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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)
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Do You Need to Actually Drive a Car to Be Guilty of Theft?

It's a question that only raises more questions: Can a person who locks himself in another person's car without permission be convicted of vehicle theft? Who is this person? How'd they get into the car? Isn't the whole point of stealing a car, you know, to drive it away? But the Minnesota Supreme Court has an answer: Yes. To Drive or to Take? According to prosecutors, the owner of the vehicle left it idling in his driveway one winter morning to warm up, when Somsalao Thonesavanh knocked on his front door. The owner called 911, but by the time an officer arrived, Thonesavanh had locked himself in the car, still in the driveway. Police eventually persuaded him to leave the car, placed him under arrest, and charged him with motor vehicle theft. Under Minnesota's vehicle theft statute, someone is guilty of theft if he or she "takes or drives a motor vehicle without the consent of the owner or an authorized agent of the owner, knowing or having reason to know that the owner or an authorized agent of the owner did not give consent." Clearly Thonesavanh didn't "drive" the car; but did he "take" it? One Too Many Words The Minnesota Supreme Court admitted that the word "takes" in the statute is ambiguous, but decided it could clear up that ambiguity, agreeing with prosecutors that "all that is required to 'take' a motor vehicle is to adversely possess it." How does one adversely possess a car? The court cited the state's simple robbery statute, which requires only temporary control over property to count as theft. The court also pointed to a perhaps esoteric aspect of judicial decision-making: canons of interpretation. One such canon -- the one against "surplusage" -- "favors giving each word or phrase in a statute a distinct, not an identical, meaning." If the justices held that "takes" has the same meaning as "drives," one of those words would be extraneous, so lawmakers must have intended one of those words to have a different meaning. So yeah, lock yourself in someone else's car in Minnesota? You can be guilty of vehicle theft. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) MN Supreme Court: Car Doesn't Have to Move to Be Stolen (Minnesota Public Radio) Grand Theft Auto vs. Joyriding: Which Crime Depends on Time (FindLaw Blotter) When Does Borrowing Become Stealing? (FindLaw Blotter)
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DeVos Plans to Dismantle Standards for Campus Sexual Assault Investigations

Donald Trump's new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced plans to rescind a six-year-old policy issued by Barack Obama's administration that advised colleges and universities on how to handle sexual assault allegations on campus. "Washington has burdened schools with increasingly elaborate and confusing guidelines that even lawyers find difficult to understand and navigate," DeVos told a crowd at George Mason University. "That's why we must do better, because the current approach isn't working." But DeVos wasn't as clear about what the new approach would look like as she was about rebuking the old approach. So where does that leave victims, alleged abusers, and schools trying to meet their legal obligations? Out With the Old In 2011, Obama's Department of Education issued what is known as a "Dear Colleague" letter, addressing the requirements of colleges and universities under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 in regards to sexual violence on campus. Schools must "take immediate and effective steps to end sexual harassment and sexual violence," including a prompt investigation of any incident the school knows of or reasonably should know of, and apply a "preponderance of evidence" standard to determinations based on sexual harassment allegations. According to DeVos, this system "has failed too many students." "Survivors, victims of a lack of due process, and campus administrators have all told me that the current approach does a disservice to everyone involved," she said, adding, "That's why we must do better, because the current approach isn't working." In With What Now? What the new approach will be, however, isn't immediately clear. DeVos announced plans to "launch a transparent notice-and-comment process" to formulate new guidance on sexual assault investigations, presumably to standardize procedural elements and protections across all schools. One of the issues that many, including the American Bar Association, have highlighted in prior critiques is the lack of due process protections for both victims and accusers in on-campus hearings, along with the lack of uniformity in schools' reporting, investigating, punishment, and appeals processes. "We can do a better job of making sure the handling of complaints is fair and accurate," DeVos promised, but how that job will be done remains to be seen. Related Resources: DeVos Announces Plan to Revamp Obama Administration Guidance on Campus Sex Assault Investigations (ABA Journal) Columbia Settles Title IX Lawsuit Filed by Student Accused of Rape (FindLaw's Decided) University May Raise Tuition to Fund Sexual Assault Investigations (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Are Schools Using Student Privacy Laws to Cover up Crimes? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Burglar Who Targeted Senior Citizens Gets 327 Year Sentence

