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U.S. Congressional Legislation: Chemical Facilities

- A bill (H.R. 2868) intended to increase security at chemical facilities has been approved by the Senate Homeland Security Committee. The measure must now go before the Senate for a vote. The Senate replaced H.R. 2868 with a new version of the bill. The version passed by the Senate committee is identical to the House version in some respects. It would extend existing law, and maintain current Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations on the subject, by establishing standards and procedures for security vulnerability assessments and site security plans. The Senate and House versions, however, differ with regard to inherently safer technologies.

Legal Report

- A review of decisions on hostile work environments, searches, and trade secrets, as well as legislation on chemical facilities, border security, and workplace safety.

Elsewhere in the Courts: ADA

- A federal court has ruled that an employee who failed to disclose his diagnosis of depression cannot later make a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to the case, the employee alleging that he was “stressed” and “anxious” did not constitute a formal request for accommodation of a disability.

State Legislation: Connecticut: Employment

- A new Connecticut law (formerly H.B. 5497) prohibits employers from firing, demoting, or threatening employees who are subpoenaed in a criminal case, participating in a criminal investigation, or have a restraining order issued on their behalf. Employers must also provide time off for victims of domestic violence who must obtain medical care, seek help from victims services, or relocate because of that violence.

State Legislation: Louisiana: Weapons

- A new law (formerly H.B. 1272) in Louisiana allows people to carry concealed weapons into churches, synagogues, and mosques if condoned by that house of worship. Before a person can carry a concealed weapon into a house of worship, the person must undergo an additional eight hours of tactical training that must be repeated each year. Concealed weapons are still prohibited in such facilities located on school property.

U.S. Congressional Legislation: Whistleblowers

- The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (.pdf) contains various provisions that offer incentives and strengthen protections for whistleblowers. Under the law, whistleblowers are directed to report fraud cases directly to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). For original information that results in more than $1 million in sanctions, the whistleblower can receive from 10 to 30 percent of the amount obtained by the SEC or CFTC. The award amount depends on how vital the information was in pursuing the case and the degree of assistance provided by the whistleblower. Awards will not be given to a whistleblower who was convicted of a crime related to the fraud he or she reported.

U.S. Congressional Legislation: Cruise Ship Security

- A new law (P.L. 111-207) seeks to enhance security aboard cruise ships. It applies to cruise ships that embark or disembark at U.S. ports, are authorized to carry at least 250 passengers, and have sleeping facilities for each passenger. The law requires that each stateroom on cruise ships be equipped with security latches and electronic keys that can provide entry dates and times. Ships are also required to install and maintain a video surveillance system and provide information from that surveillance to law enforcement upon request. Cruise ship owners are required to establish and enforce policies on crew-member access to passenger rooms.

U.S. Congressional Legislation: Port Security

- The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a hearing to discuss port security initiatives and explore whether the SAFE Port Act of 2006 should be reauthorized in its previous form or should be altered to address additional security issues.

U.S. Judicial Decisions: Defamation

- A woman may pursue a lawsuit against her employer after a company executive falsely accused her of illegally pulling a fire alarm. The woman was arrested and charged in the incident. According to a federal court, the woman may pursue her allegations of defamation, invasion of privacy, negligent intention of emotional distress, and false imprisonment.

Legal Report

- A review of court cases on defamation, workplace searches, and safety issues as well as legislation on topics such as port security, terrorism, cruise ship safety, and whistleblowers.

State Legislation: Alabama: Trade Secrets

- A new Alabama law (formerly H.B. 102) will increase the penalties for trade-secret theft. Under the new law, it will be a felony for a person to intentionally pay or recruit a third party to steal or attempt to steal a trade secret from his or her employer.

State Legislation: New York: Crime

- A New York bill (A.B. 2952) would prohibit police or peace officers from using excessive force either defensively or in making an arrest or preventing an escape. The bill would also make it a misdemeanor for a police officer to intend to kill rather than stop a person. The introduction of the bill was prompted by the case of Sean Bell, a 23-year-old man who was shot and killed by police on his wedding day after hitting an unmarked police car with his van.

U.S. Congressional Legislation: DNA

- A bill (H.R. 4614) introduced by Rep. Harry Teague (D-NM) that would provide grants to states for DNA collection has been approved by the House of Representatives. The bill is now pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.The bill would increase existing grant funds for states that have DNA collection programs.
 




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