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State Secrets Privilege Should Be Modified, Says President Obama

- In his 100th-day press conference, President Barack Obama said that the State Secrets Privilege should be modified. He also indicated that he would push this year for procurement reform legislation and immigration reform, coupled with improved border security.

Disability

- An employee who sued her employer under California’s fair employment law was treated fairly and given reasonable accommodations, according to a state appellate court. The employee had appealed a jury verdict in favor of her employer. In the case, the employee claimed that the company took too long to respond to her requests. The court rejected the argument, noting that the accommodation process is informal and that it was obviously a success because the company was able to meet each of the employee’s requests. (Wilson v. County of Orange, California Court of Appeal, No. G039733, 2009)

Employee Monitoring

- A federal appeals court has denied a motion to rehear an employee monitoring case. The action means that a prior ruling—that a police department violated the privacy rights of its officers when it obtained transcripts of their text messages—stands. (See the October 2008 issue of “Legal Report” for a more detailed account of the case.) The court ruled that because officers had been told that their messages would not be read, the city had no right to access them without the permission of the officers. (Quon v. Arch Wireless, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, No. 07-55282, 2009)

Malicious Prosecution

- An employee who erased computer data and was later arrested for the crime cannot pursue his claim of malicious prosecution against his former employers. A federal appeals court ruled that the employee could not prove that the company acted without probable cause in turning the case over to the police. (Deng v. Sears, Roebuck, and Company, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, No. 07-3331)

Immigration Law

- Read the Migration Policy Institute's recommendations on how to improve effectiveness of current immigration laws. 

Drug Testing

- A school board’s random drug testing policy is unconstitutional, ruled a federal district court. The court found that the school board’s rationalization—that employees held safety-sensitive jobs and that drug use among workers was increasing—was insufficient to justify the policy.

Government Ramps Up Prosecution of Corporate Corruption

- Government prosecution of companies under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act(FCPA) remained steady in 2008 after an all-time high in 2007. The FCPA makes it a crime for U.S. companies to engage in bribery of any government's officials. At a conference yesterday, a panel of government officials, legal experts, and corporate compliance officers warned that company executives must be aware of the act to avoid hefty fines and even prison sentences.

Taser Electronic Control Devices and Sudden In-Custody Death: Separating Evidence From Conjecture

- Have stun guns caused the death of criminal suspects? Police Chief Howard E. Williams says "no."

Elsewhere in the Courts: Drug Testing

- A prospective employee filed a lawsuit against a California company, Longs Drug Stores, after he was asked to answer a question about drug convictions on a job application. The application asked whether the applicant had been convicted of a crime involving the use or possession of illegal drugs in the previous seven years. Under California law, it is illegal to ask about drug convictions that are more than two years old. However, a California appellate court ruled in favor of the defendant finding that a federal law, the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005, preempts the state statute. (Rankin v. Longs Drug Stores California, Inc., California Court of Appeal, No. D052124, 2009)

Elsewhere in the Courts: Hostile Work Environment

- A New Jersey appellate court has ruled that a single remark can be enough to create a hostile work environment. In the case, a supervisor called an employee a “stupid fag” after an argument. The court ruled that the employee may bring his case before a jury. (Kwiatkowski v. Merrill Lynch, New Jersey Court of Appeals, No. A-2270-06T1, 2008)

Elsewhere in the Courts: Negligent Hiring

- A patient who was sexually assaulted by a nurse may pursue her negligent hiring lawsuit against the hospital where the assailant worked. The plaintiff argued that if the hospital had conducted a background check, it would have found that the nurse had been fired from previous jobs for assaulting female patients. A lower court held that the plaintiff could not sue the hospital because the nurse was officially employed by a third party. The California appellate court ruled that the hospital had sufficient supervisory authority over those working at the facility to be held liable for the nurse’s actions. (C.R. v. Tenet Healthcare Corporation, California Court of Appeal, No. B201220, 2009)

Discrimination

- A federal appeals court has ruled that a Muslim employee who was fired after 9-11 may sue his employer for discrimination. The court found that the evidence of discrimination, though circumstantial, must be brought before a jury.

Elsewhere in the Courts: Discrimination

- LA Weight Loss Centers, Inc., has agreed to pay $20 million to settle a sexual discrimination suit brought by men who applied at the company but were not hired. According to the EEOC, the company had a policy of not interviewing or hiring male candidates. In addition to the monetary damages, the company must also implement an electronic tracking system to record information on applicants. To ensure that no discrimination is occurring, this information can then be evaluated by a neutral third party and the results given to the EEOC at the agency’s request. (EEOC v. LA Weight Loss Center, U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, No. WDQ-02-CV-648, 2008)
 




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