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Domestic Spying

- A federal appeals court has ruled that the plaintiffs challenging the constitutionality of the government’s domestic spying law do have standing to pursue their case. The plaintiffs, including Amnesty International as well as journalists, international aid groups, labor organizations, and attorneys, argued that the amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) violate the U.S. Constitution. The appellate court overturned a lower court’s decision—that the plaintiffs had no grounds to sue because they had no evidence that they had been harmed by the law.

State Legislation: Vermont: Tasers

- A bill (H. 3) introduced in the Vermont General Assembly would require that law enforcement officers complete certain types of training before they would be allowed to carry Tasers. Under the bill, officers would be required to undergo training on how to interact with people experiencing a mental health crisis. The training would be designed and administered by state’s criminal justice training council.

State Legislation: California: Elder Abuse

- A bill (A.B. 40) introduced in the California Legislature would amend its law regarding elder abuse. Under current law, certain people, referred to as mandated reporters, must report the physical or financial abuse of an elderly person. Under the new bill, mandated reporters would be required to notify two specific entities—the local ombudsman for the care facility and local law enforcement.

U.S. Congressional Legislation: Terrorism

- A bill (S. 86) introduced by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) is designed to prevent terrorists from obtaining credit cards.

U.S. Congressional Legislation: Trespassing

- A bill (H.R. 347) that strengthens penalties for trespassing on certain federal properties has been approved by the House of Representatives and is now pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Legal Report

- Courts issue rulings on discrimination, the release of sensitive data, and protected speech while Congress considers bills on trespassing, airport screening, and terrorism.

Elsewhere in the Courts: Employment

- A federal appeals court has ruled that an employee who was terminated for taking seven weeks of unapproved leave may not sue her employer under the Family and Medical Leave Act. The court ruled that the employee’s spiritual healing trip was not protected under the statute because it was actually a vacation.

Elsewhere in the Courts: Privacy

- The Illinois Court of Appeals has ruled that a public school and a printing company had no duty to safeguard the personal information of school employees and complied with data breach laws. In the case, the school contracted with the printing company to send a notice to former school employees. The employees were erroneously sent a list containing the names, addresses, Social Security numbers, marital status, medical and dental insurers, and insurance plan information for all of the employees. The school sent a letter to the employees asking them to return the list or destroy it. The school also offered the employees one year of credit protection. The employees sued, but the court dismissed the lawsuit, finding that the school and printing company were not guilty of negligence because they had no legal duty to protect the information except under data breach laws, which they complied with.

State Legislation: Washington: Bullying

- Lawmakers in Washington are considering a bill (H.B. 1928) that would make it illegal for companies to subject employees to an “abusive work environment,” defined as a workplace where abuse is so severe as to cause physical or psychological harm to an employee. The bill provides a defense for employers. It states that a company must prove that it took reasonable care to correct the abusive conduct and that the employee failed to take advantage of the corrective measures offered by the company. Companies also have a defense if the bullying allegation is based on a legitimate, negative employment decision, such as a demotion or termination, or if the allegation is in response to a company’s investigation of potentially illegal or unethical activity.

State Legislation: Kansas: Discrimination

- A new bill (S.B. 53) introduced in Kansas would expand state discrimination laws to prohibit discrimination by employers based on sexual orientation. Currently, employees are only protected from discrimination based on race, religion, gender, and disability.

U.S. Congressional Legislation: Aviation Security

- A bill (H.R. 685) introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) would make it illegal to record or distribute images obtained from security screening technology used in an airport or government building. Exceptions would be made for images being used in a criminal investigation or prosecution.

U.S. Congressional Legislation: Corporate Crime

- A bill (H.R. 323) introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) would require that the government keep statistics on all administrative, civil, and criminal judicial proceedings against companies and company officials that involve fines of $1,000 or more. The government would make information on improper conduct by companies with revenues of more than $1 billion available to the public via a Web site.

U.S. Congressional Legislation: CFATS

- A House of Representatives subcommittee recently held a hearing to discuss the government’s Chemical Facility Anti-terrorism Standards (CFATS) program. Under CFATS, chemical facilities work with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop a security program based on a facility’s risk level. The program, which was established in 2007, will expire at the end of this year. Lawmakers asked witnesses to give their opinions of the program and to address whether it should be made permanent.
 




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