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- An amendment to the Intelligence Authorization Act for 2010 (H.R. 2701) will establish a process for ensuring that there is no conflict of interest present when employees within the intelligence community take second jobs. The amendment will also prohibit employees within the intelligence community from owning companies that sell expertise related to the employee’s government service.

U.S. Congressional Legislation: Cybersecurity

- A bill (S. 773) that would establish a high-level cybersecurity office in the government and encourage public-private partnerships to improve cybersecurity has been approved by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. The bill must now be considered by the full Senate.

U.S. Congressional Legislation: Whistleblowers

- According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, 16 workers die, on average, every day on U.S. worksites, and more than four million workers suffer workplace injuries every year. To address the topic of how workplace safety laws can be improved, lawmakers on the House Education and Labor Committee’s Subcommittee on Workforce Protections held a hearing on H.R. 2067 (.pdf), which would amend the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) by increasing penalties for violators and boosting protections for whistleblowers.

Background Screening

- The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a background screening case in which 28 employees of the California Institute of Technology, under contract to do work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), have claimed that the government’s screening policy is too intrusive. The policy was implemented in 2004 under a government homeland security directive.

Legal Report

- Rulings on medical testing and background screening, plus legislation on whistleblower protection, cybersecurity, and employment.

Elsewhere in the Courts: Sex Discrimination

- A federal appeals court has ruled that a hotel employee may pursue her sexual discrimination suit against her manager. The court ruled that the manager could have discriminated against a female employee when he fired her because she lacked the feminine “Midwestern girl look” he deemed necessary to serve as a front desk employee. The court noted that discrimination is present when gender plays a part in an adverse employment action. (Lewis v. Heartland Inns of America, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, No. 08-3860, 2010)

Elsewhere in the Courts: Sexual Harassment

- Reversing a lower court’s decision, a federal appeals court has ruled that a police department cannot be held liable after a deputy sexually assaulted a woman he had arrested. The woman sued the police department and the sheriff for failing to properly train the deputy. The appellate court ruled that such training is unnecessary because the prohibited actions are so obviously wrong. The court also noted that it was illogical to assume that by failing to tell the deputy that sexual assault was wrong, the sheriff would cause the deputy to engage in that behavior. (Parrish v Ball, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, No. 08-3517, 2010)

State Legislation: Indiana: Firearms

- A new Indiana law (formerly H.B. 1065) signed by Governor Mitch Daniels makes it illegal for a company to prohibit employees from keeping firearms locked in their cars on company property. The bill would also apply to contract employees. Exemptions are provided for schools, penal institutions, childcare facilities, and domestic violence shelters. Companies that violate the law could face liability in a civil court. However, the bill stipulates that, if employers comply with the law, they cannot be held liable for injuries or damage resulting from the policy.  

State Legislation: New Hampshire: Biometrics

- New Hampshire legislators have defeated a bill (H.B. 1409) that would make it illegal for government agencies or private businesses in the state to issue cards, other than employee IDs, containing biometrics. The bill would prohibit the use of fingerprint recognition, facial recognition, handwriting, voice data, keystroke analysis, hand geometry, and iris and retinal scans. The bill would also make it illegal for state government or businesses to request biometric data from employees, patrons, or contractors. (For fuller coverage of the bill's defeat, read "Biometrics Defeated by New Hampshire Legislature.")

U.S. Congressional Legislation: Airport Security

- A bill (S. 2940), introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), would increase the use of security cameras at airports. Under the bill, airports would be required to install security cameras at all screening locations and all points where passengers exit sterile areas of the airport. The government would establish requirements for the use, maintenance, and testing of the cameras. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees would have access to the cameras and the data or recordings they generate.

U.S. Congressional Legislation: Communications

- A bill (S. 1755) that would require the Department of Homeland Security to study the use of amateur radio operations during emergencies has been approved by the Senate and is now pending in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

U.S. Congressional Legislation: Cruise Ship Security

- A bill (H.R. 3360) that would enhance security aboard cruise ships has been approved by the House of Representatives. The Senate has announced that it will consider the measure.

Legal Report

- An employee is awarded $1.5 million in a retaliation suit, and parents sue their son's school after learning that officials spied on him via Webcam. Also, legislation on cruise ship safety, airport security, biometrics, and firearms. 

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