(844) 815-9632

ACLU

Can You Be Fired for Having Your Period at Work?

'Every woman dreads getting period symptoms when they're not expecting them,' said Alisha Coleman, 'but I never thought I could be fired for it.' It's not a legal question often asked, but Coleman should know better than most. She was fired from a 911 call center in Georgia, allegedly after experiencing heavy menstrual symptoms related to the onset of menopause while at work. With help from the American Civil Liberties Union, she is now suing her former employer, the Bobby Dodd Institute, for gender discrimination. "I don't want any woman to have to go through what I did," Coleman stated. Working Woman According to her suit, Coleman was experiencing symptoms of premenopause at the time of her firing, which can include "irregular and unpredictable sudden onset menstrual periods, which could be heavy at times." In August of 2015, Coleman "unexpectedly experienced a sudden onset of her menstrual period that resulted in her accidentally leaking menstrual fluid on her office chair." She reported the event to her supervisor, who advised her to leave the premises to change clothing. Soon after her supervisor and HR Director warned her "that she would be fired if she ever soiled another chair from sudden onset menstrual flow." In April of 2016, some menstrual fluid unexpectedly leaked onto the carpet when Coleman got up to walk to the bathroom. Despite immediately cleaning the spot with bleach and disinfectant, Coleman was terminated, allegedly for her failure to "practice high standards of personal hygiene and maintain a clean, neat appearance while on duty." Workplace Legal Protections Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 amended the Civil Rights Act, barring discrimination of "women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions." The question Coleman's lawsuit raises is whether either or both laws apply to women undergoing menopause. The Bobby Dodd Institute argued against that proposition in its motion to dismiss the suit, and said Coleman wasn't targeted for being female. A district court judge agreed and dismissed her case in June, ruling it was not clear that Coleman's treatment for "excessive menstruation was treated less favorably than similar conditions affecting both sexes," or that "male employees who soiled themselves and company property due to a medical condition, such as incontinence, would have been treated more favorably." The ACLU took up her case, filing an appeal on her behalf. "Employers have no business policing women's bodies or their menstrual cycles," said Andrea Young, ACLU of Georgia executive director in a statement. "Firing a woman for getting her period at work is offensive and an insult to every woman in the workplace ... That's wrong and illegal under federal law. We're fighting back." Related Resources: Find an Employment Lawyer in Your Area (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Pregnancy Discrimination Warning Signs (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 5 Reasons You Can't Be Fired From Your Job (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) When Can You Sue for Wrongful Termination? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
continue reading

Defense Secretary Puts President Trump’s Transgender Ban on Hold

In the wake of President Donald Trump's proclamation that openly transgender individuals be discharged from the military, in addition to the lawsuits, there has been some pushback from an unexpected source: the Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis. After sources reported that the general was appalled by the president's proclamation, soon after, he came out with a plan that effectively puts the ban on hold. While socially, and politically, transgender rights are a polarizing and controversial issue, it may not be possible to read anything more than prudence into Mattis's actions. Making a sweeping change like this to the military requires careful planning and assessment. What's Mattis's Hold Up? The general, reportedly, has instituted the hold on implementing the newest ban in order to study the effects and strategically plan how to actually do it (and potentially even whether to do it at all). Although the president, in a series of Tweets, claimed to have met with his generals prior to implementing the ban, no general has corroborated this claim. As such, not only was the general caught off guard, but the new policy's effects had not been studied prior to the implementation. While it may be too soon for those on either side of this issue to celebrate, LGBT advocates are pleased that there is at least some relief from the abruptly announced policy that would have uprooted many people's lives. Constitutional Challenges and Civil Rights Laws The lawsuit by the ACLU that challenges the transgender military ban argues that there is no military basis for the ban. According to the ACLU's complaint, "The Trump Administration has provided no evidence that this pronouncement was based on any analysis of the actual cost and disruption allegedly caused by allowing men and women who are transgender to serve openly."The Trump administration also faces a lawsuit from Lambda Legal that challenges the constitutionality of the transgender ban. Lambda Legal's lawsuit alleges "the Ban and the current accessions bar violate the equal protection and due process guarantees of the Fifth Amendment and the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment," and "are unsupported by any compelling, important, or even rational justification."Although the new administration has taken a position that transgender individuals should not be protected under civil rights laws, there has been a steady trend in the law to protect transgender individuals. The number of states, and even federal courts, that have recognized transgender individuals as belonging to a protected class, and thus protected by civil rights laws, keeps growing. Related Resources: Trump Administration Rescinds Guidance on Bathroom Use for Transgender Students (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) The Rise of Anti-Anti-Discrimination Laws (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) California's Gender Neutral Bathroom Bill (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Here's the Latest on Trump Immigration Reform Efforts (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
continue reading

