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

May 2015 Archives

Not many people have the luxury of taking days off of work and giving up money.

However, despite your willingness to work, you may not have a choice if your work shuts down. If your employer shuts down the business temporarily due to an emergency or other reason, do they still have to pay you?

It might be the scariest part about getting in trouble in high school: it could end up on your permanent record, and keep you from going to college. No one wants to jeopardize their future with some juvenile shenanigans.

But with employers relaxing their standards when it comes to hiring ex-cons, could colleges follow suit and leave questions about criminal convictions off their applications? One premiere university might be leading the way.

A California bill that would legalize physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients got a large show of support last week -- or at least a large removal of opposition. The California Medical Association (CMA) dropped its long-standing opposition to allowing doctors to help patients end their lives.

Instead, the CMA will take a neutral stance on SB 128, or the End of Life Option Act, but removing their opposition may make it easier for the bill to become law.

Most people have one job and earn income in the state where they live. So they pay taxes in one state. That's simple. But, for people who earn income in states other than where they live, things get a bit more complicated.

Recently, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Maryland's tax on out-of-state income is unconstitutional.

We've all come to learn (I hope) that nothing we post on the Internet is private. But it's a far cry from "not private" to "available for an artist to enlarge, display, and sell for $90k."

That's what artist Richard Prince for a collection he calls "New Portraits," which consist of blown up photos from other people's Instagram accounts, reports StyleCaster. Prince made small alterations, displayed them at the Frieze Art Fair in New York, and sold them for $90,000 each. If you're wondering, like everyone else, how this is legal, let us explain.

You get a ticket; your insurance goes up. You get in an accident; your insurance goes up even more. You get a DUI conviction, and you'll be eating dollar menu McDonald's everyday to afford your insurance premiums.

Insurance rate increases can vary wildly between states. Since most states don't have limits on how much insurance rates can go up, you could be paying thousands of dollars more for an accident or ticket or a DUI.

Here are the 10 worst states to be a bad driver:

If you're going to appoint someone to handle your legal and financial affairs after you pass away (and you absolutely should), you want to pick someone who is capable and trustworthy. After all, this person may have access to your Facebook account when you die.

And even if you've already chosen an executor, your work may not be over. Here are some common situations that can have you reconsidering your executor:

Every year, over 5,000 people die from on the job accidents and injuries. Nearly 50,000 die from exposure related illnesses, and over four million workers suffer non-fatal work related injuries and illnesses.

Work should not be dangerous. You're not a soldier. You didn't sign up to risk your life for your company. So, can you refuse to work in unsafe conditions?

There seems to be a new trend in minimum wage increases across the country.

Los Angeles is now the latest city to approve, in a 14-to-1 vote, increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Los Angeles follows in the footsteps of Seattle and San Francisco, which have already approved $15 minimum wages.

When Can I Retire?

It's less a practical question nowadays and more of an existential angst: "Will I have enough for retirement?" And depending on your age, your job, and your marital and family status, figuring out your retirement plan can seem like an impossible bit of calculus.

The key word there is "seem" -- with a little information and some careful planning, figure out when you can retire can get a lot simpler.

How old were you when you saw your first R-rated movie?

Almost every movie released to market has a rating of G, PG, PG-13, R, or NC-17. They're meant to provide consumers, especially parents, with advance information about how appropriate a movie may be for certain audiences. But, as many of us know, the ratings aren't always heeded. Many of us have watched R-rated movie without our parents long before we turned 17.

However, are the movie ratings legally enforceable? Can theaters get in trouble for a child watching an R-rated movie?

Once the provenance of hippies and hipsters, urban agriculture is becoming more and more popular across city-dwelling populations. Rooftop gardens, front-yard farms, and vacant lots-turned-vegetable patches are popping up every day.

And whether you're getting into urban agriculture because you're health conscious, eco conscious, or money conscious, you should also be law conscious before you start growing, tending, or selling any produce.

