INFORMATION

Site Map - Legal Issues

Surveillance powers

- The House Judiciary Committee has held several hearings on the expanded police powers included in the Patriot Act, which will be expiring at the end of this year. The first (S. 318), introduced by Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI), would amend and make permanent the expiring computer trespass provision of the Patriot Act. Another bill (S. 737), introduced by Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), would limit the use of the surveillance powers more so than is the case currently in the Patriot Act.

Information security

- A bill (S. 500) introduced by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) would regulate information brokers and would allow individuals to bring civil lawsuits against companies that fail to protect consumer data. A companion bill (H.R. 1080) has been introduced in the House by Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA). The House version has 13 cosponsors and has been referred to the House Energy Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection.

Workers' compensation

- The Nebraska Supreme Court has ruled that an employee who was assaulted in a parking lot shared by her employer and other businesses can recover workers’ compensation benefits. (Zoucha v. Touch of Class Lounge, Supreme Court of Nebraska, No. S-03-971, 2005)

Legal Report

- Court cases on background screening and workers’ compensation, and bills on surveillance powers and cargo security.

Wrongful termination

- The Delaware Supreme Court has ruled that a McDonald’s employee, Susan Rizzitiello, cannot sue the company for wrongful termination. Rizzitiello was suspended pending an investigation of inventory issues. However, Rizzitiello resigned her employment and filed a lawsuit. The court ruled that Rizzitiello could not claim wrongful termination if she was not terminated. Also, the court determined that a suspension to conduct a workplace investigation could not be considered grounds for a constructive discharge—a situation in which working conditions are so poor that the employee has no choice but to resign. (Susan Rizzitiello v. McDonald’s Corporation, Supreme Court of the State of Delaware, No. 93-2004, 2005)

Drug testing

- The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that a company cannot require an employee to pay the cost of his drug test. In the case, the company hired a new employee, Thomas Tow, on the condition that he pass a background check and drug test. Tow’s drug test was inconclusive. The company told Tow that he would have to pay for a new test before he would be hired. Tow sued the company. The court ruled that, in Iowa, a company must pay for such tests. (Thomas J. Tow v. Truck Country of Iowa, Inc., Supreme Court of Iowa, No. 04-0462, 2005)

RFID

-  A bill (S.B. 682)introduced in the California Senate would prohibit state agencies from including RFID tags in identity documents—such as driver’s licenses, student identification badges, and medical cards. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Joe Simitian (D), indicated in the text of the bill that RFID technology would allow data to be scanned secretly or remotely and, therefore, would greatly magnify the “potential risk to individual privacy, safety, and economic well-being.”

Asking the Hard Questions

- Careful questioning of witnesses and suspects can be the key to cracking your case.

Private security

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Cargo security

- Two amendments to the 2006 appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security (H.R. 2360) would mandate new cargo security measures. The first amendment would require that all air cargo be inspected before being loaded onto passenger airplanes. This provision would take effect in 2008. The second amendment to the bill, which would take effect immediately after the bill is enacted, would require that passengers be notified that unscreened cargo is being loaded onto their flight. H.R. 2360 has been approved by the House and is now awaiting action in the Senate.

Spyware

- A bill (H.R. 744) that would prohibit the use of spyware has been approved by the House and is now pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Port Security

- Lawmakers and witnesses recently discussed port security issues at a hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. The key issue raised at the hearing was grant funding for the various federal programs enacted after 9-11.

Information security

- At a recent hearing on identity theft, data brokers argued that only limited measures were needed to protect consumers from identity theft, while consumer advocates and identity theft victims disagreed and laid out steps Congress should take. Representatives from companies such as ChoicePoint, Acxiom Corporation, and LexisNexis shared their stories of data breaches and the theft of information from their computer systems.
 




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