Arizona Can’t Ban Mexican American Studies in Schools

Generally speaking, courts are fairly deferential to schools on educational matters, except possibly when it comes to race. And while the Supreme Court has major rulings on school desegregation and affirmative action, this might be the first time a federal court has taken up the issue of race in a school district's curriculum. Arizona had passed legislation prohibiting courses "designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group," which targeted a decades-long, voluntary Mexican American Studies program for K-12 students in the Tucson Unified School District. But a federal judge ruled the ban was "enacted and enforced with a discriminatory purpose," and is therefore unconstitutional. Racial Animus Judging from local reporting on the ban, it became a personal issue. The Arizona Daily Star reports that Arizona's superintendent of public education at the time, Tom Horne, and former state senator, and Horne's successor John Huppenthal, had it out for the Mexican American Studies program for years, culminating in an alleged blog post comment by Huppenthal comparing the classes to Hitler's rise to power. In 2010, the Arizona Senate passed H.B. 2281, which prohibited a school district or charter school from including in its program of instruction any courses that: "Promote the overthrow of the United States government," "Promote resentment toward a race or class of people," "Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group," or "Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals." Racial Motivations In a scathing opinion, Judge A. Wallace Tashima determined officials "were motivated by racial animus" and were pushing "discriminatory ends in order to make political gains." Tashima ruled that the ban violated students' First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by denying them the "right to receive information and ideas" and discrimination against Latinos, respectively. "Having thus ruled out any pedagogical motivation," Tashima wrote, "the Court is convinced that decisions regarding the MAS program were motivated by a desire to advance a political agenda by capitalizing on race-based fears." The court will hear arguments regarding what remedies to take in the coming weeks. Related Resources: Arizona Law Outlawing Mexican-American Studies Ruled Unconstitutional (AZ Central) Teachers: How to Talk to Students About Privilege, Legally (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) MN Students Sue School District Over Gay Policy (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Banned Books Week: Can Schools Ban Books? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
continue reading

ACLU, Lambda Legal Sue Trump Over Transgender Military Ban

Over the course of three tweets last month, President Donald Trump expressed his intent to ban transgender people from serving in the military. The White House made that intent official on Friday, issuing a Presidential Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security "prohibit[ing] openly transgender individuals from accession into the United States military and authoriz[ing] the discharge of such individuals. And it didn't take long for the lawsuits to follow. Both the ACLU and Lambda Legal have sued Donald Trump and his Secretary of Defense James Mattis, claiming the ban is unconstitutional and "compromises the safety and security of our country." Animus Trump's memo reverses Obama-era guidance allowing transgender individuals to openly serve in the military and allowing defense funds to cover sex-reassignment surgery. The ban would remain in place "until such time as a sufficient basis exists upon which to conclude that terminating that policy and practice would not have the negative effects discussed above." In the memo, Trumps says, "The Secretary of Defense ... may advise me at any time, in writing, that a change to this policy is warranted," but that recommendation for change must be something that "I find convincing." The ACLU claims there is no military basis for the ban: The Trump Administration has provided no evidence that this pronouncement was based on any analysis of the actual cost and disruption allegedly caused by allowing men and women who are transgender to serve openly. News reports indicate that the Secretary of Defense and other military officials were surprised by President Trump's announcement and that his actual motivations were purely political, reflecting a desire to accommodate legislators and advisers who bear animus and moral disapproval toward men and women who are transgender, with a goal of gaining votes for a spending bill that included money to build a border wall with Mexico. Amicus The claims may bear some truth. Mattis was reportedly caught off guard by Trump's tweets, and sources say he was "appalled." Lambda Legal's suit alleges "the Ban and the current accessions bar violate the equal protection and due process guarantees of the Fifth Amendment and the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment," and "are unsupported by any compelling, important, or even rational justification." This is not the first time Trump has been sued over an executive order or memo -- there are now at least three lawsuits regarding the transgender military ban alone -- and will likely not be the last. Related Resources: Find Civil Rights Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Military Transgender Ban to Begin Within 6 Months, Memo Says (The New York Times) Transgender Service Members Sue Trump Over Military Ban Tweets (FindLaw's Courtside) Trump Administration Rescinds Guidance on Bathroom Use for Transgender Students (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
continue reading

What Happens If You Falsify Divorce Documents?

