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State Legislation: Michigan: Background Checks

- A bill (S.B. 15) introduced in Michigan would prohibit certain convicted felons from being employed by the state. Under the bill, the state could not hire anyone who had been convicted of a felony involving dishonesty, deceit, fraud, or a breach of public trust in the previous 20 years to any position in which the employee would set policy or have discretionary authority over public assets.

State Legislation: California: School Safety

- A new bill (A.B. 13) introduced in the California Assembly would expand prohibitions against sex offenders working in state schools. Under existing law, public schools may not employ anyone convicted of a sex crime or controlled substance offense unless the conviction is reversed or the charges are dismissed. The new bill would clarify that these provisions also apply to charter schools. The bill would also prohibit anyone who has been convicted of a sex crime, controlled substance offense, or violent crime from working as a volunteer in schools.

U.S. Congressional Legislation: Homeland Security

- A new law (P.L. 112-3) signed into law by President Obama reauthorizes portions of the Patriot Act that are set to expire in this year. A provision granting the government the right to conduct roving electronic surveillance and a provision that designates that a “lone wolf” terrorist is considered an agent of a foreign government were both set to expire at the end of February. The new law only extends the measures through May 2011, though several bills were introduced to extend the measures for longer periods of time.

U.S. Congressional Legislation: Background Checks

- A bill (H.R. 321) introduced by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) would make it illegal for employers to use the credit history of an applicant or employee in employment decisions. The prohibition stands even if the applicant or employee gives authorization for the use of credit information.

Elsewhere in the Courts: Background Checks

- A decision by a federal appeals court clarifies that a private employer may consider an applicant’s bankruptcy filings in hiring decisions. The plaintiff, who was not hired for a job because he had filed for bankruptcy seven years earlier, sued his prospective employers, claiming they had violated a federal law that prohibits the government from making hiring decisions based on bankruptcy status. The court noted that the private sector is not bound by the law.

U.S. Judicial Decisions: Background Screening

- The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a background screening program used by a government agency does not violate employee privacy rights. In the case, 28 employees of the California Institute of Technology, under contract to do work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), claim that the government’s screening policy is too intrusive. The policy was implemented in 2004 under a government homeland security directive.

Legal Report

- Courts issue decisions on the use of corporate e-mail for private purposes, the seizure of text messages by police, and background screening for government employees.

State Legislation: Massachusetts: Vital Records

- Massachusetts has approved a new law (formerly H.B. 4910) that addresses the security of vital records in the state. The law empowers state and town clerks to refuse to issue a copy of a vital record if they suspect that the request for the record has been falsely made, altered, forged, counterfeited, or procured through fraud.

State Legislation: Mississippi: Bullying

- A new law (formerly S.B. 2015) in Mississippi prohibits bullying or harassing behavior in public schools. School employees are required to report any such behavior to school officials. Under the new law, all schools must adopt a policy prohibiting bullying and harassment.

Elsewhere in the Courts: ADA

- A hospital employee may not pursue his lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because he was not qualified for the job. The employee’s requested accommodation—teaching hospital physicians and staff the symptoms and triggers of Asperger’s syndrome—was not an issue, according to the court. The hospital did not need to make the accommodation because the employee was unable to perform an essential function of his job, interacting with patients. The court also noted that the employee rejected the hospital’s offer to help him find a job in pathology or another specialty that required little or no patient interaction.

U.S. Judicial Decisions: Retaliation

- The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that an employee, fired after his coworker fiancée filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit against their employer, may sue for discrimination. The Court ordered that a lower court make a decision on the case.

Legal Report

- A government report examines how sexual predators become school employees, and court decisions on the theft of proprietary documents, retaliation, workplace safety, and privacy.

Elsewhere in the Courts: Discovery

- A district court judge has ruled that the jury in a breach-of-contract case be instructed to draw a “negative inference” over the mishandling of electronic discovery. In the case, two former employees are suing SanDisk over ownership of a software program. At trial, SanDisk claimed to have lost the hard drives for the computers used by the two former employees despite being warned to keep all potential evidence.
 




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