Here are three laws you should know about urban agriculture:

Have you ever used PayPal? You may be eligible for a refund.

The electronic payment company PayPal, will pay $25 million to settle a lawsuit with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). According to the suit, CFPB accused PayPal of illegally signing customers up for PayPal Credit, formerly known as Bill Me Later, without their permission. Many customers did not realize they were enrolled in the program until they were charged interest and late fees.

PayPal, who neither admits nor denies fault, has agreed in a consent order to pay $15 million in refunds to customers and a $10 million penalty to CFPB.

That store stole your corporate logo. Your neighbor keeps trimming a hedge in your yard. Whatever it is, you want it to stop, and you're going to write a letter to make it stop.

But unless you're Jack Daniel's, chances are you don't know how to write a great cease-and-desist letter. Thankfully we're here to help out with a few pointers:

Does your state have a duty to report or help law?

On your walk to Starbucks, you hear a scream! Around the corner you find a lady knocked out, bleeding from a cut wound to her arm, and a guy is running away with her purse. Do you help her? Do you run after the guy? Do you call the police? Can you just continue on your way and ignore the lady?

When reports surfaced this week that Bill O'Reilly had been accused of domestic abuse during divorce proceedings, the news only came to light because a source leaked the information. The actual documents of the case were filed under seal, and testimony was given during closed hearings.

But, as NASCAR's CEO Brain France learned, not all sealed divorce documents stay sealed. So how do you seal divorce papers, and how can you make sure the filings of your divorce stay sealed?

It's almost a fact of life. You get in an accident, and your car insurance company raises your rates.

Some companies lure customers by promising not to raise rates after a first car crash. Some companies don't raise rates after an accident that was not your fault. But, many companies raise your rates dramatically after an accident or insurance claim.

It seems unfair. Are there legal limits on how much a car insurance company can raise your rates?

Whether you're in a rent dispute or just want to know how much notice you need to give your landlord before moving out, having access to your lease is essential. But we don't live in a perfect world, so of course the lease isn't in that drawer where you thought you left it.

So how can you get a copy of your lease or rental agreement? Let's take a look at a few of your options:

Should children be coddled in bubble wrap and protected from every bump and scrape? Or, should children be allowed to climb Mt. Everest or sail around the world solo?

Jordan Romero was 13-years-old when he climbed to the top of Mt. Everest. Jessica Watson was 16-years-old when she sailed around the world by herself. Peter Lenz was 13-years-old when he fell of his motorcycle at the U.S. Grand Prix Racers Union, and was run over and killed by another 12-year-old driver.

Children are no longer satisfied with riding their skateboards and bikes down the steep hill in front of their house. They're doing extreme sports, skateboarding down nine story ramps or diving off of 10-meter high platforms.

Is it legal to allow children to do extreme sports?

Welcome to the new FindLaw series, "If I Find," where we'll discuss the rule of finders keepers as it applies to different topics. We hope you'll check back regularly!

As Marilyn Monroe said, "Diamonds are a girl's best friend!"

However, buying diamonds can be pricy and out of many people's reach. Wouldn't it be lucky to find a diamond on the ground for free instead? So, if you find a diamond, can you keep it?

Your apartment is freezing. The front door is hard to open. Ants and other crawly creatures have block parties in your kitchen.

Under the principal of warranty of habitability, landlords have a duty to maintain rental properties at a standard fit for human habitation. Also, states maintain housing codes that require landlords make certain listed repairs. However, many tenants have probably felt the frustration of trying unsuccessfully to get a landlord to make repairs.

If your landlord has not been maintaining your apartment, here is how to report a housing code violation.

More and more people are trying to keep wild animals as pets, only to find them not as friendly when they're full grown. Sometimes people come across injured wildlife while hiking, camping, or even in our own backyards.

And sometimes folks are just trying to get rid of a nuisance.