You don't always have to tell the truth. And you generally can't be sued for little white lies, like telling your spouse you'd do the dishes without following through, or saying you're "just going out for some cigarettes." But court is one of those places where lying will get you into serious trouble. And even if you're not appearing in court, filing false documents or claims with the court can be just as bad. As tempting as you might be to embellish or exaggerate your situation, especially in a divorce case, telling the truth in court, and in court documents, is the only way to go. Perjury We normally think of perjury as lying on the witness stand, but it can include signing any legal document you know to be false or misleading. Most perjury laws include documents, records, recordings, or other materials a person knows to contain a false material declaration, and apply to ancillary court proceedings like affidavits and depositions. In the context of divorce documents, perjury statutes could apply to the divorce filing itself (if it contains misstatements regarding the parties, the length of the marriage, or the reasons for separation) or any of the supporting documents. Lies about marital property when deciding who gets what, misrepresentations about income when deciding alimony, or false accusations in child custody determinations can all be considered perjury if they are contained in documents filed with the court and the person filing them knows they are false. Penalties Perjury is considered a crime against justice, and courts take it very seriously. Falsifying legal documents undermines the credibility of courts, and compromises the authority of their decisions. There are both state and federal statutes criminalizing perjury, many that include prison time. Beyond losing your divorce case, you could lose your freedom and your livelihood. To avoid any needless false statements or misleading documents in your divorce case, work with an experienced attorney. Related Resources: Find Divorce Lawyers Near You (FindLaw Directory) What Happens If You Don't Respond to Divorce Papers? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Can I Serve Divorce Papers Myself? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Can I Seal My Divorce Filings? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
continue reading

Opioid Lawsuits: What You Need to Know

As more and more people fall victim to opioid addiction, more and more lawsuits are being filed. States are suing drug companies, addicts are suing doctors, and the federal government is starting its own investigation into the crisis. But who's liable for opioid addiction? The addict? Doctors? Drug manufacturers? All three? Here's what you need to know about opioid lawsuits and addiction liability. 1. Can I Sue My Doctor for Opiate Addiction? Physicians owe their patients a duty of care, and can be liable for medical malpractice if their prescription of opioids -- either the dosage, the type of drug, or the failure to notice your developing addiction -- constituted a breach of this duty. 2. Can Doctors Be Liable for Patient Overdoses? As noted above, normally patient overdoses are dealt with in a medical malpractice claim, or, unfortunately, in a wrongful death claim. But in rare instances, doctors also have been charged with and convicted of murder in overdose cases. 3. Can You Sue a Drug Company for Opioid Addiction? Successful lawsuits blaming a drug manufacturer for addiction are rare; courts often find addicts liable for their own addiction and the drug companies too far removed from the use to be liable. But that could be changing in the opioid context. 4. Are Drug Companies Liable for Side Effects? Drug companies have a duty to warn of known dangers. So if you're claiming that a drug manufacturer knew how addictive an opioid was and failed to warn either doctors or patients, you may have a better shot at proving the manufacturer's liability. 5. Liability for Drug Overdoses Tragically, some addictions end in overdoses, and many of those can be fatal. Wrongful death lawsuits can look a little different than a standard medical malpractice or product liability claim, so it's important to know how liability may be different as well. If you or someone you know is dealing with an addiction to opioids, get help now. Then consider contacting an experienced personal injury attorney. Related Resources: Find Personal Injury Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Cherokee Nation Sues Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens for Opioid Abuse (FindLaw's Injured) West Virginia Counties Sue Drug Manufacturers Over Opioid Crisis (FindLaw's Injured) Ohio Is the Latest State to Sue Over Opioid Crisis (FindLaw's Injured)
continue reading

