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May 2010
Legal Report

U.S. Congressional Legislation: Cruise Ship Security

A bill (H.R. 3360) that would enhance security aboard cruise ships has been approved by the House of Representatives. The Senate has announced that it will consider the measure.

    U.S. Congressional Legislation: Communications

    A bill (S. 1755) that would require the Department of Homeland Security to study the use of amateur radio operations during emergencies has been approved by the Senate and is now pending in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

      U.S. Congressional Legislation: Airport Security

      A bill (S. 2940), introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), would increase the use of security cameras at airports. Under the bill, airports would be required to install security cameras at all screening locations and all points where passengers exit sterile areas of the airport. The government would establish requirements for the use, maintenance, and testing of the cameras. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees would have access to the cameras and the data or recordings they generate.

        State Legislation: New Hampshire: Biometrics

        New Hampshire legislators have defeated a bill (H.B. 1409) that would make it illegal for government agencies or private businesses in the state to issue cards, other than employee IDs, containing biometrics. The bill would prohibit the use of fingerprint recognition, facial recognition, handwriting, voice data, keystroke analysis, hand geometry, and iris and retinal scans. The bill would also make it illegal for state government or businesses to request biometric data from employees, patrons, or contractors.

        (For fuller coverage of the bill's defeat, read "Biometrics Defeated by New Hampshire Legislature.")

          State Legislation: Indiana: Firearms

          A new Indiana law (formerly H.B. 1065) signed by Governor Mitch Daniels makes it illegal for a company to prohibit employees from keeping firearms locked in their cars on company property. The bill would also apply to contract employees.

          Exemptions are provided for schools, penal institutions, childcare facilities, and domestic violence shelters. Companies that violate the law could face liability in a civil court. However, the bill stipulates that, if employers comply with the law, they cannot be held liable for injuries or damage resulting from the policy.

            Elsewhere in the Courts: Sexual Harassment

            Reversing a lower court’s decision, a federal appeals court has ruled that a police department cannot be held liable after a deputy sexually assaulted a woman he had arrested. The woman sued the police department and the sheriff for failing to properly train the deputy. The appellate court ruled that such training is unnecessary because the prohibited actions are so obviously wrong. The court also noted that it was illogical to assume that by failing to tell the deputy that sexual assault was wrong, the sheriff would cause the deputy to engage in that behavior. (Parrish v Ball, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, No. 08-3517, 2010)

            Elsewhere in the Courts: Sex Discrimination

            A federal appeals court has ruled that a hotel employee may pursue her sexual discrimination suit against her manager. The court ruled that the manager could have discriminated against a female employee when he fired her because she lacked the feminine “Midwestern girl look” he deemed necessary to serve as a front desk employee. The court noted that discrimination is present when gender plays a part in an adverse employment action. (Lewis v. Heartland Inns of America, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, No. 08-3860, 2010)

            SM Online

            Drug Testing

            New York City’s police commissioner does not have to consult the police union before changing the department’s drug testing methods, according to the state’s highest court. The commissioner plans to phase out the use of urinalysis and to begin using other methods including analyzing hair samples.

              Duty of Care

              Corporations operating in global markets may not fully appreciate their duty of care to employees operating in those markets. A new white paper explores that responsibility from a legal, ethical, and cost-benefit perspective when employees travel and work abroad.

                Disaster Recovery

                Having developed guidelines for preparedness and response, FEMA has issued a draft of a proposed National Disaster Recovery Framework, laying out critical steps in long-term recovery from disasters. Read the draft and comments online.


                  A Pennsylvania couple has filed a class-action lawsuit against the Lower Merion School District on behalf of their teenage son and all other district high school students. According to the complaint, the school district spied on their son and other students using a two-way Webcam that was incorporated into school-issued laptops.


                    A worker who was terminated after she gave corporate investigators pertinent information bolstering a sexual harassment allegation brought by another woman against her boss has now been awarded $1.5 million by a Tennessee jury. The case had gone all the way to the Supreme Court, which affirmed the woman’s right to a retaliation claim.


                    Many organizations are concerned about telephone eavesdropping, but few organizations take steps to mitigate the risk, especially in certain foreign regions, according to a Ponemon Institute study. Read the report.

                      Public-Private Partnership

                      King County, Washington, has achieved a rare level of public-private partnership, in which 10 private entities signed onto its Regional Disaster Plan. Read about the plan and view supporting documents.

                        Food Safety

                        A team of researchers at Kingston University in London is mining existing food inspection data to analyze trends in food safety. They are focusing now on the European Union but hope to upgrade the system to analyze data from around the world in real time to warn of incidents on a weekly basis. See the tracking data for yourself online.


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