However you obtained a wild animal, you might want to be careful about releasing it. Many states have enacted strict laws regarding the possession, sale, and release of wild or exotic animals, so here are a few things to keep in mind:

Maybe your building is being sold because the market is great. Or maybe your landlord decided to turn the property over to his kids, or maybe he or she passed away. Whenever an apartment building is sold or changes hands, tenants are right to be wary of what will happen next.

That answer could depend on your lease or applicable state landlord-tenant laws. Here are some possible concerns you should be aware of if your building gets a new owner.

Every breath you take. Every move you make. Every bond you break. Every step you take. I'll be watching you. --The Police

Has no one ever thought that song was creepy? Who wants someone stalking every step they take? Myrna Arias, former employee of Intermex, definitely did not want her boss monitoring every move she made 24 hours a day.

Last week, Arias filed a lawsuit in California against Intermex for invasion of privacy, wrongful termination, and unfair business practices. Why? She was fired for deleting an employer-required app that tracked her movements all day, every day.

School's! Out! For! Summer! This means days at the beach or the mall with friends. This means no more reading, memorizing, or studying. But, wait! What about summer school?

Most states have truancy laws that make school attendance mandatory, except for excused absences, during the school year. Failure to attend school for a certain amount of days can result in criminal charges and punishment for both parents and students.

Do these truancy laws also apply to summer school?

There are quite a few ways to get kicked off a plane, some as whimsical as playing a game on your phone, some as serious as having cancer. But you don't expect to get booted from a flight for being hungry.

An Oregon mom claims that's what happened after she requested a hot meal for her autistic daughter. Dr. Donna Beegle said, the next thing she knew, pilots scheduled an emergency landing and she and her family were removed from a United flight last week. Is this even legal?

Summer is coming!

Whether you're going on vacation or going to summer school, you'll need a place to live. Do you pay for expensive on campus housing? Do you sublet from a friend? Are you from out of state, and are not familiar with the area?

Here are three things students should do before renting summer housing:

It seems to happen every few months -- a new, "best ever" smartphone gets released and everyone scrambles to their carriers wondering how long they have left on their current cell phone contract before they can get the latest and greatest. While the contract commitment seems like a great way to save a few (hundred) bucks on a new phone, they can seem downright onerous a year later when a new new phone comes out.

Like gyms with their membership plans and dealerships with car leases, phone companies may seem to have you by the you-know-whats, but it turns out you may a have a few options for getting out of a cell phone contract early.

Two is company. Three's a crowd.

Traditionally, children have two parents, a mother and a father. More recently, courts have recognized that children can have two moms or two dads. But, can a child have two moms and a dad, or two dads and two moms?

In some multi-parent states, yes!

Welcome to the new FindLaw series, "If I Find," where we'll discuss the rule of finders keepers as it applies to different topics. We hope you'll check back regularly!

Ah, the bald eagle, our country's national bird.

One day you go bird watching, and as you watch a bald eager soar lazily through the sky, you see a feather fall off. You rush to find the feather where it lands.

If you find an eagle feather, can you keep it?

What is Title Insurance?

You spent months looking for the right house at the right price. After making an offer, getting a counteroffer, accepting the offer, inspecting the house, and trying to get a loan, your bank tells you that you need to buy title insurance.

What's title insurance?

As a kid, finding Oreos in my school lunch always made my day. These days, however, packing Oreos into your child's lunch might get you a stern reprimand from the school.

That's what happened to an Aurora, Colorado mom who says teachers confiscated her daughter's Oreos, and sent her home with a note, saying, "This is a public school setting and all children are required to have a fruit, a vegetable and a heavy snack from home, along with a milk." While mandating a "heavy snack" seems to run counter to healthy eating, are school officials really allowed to regulate what parents give their kids for lunch?

The majority of Americans may be shocked and angered to learn the National Security Agency was collecting and storing data on many of their phone calls. And a federal appeals court agreed, saying the NSA's program "would be an unprecedented contraction of the privacy expectations of all Americans."

