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State Legislation: Illinois: Credit Checks

- A new Illinois law (formerly H.B. 4658) makes it illegal for employers in the state to conduct credit checks on applicants for most jobs. Though employers may still conduct background checks, they may not inquire about an applicant’s credit history or obtain a copy of their credit report.

U.S. Congressional Legislation: Disaster Management

- A bill (S. 3249) that would renew a grant program designed to help state and local governments prepare for disasters has been approved by the Senate. The House of Representatives will consider the measure. The competitive grant program would provide grants to state and local governments for projects that mitigate damage from natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods. A 2007 study on the program by the Congressional Budget Office found that the program is successful. For every $1 spent on the program, the federal government saved $3.  

U.S. Congressional Legislation: Homeland Security Grants

- A bill (H.R. 5562) that would amend the use of homeland security grants has been approved by the House Homeland Security Committee. The bill must now come before the full House of Representatives for a vote. Under the bill, the government could not require that grants issued under the Urban Area Security Initiative be used for specific purposes. Also, H.R. 5562 would require that the government study the costs of administering the grants to determine whether the grantees should be awarded a greater percentage of funds to be used for management and administration of the grant award.  

U.S. Congressional Legislation: Border Security

- A bill (S. 3243) designed to reduce corruption among border guards has been approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The Senate has not announced whether it will consider the bill. Under the measure, all applicants for law enforcement positions with U.S. Customs and Border Protection would be required to pass a polygraph examination before being hired. All existing law enforcement personnel would undergo periodic background investigations while employed by the agency.

U.S. Congressional Legislation: Workplace Safety

- A bill (H.R. 5663) that would revise federal workplace safety rules has been approved by the House of Representatives. The Senate has not announced whether it will take up the measure. The main portion of the bill addressed mine safety issues. However, the bill also addresses workplace safety in general. H.R. 5663 would increase the penalties for willful or repeat violations of workplace safety rules. Penalties for such violations would rise from a minimum of $5,000 and a maximum of $70,000 to a minimum of $8,000 and a maximum of $250,000. These penalties increase when a violation causes or contributes to an employee’s death.

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.

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