A burglar in San Francisco has just been sentenced to 327 years to life for a string of home invasion robberies against local senior citizens. The convicted burglar, 60 year old German Woods, targeted vulnerable seniors, many of whom didn't speak English, or did so poorly. Woods' modus operandi included lying in wait for seniors that lived alone to return home, then as they were entering their homes, he would attack, forcing them into and ransacking their homes. The charges against Woods go back to 2014. Between then and 2016, he committed numerous burglaries, and was ultimately convicted in July 2016 on 17 different counts, including some charges for elder abuse. Penalties for Burglary While burglary is often equated with theft or robbery, it is a little bit different. Burglary is actually just the unlawful entry into any structure with the intent to commit a crime. As such, when it comes to a burglary conviction, the penalties will generally depend upon the severity of the crimes associated with the entry into another's home or business. For instance, a burglary with the intent just to trespass is going to be punished much more leniently than a burglary with the intent to attack another person or steal valuable property. Additionally, the intended crime does not have to be completed for a person to be charged with burglary. Consecutive or Concurrent Sentencing When a defendant is convicted on multiple counts or charges, judges often have several options when it comes to sentencing (though sentencing guidelines, statutes, and case law often limit those options somewhat).However, one of the primary decisions a judge can make is whether a convict will serve multiple count sentences consecutively or concurrently. For instance, if a defendant is convicted on 4 counts, and is sentenced to 25 years for each count, a consecutive sentence means he must serve 100 years behind bars, while concurrent sentencing means he would be out in 25. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) 5 Tips to Prevent Daytime Burglaries (FindLaw Blotter) What is Looting? (FindLaw Blotter) Penalty for Gun Store Robbery (FindLaw Blotter)
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Is Police Body Cam Footage Public Record?

Over the past few years, more and more police departments have adopted the use of officer body cams. The devices attach to an officer's uniform and record what the officers do while on duty. However, there is no uniform law of the land when it comes to the public's right to access the footage from the body cams. Depending on the local jurisdiction, or state, different standards are used for the release of the footage. Some will only allow the footage to be released publicly as part of a criminal or civil trial (as the law requires the disclosure then), while others allow the recordings to be released on YouTube (after private and identifying information is edited out). Video for the People, Not of the People The purpose of police body cams is to engender the public's trust. The idea is essentially that officers will be less likely to not follow the rules, and will be more likely to do everything exactly by the book, if there is a video record of all their actions. These cams can also provide evidence of corrupt police practices, at least when the corrupt officers are not selectively recording with their body cams. The recordings are not just of public civil servants (police officers), but the individuals they encounter are, naturally, caught on camera too. This complicates public disclosure as private individuals have privacy rights, even when they are out in public. Those privacy rights can be violated by allowing the public unfettered access to the footage. A simple example involves a traffic stop. If an officer is not careful when handling a pulled over driver's documents, or the footage is not redacted/edited before it is released publicly, a person's driver's license number, address, height, birth date, and (alleged) weight, could all be captured by a body cam. Who's Watching? Unfortunately, due to the sheer volume of police body cam footage, it would likely be impractical, or a drain on police resources, for all of it to be reviewed. Instead, generally, departments review the footage when necessary to review high profile incidents, arrests that lead to prosecutions, or sometimes when officers need help to remember what happened for their reports. Also, when complaints against officers are made by the public, or other officers, the body cam footage can be reviewed. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Police Body Cameras: What Defendants, Victims Need to Know (FindLaw Blotter) Body Cams Embraced, But Who Will Have Access to Footage? (FindLaw's California Case Law) How Does the iPhone's New 'Cop Button' Work? (FindLaw Blotter)
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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)
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Nurse Arrested for Not Drawing Coma Patient’s Blood for Police