The ruling comes weeks before parts of the PATRIOT Act are set to expire and both parties in Congress are wary of the NSA's domestic spying capabilities.

Having a baby can be scary. Your whole life changes. You're going to be responsible for another human being who will be completely dependent on you.

Having a baby as an unmarried mother can be even scarier. But fear not, there are rules and laws that protect your rights and your baby's rights. Here are five rights unmarried mothers should know about:

Some older homeowners who perhaps didn't save enough for retirement or are outliving their retirement benefits are turning to reverse mortgages as a way to borrow against the value of their home. While most people understand how a basic mortgage works, a reverse mortgage sounds a bit more confusing.

And although a reverse mortgage is fairly simple and can add much needed income, elderly consumers should be wary of fraud and other scams when considering whether a reverse mortgage is right for them.

4 Laws Teachers Should Know

Happy National Teacher's Day!

Thank you teachers for teaching us our ABC's and 123's. Thank you for all the sleepless nights because we couldn't finish our homework before bedtime.

In appreciation of National Teacher's Day, here are four laws every teacher should know:

You signed the contract. You agreed to it. So, now you're stuck with the provisions of the lease regardless of whether or not they violate your rights!

Luckily for tenants, that's not true. Leases are contracts, so they must abide by contract laws. Unconscionable or illegal terms of a contract are unenforceable, regardless of the fact that the tenant signed the contract.

Here are some common unenforceable lease terms:

You already know when and why you need a lawyer, but how do you know you've hired the right one? We talk about getting second opinions all the time in the medical context, but what about in the legal context?

The legal profession is like any other: there are some great lawyers out there, many good ones, and, unfortunately, a few bad ones mixed in. So here are a few signals that might indicate it's time to get a second opinion from another attorney:

Maybe the car you drove off the lot isn't what you need anymore, or maybe the monthly lease payment isn't something you can afford. But after signing all of that paperwork, is there any way to get out of a car lease early without having to pay an arm and a leg to do it?

As it happens, there's more than one way to terminate a car lease, each having its own costs and benefits.

For most people, moving to another state means worrying about selling your old house, making sure the movers don't break your glasses, or remembering where you packed the coffee pot and mugs.

But for victims of domestic violence, moving to another state could mean putting miles between you and an abuser but still worrying whether you'll be protected in the new state. Will your ex find you? Will the police protect you? Will your restraining order be valid in your new state?

Here is what you need to know about enforcing your restraining order in a new state:

Welcome to the new FindLaw series, "If I Find," where we'll discuss the rule of finders keepers as it applies to different topics. We hope you'll check back regularly!

One day, you walk into your backyard and find a kitten sitting in your 49'ers lawn chair! She's meowing at you like crazy, refuses to leave, and a storm is coming. What could you possibly do other than let her into the house and feed her? Once the storm passes, you do a walk around your neighborhood, knocking door to door to see if anyone is missing a cat. Nothing.

So, despite the kitty's constant meowing, her fur covering every piece of clothing you have, and the hundreds of dollars you'll have to spend giving her shots and getting her spayed, you want to keep the little visitor.

Can you? If you found a stray animal, can you keep it?

It's prom season across American high schools, and while some students are wondering who their date will be, others are wondering if they'll even be allowed to attend prom with their chosen dates.

This is because some schools have policies against allowing same-sex couples to attend prom. But are these prohibitions even legal? Can schools stop you from bringing a same-sex date to the prom?

Children grow up so fast don't they?

As a parent, you've made all the important decisions for your autistic child. You signed the permission slips. You've seen all the doctors. You managed his money and his schooling very carefully.

But, what happens when your child turns 18? As an adult, your autistic son can legally make his own decisions about medical treatments, living arrangements, and financial management. Is he ready to do that, or will you need to do it for him?

What should you do when your autistic child turns 18?