Teen Dies After Gym Teacher Refuses Asthma Inhaler Request

'When a child is in the school district, from the time they get there, the school is responsible for their safety.' So said attorney Jay Dorsey, who is representing the family of a 14-year-old girl who collapsed and died after a gym teacher refused repeated requests to retrieve her inhaler from her locker. The family has filed a federal lawsuit against the county board of education, the high school where it happened, and the unnamed gym teacher, charging them with civil rights violations, wrongful death, gross negligence, and negligence in hiring and supervising employees. Asthma Attack The incident happened in Montgomery County, Maryland, and Washington's NBC4 first reported on the lawsuit. According to the suit, Taylor Walton began having an asthma attack during gym class in November 2015, and asked the teacher twice to leave class and get her inhaler: A third time, Taylor again approached the John Doe Gym Teacher and stated that she was still having severe problems breathing and that she (was) leaving class to get her inhaler ... Thereafter, Taylor left the gym class. As Taylor was observed leaving the gymnasium, there were no efforts by Defendant Gym Teacher or other members of the gym staff to accompany her to her locker to help her get her inhaler or to secure her safety. Taylor was found by another school employee, collapsed on the steps outside the gym. Efforts to revive her by school staff and emergency responders were unsuccessful. School Board Breach According to the lawsuit, Taylor had suffered a prior asthma attack in the same gym teacher's class before, school officials we aware she suffered from asthma, and were required to distribute an "emergency treatment plan" to her teachers. Taylor's family is seeking $10 million from the Montgomery County Public School district. "The actions or omissions of the Defendant Board and its staff ... breached the duty owed Taylor," the lawsuit alleges. "Each individual breach by the Board and staff, or in concert with each other, was a substantial factor in proximately causing injury and then death of Taylor." Related Resources: Find Wrongful Death Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) When Are Schools Liable for Student Injuries? (FindLaw's Injured) How Do You Sue a School District? (FindLaw's Injured) Max Gilpin School Football Death Suit Settles (FindLaw's Injured)
continue reading

$417M Judgment Against Johnson & Johnson in Latest Talc-Cancer Verdict

At this point, there have been so many lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson over its talc and baby powder products, and judgments against the company based on cancer caused by those products, it's becoming hard to keep track of them all. Luckily, Bloomberg did the work for us: J&J is facing "5,500 claims in U.S. courts, [and] has lost four previous jury verdicts in St. Louis for a total of $300 million." And you can add another verdict to that list, this one coming in California. A Los Angeles jury awarded Eva Echeverria $417 million after finding J&J liable for not warning about the cancer risk in its baby powder products. Problem All Over the Country "J&J needs to see they not only have verdicts against them in St. Louis, they now also have them in Los Angeles," Echeverria's attorney Mark Robinson said. "There's a problem all over the country with women using talcum powder on daily basis for 10, 20, 30, 40 years." The 62-year-old woman began using the talcum powder products when she was 11 and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007. Of the total award, the jury charged Johnson & Johnson with $347 million in punitive damages. While J&J has and continues to defend the safety of its Baby Powder and Shower to Shower talc-based products, various lawsuits have cited studies linking talc to ovarian cancer and accused the company of failing to adequately warn customers of the risk. Denying the Obvious Most damning of the allegations against J&J revolve around what the company knew and when. According to one lawsuit, the Cancer Prevention Coalition notified Johnson & Johnson's CEO in 1994 that studies showed using talcum powder in the genital area posed "a serious risk of ovarian cancer." And the AP has reported on an internal memo in 1997 from a Johnson & Johnson medical consultant said "anybody who denies" the risk of using hygienic talc and ovarian cancer is "denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary." The latest judgment against J&J may be the latest and one of the largest, but it's far from the first and likely far from the last as well. Related Resources: Find Personal Injury Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Talcum Powder Lawsuit: When to Sue J&J for Wrongful Death (FindLaw's Injured) Can Using Talcum and Baby Powder Really Cause Cancer? (FindLaw's Injured) Talcum Powder May Increase Ovarian Cancer Risk in African American Women (FindLaw's Injured)
continue reading

