child? Create a Special Needs Trust

You may not have a will, or a durable power of attorney, but if you have a disabled child or family member who will be in need of care once you're gone, you should absolutely leave your assets in a special needs trust.

Designed to protect assets and provide for the care of disabled or mentally ill children and adults who lack the capacity to manage finances, special needs trusts are the premier estate planning devices for family members with disabilities.

Here's how one can help.

Fewer TSA Pat Downs, Shoe Removal for Kids

Should TSA pat-downs for kids be the same as pat-downs for adults? Many Americans probably feel that it's unnecessary for young children to go through the same TSA procedures that adults go through.

And, parents may be concerned especially because pat-downs have become more invasive. Some pat-downs even involve touching an individual's private areas. But, the Department of Homeland Security has recently announced that less-invasive TSA procedures will soon be implemented for children.

The new policy will mean that children age 12 and under will no longer have to go through invasive pat-downs, the Washington Post reports.

5 Tips to Consolidate Student Loans

Do you know how to consolidate your student loans? Need some student loan consolidation advice?

Consolidating loans can be a good way for students to handle mounting debt. It can result in one payment per month, or result in a lower interest rate. What are some tips on how to consolidate your student loans?

Diabetic Walgreens Employee Fired Over Chips

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has taken up the case of diabetic Walgreens employee Josefina Hernandez, a woman who was fired from a South San Francisco, California, store in 2008, after she ate a $1.39 bag of chips in a bid to stabilize her dropping blood sugar.

Hernandez reportedly paid for the chips the moment she was able to leave the register, but was still terminated.

The Commission contends that Walgreens violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and should have provided a reasonable accommodation.

Are Bullying Lawsuits on the Rise?

Are bullying lawsuits on the rise? Parents and teachers everywhere have become more aware of the dangers of bullying and cyberbullying in both the classroom and on the Internet.

Many parents are now turning to the law to try to ensure their children's safety and welfare.

In turn, it seems that the number of bullying lawsuits filed in court is on the rise.

Landlady Refuses to Rent to WI Single Mom

As one of the groups most likely to face housing discrimination, single mothers often have a difficult time renting apartments and homes in areas safe enough for their families.

In one such incident, Darlene Dovenberg, of Dovenberg Investments in West Salem, Wisconsin, refused to rent to a single mother, claiming that the property was unsafe without a man around "to shovel the snow."

She's now the subject of an administrative complaint brought by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

US Open Lawsuit: Tennis Umpires Sue for OT Pay

As the Grand Slam tennis tournament makes its way into the quarterfinals, a group of officials have filed a U.S. Open lawsuit, accusing the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) of failing to pay overtime and provide other benefits to umpires working the annual sporting event.

Though complaints about U.S. Open pay have long been part of the game, plaintiff umpires are seeking class action status, claiming that, since 2005, they have been improperly classified as independent contractors as opposed to employees.

Can a School Take My Kid's Cell Phone?

Many schools have cell phone policies in place to protect the learning environment. As a result, students who find themselves violating cell phone policies might find their cell phones confiscated. Legally speaking, can schools take cell phones from students?

They probably can, with some limitations.

Most school districts and schools are given the power to create certain school policies regarding discipline and student conduct.

TN Child Biking to School Alone: Child Neglect?

If your child is biking to school alone, are you guilty of child neglect? Tennessee mom Teresa Tryon is facing this very accusation.

Tryon lets her 10-year-old daughter to ride her bike to school by herself.

The route her daughter takes is about a mile long, and takes about 7-9 minutes.

Last month, a police officer saw Tryon's daughter riding her bike to school. The officer says that several cars had to swerve to avoid hitting the girl, and that the girl was biking into oncoming traffic.

Michigan Welfare Law: 4 Year Lifetime Limit

A new Michigan welfare law limiting lifetime cash assistance to four years will go into effect on October 1, ending benefits for 41,000 people--30,000 of which are children.

Perhaps the strictest welfare law in the country, Governor Rick Snyder backed the measure not only as a way to cut $60 million annually from the state's budget, but to "return[] cash assistance to its original intent as a transitional program to help families while they work toward self-sufficiency."

Food Stamps Accepted in Restaurants in AZ, CA, FL, MI

In some states, you can use food stamps in restaurants. Traditionally, food stamps couldn't be used to purchase prepared foods. But now, a new pilot program has made it so that some consumers can use food stamps for fast food.

Food stamps are distributed under the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

The federal government has allowed states to decide if elderly, disabled or homeless people can use food stamps for prepared restaurant food. Arizona, California, Michigan and Florida are the only four states that have decided to let food stamps be used for restaurant food.

Will your state join the list?

Oakland Hosts US's First Marijuana Street Fair

A sign of changing attitudes towards marijuana, hundreds of revelers in the San Francisco Bay Area spent their Labor Day weekend at the International Cannabis & Hemp Expo--the country's first marijuana street fair.

In addition to vendors selling a variety of paraphernalia and THC-laced chocolate, the event included a space--named "215 Area" after California's legalization measure Proposition 215--where medical marijuana users could openly light up.

It was directly located in front of Oakland's City Hall.

Sperm Donor Law Needed? Why 150 Siblings Could Be Bad

Do you think having three kids is tough? What about 150? Because of America's lax sperm donor laws, some sperm donors are actually inadvertently fathering dozens of children. Some are fathering 10 times that number.

This is because the U.S. doesn't have many sperm donor regulations that monitor how many times a sperm donor's "contributions" has been distributed.

In extreme cases, this can mean that children of sperm donors have many half-siblings.

Cynthia Dailey, who had a child using a sperm donor, did a little research on her own and found that her son had 149 half-siblings, according to ABC News. This means that this one man fathered 150 children.

Hollister's Porches Violate ADA, Judge Rules

National clothing chain Hollister's porches are not ADA compliant, according to U.S. District Judge Wiley Daniel. An Abercrombie & Fitch company, Hollister store's porches are often fixtures of the "aesthetic" design of the store.

The porch entrances have several steps above ground that make it difficult for customers in wheelchairs to use.

The suit, filed in Colorado, alleged that the porch entryways were violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the Denver Post.

FL Saggy Pants Ban: Lawmaker Hands Out 200 Belts

As the second state to prohibit the underwear-baring style, Florida's saggy pants ban went into effect this past week as students headed back for the 2011-12 school year.

To commemorate the new law, State Senator Gary Siplin of Orlando visited a number of local high schools, handing out hundreds of belts to students showing it all.

He's been pushing for a state-wide saggy pants ban for the past six years.

How to Use a Sex Offender Registry

To help protect yourself and your children, it's important to understand how to legally use a sex offender registry as an evaluative tool.

The National Sex Offender Public Website coordinates the sharing of information between the 50 states and a number of tribal jurisdictions, all of which allow sex offender registries to be searched online or in person.

Keep in mind that online and paper registries may not be up to date and accurate, so you should always verify information with local law enforcement before you use sex offender registry results as a basis for action.

AIDS Group Used Tax Funds for DC Strip Club

Miracle Hands Inc., a HIV/AIDS service provider in the D.C. area, is accused of using $330,000 worth of federal funds to start a strip club. Coincidentally, Miracle Hands owner Cornell Jones is a former D.C. drug kingpin.

Miracle Hands was going to turn a warehouse into a job training center for residents with HIV/AIDS. Instead, they turned the warehouse into the "Stadium Club," which is a gentleman's club, prosecutors allege.

The city is now asking for around $988,959 in damages, the Washington Examiner reports.