National news outlets have been reporting the sensational story of a Salt Lake City, Utah nurse who was arrested after refusing the command of a police officer to draw the blood of a comatose patient for an investigation. Fortunately for Alex Wubbels, the nurse involved in the incident, police body cameras recorded the entire event. The nurse cited the hospital policy of requiring a patient's consent, a warrant, or an intent to arrest, before drawing blood for police. When the officer insisted on getting the blood draw done despite not satisfying any of these conditions, Wubbels refused and was then arrested on the spot. What Happened Here? Surprisingly, the coma patient, a truck driver, whom the police were seeking a blood draw from is an innocent victim. Police were chasing a fleeing suspect, when that suspecting crashed head on into the truck driver's big rig, resulting in a fiery crash. The suspect died at the scene, while the truck driver survived, but fell into a coma. The police, in conducting a thorough investigation, were seeking a blood sample from the truck driver to rule out any liability on his end (note: police may not have a legal right to this sample thanks to the Fourth Amendment's protections). The body camera footage clearly shows nurse Wubbels explaining the policy to the officer in charge, and then the officer losing his cool, grabbing her, cuffing her, and forcefully pulling her out of the hospital. During the ordeal, Wubbels can be heard yelling that she did nothing wrong, and that the officer is hurting her. Fortunately, when the superior officer arrived at the scene, she was released. It was explained to the officer that the hospital already took a blood draw, but that they would not release it without proper legal authorization. The city's administration has been extraordinarily embarrassed, issued apologies, and has stated that it is committed to changing policies to prevent this from happening again. The arresting officer has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation into his actions (though the report he filed asserts his superior instructed him to arrest Wubbels). What's the Claim? When officers of law cross the line in performing their duties, both the officers, individually, and the municipality, state, or other government entity can be held liable. Generally, under federal law, 42 USC 1983 protects individuals from police misconduct, including false arrest or excessive force. There may also be claims under state laws, depending on the state where the incident occurred. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) How Does the iPhone's New 'Cop Button' Work? (FindLaw Blotter) NY DMV Busts 4k Fraudsters With Facial Recognition Tech (FindLaw Blotter) Criminal Charges Following Violence, Death in Charlottesville (FindLaw Blotter)
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Does a Lawsuit End If the Defendant Can’t Be Served?

Remember Seth Rogen's character in Pineapple Express? No, he wasn't a butler -- he was a process server, an obscure yet essential part of the legal system tasked with delivering the bad news of a lawsuit to the person being sued. After all, if people don't know they're being haled into court, it's kind of hard to defend themselves. Because service of process is the necessary first step to a lawsuit, many think if they can just avoid the process server for long enough, they can't be sued (hence Rogen's disguises). But is that true? Fruitless Searching The issue has come to the forefront of the news after Montana real estate agent Tanya Gersh sued the owner of the racist website Daily Stormer, claiming he unleashed a "tsunami of threats" against her and her family. Gersh is being represented by attorneys from the Southern Poverty Law Center, who have thus far been unable to locate and serve Andrew Anglin with the suit. The process servers hired by the SPLC have made a grand total of 15 visits to seven addresses linked to Anglin, including four different Ohio addresses, but couldn't find him. "One process server said she believes Anglin barricaded himself inside one of the addresses," according to Ars Technica. In addition, attempts to serve Anglin via certified mail were all returned as undeliverable. Until he is properly served, the lawsuit against Anglin can't proceed. Constructive Notice But there's another twist to that -- service by publication. If a plaintiff can show the court that no other method of service has been effective, they can publish a notice in a newspaper. So long as the newspaper is in general circulation where the defendant is likely to be found or where the court is located and is published on more than one occasion (like weekly for three weeks), the court will consider the defendant served, whether he or she actually reads the notice or not. Gersh's attorneys have allegedly begun this more cumbersome and expensive procedure already. The perhaps not-so-funny part about the efforts to serve Anglin in this case is that he is plainly aware of the lawsuit. Soon after the lawsuit was filed in April, he published a post on Daily Stormer entitled, "SPLC is Suing Anglin! Donate Now to STOP THESE K***S!" He retained Las Vegas attorney Marc Randazza, who told the AP, "Everybody deserves to have their constitutional rights defended." Randazza also addressed the service problems and accusations that he had ignored calls and emails from SPLC attorneys asking him to accept service on behalf of his client, albeit rather obliquely. "Would you say that touchdowns are avoiding being scored in a shutout football game?" he rhetorically asked the New York Times. "Or would you say that the offense is not scoring them?" A defendant has no legal obligation to assist the plaintiff in a lawsuit, including making themselves available for service. Fortunately for plaintiffs, hiding from a lawsuit they clearly know exists won't help a defendant avoid being held accountable in court. Related Resources: Find a Lawyer Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Don't Bother Avoiding Process Servers (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Legal How-To: Showing Proof of Service (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Can You Serve Someone With a Lawsuit via Twitter? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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How Does the iPhone’s New ‘Cop Button’ Work?