ACLU Settles Lawsuit Against CIA Torture Psychologists

Much was made of the 'enhanced interrogation techniques' employed by the U.S. military and contractors in terrorism investigations. Often considered torture, the interrogation program was at the center of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit filed against the alleged architects of that program, on behalf two men subjected to those techniques and the family of one man who froze to death in a CIA prison. In what the ACLU says is a first for lawsuits involving CIA torture, the two defendants in the case, psychologists James Mitchell and John "Bruce" Jessen, have agreed to settle the lawsuit, for an undisclosed amount. Enhanced Interrogation "Government officials and contractors are on notice that they cannot hide from accountability for torture," said director of the ACLU National Security Project Hina Shamsi in the wake of the settlement. "Our clients' groundbreaking case has changed the legal landscape. It showed that the courts are fully capable of handling lawsuits involving abuses committed in the name of national security." Due to issues of immunity and fears of classified information being made public, the case was set to be the first of its kind to go to trial, perhaps because the Justice Department did not try to block it. Although both Mitchell and Jessen continue to claim that the abuse suffered by Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and Gul Rahman, and Rahman's death, all occurred without their knowledge. But in an earlier ruling in the case, the court found "The evidence would support a finding Defendants designed the [enhanced interrogation techniques] to be used on detainees, and thus they clearly had knowledge they would be so used." Brutal and Ineffective Those techniques embodied an effort to a state of "learned helplessness" in captives that would remove any resistance to interrogation. According to Dr. Jessen's deposition in the case, he and Dr. Mitchell were tasked with coming up with those techniques, which included sensory and sleep deprivation, shackling for hours in uncomfortable positions, and waterboarding. "Jim and I went into a cubicle," he said. "He sat down at a typewriter and together we wrote out a list." The interrogation techniques developed by the doctors were ultimately found to be brutal and ineffective, but caused lasting pain and suffering to those subjected to them. Related Resources: Find Personal Injury Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Police and School Sued After Interrogated Teen Commits Suicide (FindLaw's Injured) What You Need to Know About Suing the Police (FindLaw's Injured) Chiquita Terrorism Lawsuit: Murder, Torture (FindLaw's Injured)
continue reading

New App Lets Bay Area Commuters Silently Report Crime

The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) has released a new mobile app that allows riders to discreetly report criminal activity on the trains. BART Watch, available on iTunes and Android in English, Spanish, and Chinese, empowers users to snap photos or send quick texts to BART police rather than try to call 911 or run to a train's intercom. BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost told SFGate that it's "sort of like texting police," and you can even do it anonymously. How does this app square with other tech efforts by law enforcement? App to Report Mass Transit Crime Anonymously With the advent of driving report programs like REDDI, it was only a matter of time until someone adapted the concept for mass transit passengers. BART authorities had announced in March that they were collaborating with ELERTS Corporation to make the BART Alert app, similar versions of which had been created in Massachusetts Bay, Atlanta, and Santa Clara, California. This new app was part of a larger national effort, urging transit passengers that "If You See Something, Say Something." The vague yet Orwellian slogan was cooked up by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and encourages average citizens to act as extra eyes and ears for law enforcement. New apps like these may be especially in demand in cities like New York, where the police department has taken a hard stance on even the most minor crimes which occur in the city's subways. How Do You Use the App? After installing the app, BART Watch asks for permission to send you emergency alerts and "push" notifications. Then, you are asked to enter your first name, last name, email, phone number, and even face picture. A small disclaimer at the bottom notes that the information is "optional." Once you pass these initial screens, you are lead to the app's main page with the following main options: Report an incident or call BART police. Since one of the selling points of this free app was as an alternative to calling 911, we checked out reporting an incident. The menus were fairly user friendly and allowed users to take photos, type a brief report and even select the type of report and location of the activity. It also included an option to toggle between normal and "anonymous" reporting. Trends like this new app may allow law enforcement to more readily police transit lines in major cities. Related Resources: BART launching app to help riders report crime, suspicious activity (The San Francisco Examiner) Are Police Scanner Apps Illegal? (FindLaw's Blotter) NYC Cops Nab Alleged Rapist Via iPhone App (FindLaw's Blotter) ACLU's New App Secretly Records Police When You Get Pulled Over (FindLaw's Technologist)
continue reading
12