Cell phones have been the new frontier in search and seizure law, and for a while they've been giving fits to law enforcement and the courts. Can customs search your cloud data at the border? Can the feds force tech companies to provide access to phone data? Can a warrant give police access to everyone's phone at a given location? Can police 3-D print a finger to unlock a phone? Wait, what? It may seem weird, but courts actually treat passcodes and fingerprints differently when it comes to unlocking phones, and more and more people are becoming aware that their phones are actually less secure (from law enforcement anyway) with fingerprint access. So, naturally, Apple came up with a fix for that -- the "cop button." Physical Evidence and Metaphysical Contents More accurately, as the Verge describes, it's like a cop sequence of taps. Apple's upcoming iOS11 for the iPhone will let users tap the power button five times for emergencies. This then allows someone to dial 911 while also disabling the phone's Touch ID feature until they enter a passcode. Essentially, Apple is giving iPhone users "a far more discreet way of locking out a phone." Those who haven't been following recent search and seizure case law may be asking themselves why locking out a phone would be useful, or having a passcode accessible phone would be any more secure from police searches than a fingerprint accessible phone. As we mentioned above, courts, and thus law enforcement, treat them very differently. Combinations and codes, to an individual, have generally been considered the "contents of his own mind," and therefore beyond the government's power to compel production. Whereas keys and fingerprints are physical evidence, which "may be extracted from a defendant against his will." FaceTime? There's another reason this distinction may matter, and why the "cop button" may be necessary in the near feature. Apparently, iOS 11 will also introduce face unlocking on the next iPhone. Giving law enforcement another piece of physical evidence that grants them access phone, and giving users another reason to have a way to disable that access. Different jurisdictions have been treating cell phones -- and the ways in which law enforcement may force people to unlock them -- in different ways. To find out the law where you live, contact a local criminal defense attorney. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Can the Feds Force You to Unlock Your Phone With Your Fingerprint? (FindLaw Blotter) Florida Judge: Give Up Your Smartphone Passcode or Go to Jail (FindLaw Blotter) Are Warrantless Cell Phone Searches Legal? (FindLaw Blotter)
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Here’s the Latest on Trump Immigration Reform Efforts

It's not untrue to say that Donald Trump has had a 'busy' presidency -- the Twitterer-in-Chief has been as active on social media as he has been with executive orders. But many of those orders have been met with litigation and currently stand somewhere in legal limbo between lawsuits filed and Supreme Court review. One of Trump's most active areas of executive authority has been immigration. Here's the latest on Trump's immigration reform efforts, where they stand (legally speaking), and what they could mean. 1. Trump's Travel Ban Headed to Supreme Court Perhaps Trump's most infamous executive order on immigration, and certainly his most litigated one, is the attempted ban on immigrants and refugees from several majority Muslim countries. Blocked by federal circuit courts, rewritten, then blocked again, the Muslim ban is now in the hands of the Supreme Court, although many of the main legal issues may be moot by the time the Court hears oral arguments. 2. 3 Important Facts About Sanctuary Cities for Immigrants and Opponents Trump has also threatened to withhold federal funds from so-called sanctuary jurisdictions -- cities and states that decline to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. It's a legally touchy subject, since immigration is largely a federal matter and there are constitutional protections against federal departments controlling state and local law enforcement, and many of those jurisdictions have sued in response. 3. How Would a 'Merit-Based' System Change Immigration? While battling illegal immigration, Trump also wants to shift the focus of legal immigration from birthplace and family considerations to employment and education qualifications. The president-supported RAISE Act would also slash the number of refugees and visa applicants allowed into the country every year. 4. Mixed Immigration Messages? Trump Administration's Latest on DAPA, Dreamers Trump rescinded Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, last June. But the new president has yet to decide on the old president's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, leaving many apprehensive about their immigration status. 5. Can Undocumented Immigrants Attend Public School? In the meantime, immigrants must go on with their daily lives even though their legal status is uncertain. The Supreme Court has said that public schools can't bar undocumented immigrant children from K-12 education, or charge them extra to attend. If you're unsure about your immigration status or need legal help, contact an experienced immigration attorney in your area. Related Resources: Find Immigration Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Top 7 Immigration Laws for Families (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Trump's Executive Order on Immigration: What Does It Mean When a Judge Issues a 'Stay'? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) What Power Does the President Have Over Deportation Policy? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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