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Federal Court: Civil Rights Act Protects Gay, Lesbian Workers From Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination against employees based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Because it was enacted in 1964, many have wondered whether gay and lesbian workers were also protected under the law. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals answered that question this week, ruling that Title VII protects employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The court reasoned that the statute's ban on sex discrimination also prohibited sexual orientation discrimination because, among other reasons, the discrimination is based on outdated gender stereotypes. Here's a look: Stereotypical Discrimination The plaintiff in the case, Kimberly Hively, contends that she was passed over for full-time employment at Ivy Tech Community College because she is lesbian. Her central claim, as it pertains to Title VII, is that this discrimination was based on her sex or gender -- that, had she been a man, she would not have been discriminated against for being sexually attracted to women. And the majority found it persuasive: Viewed through the lens of the gender non-conformity line of cases, Hively represents the ultimate case of failure to conform to the female stereotype (at least as understood in a place such as modern America, which views heterosexuality as the norm and other forms of sexuality as exceptional): she is not heterosexual ... Hively's claim is no different from the claims brought by women who were rejected for jobs in traditionally male workplaces, such as fire departments, construction, and policing. The employers in those cases were policing the boundaries of what jobs or behaviors they found acceptable for a woman (or in some cases, for a man). Essentially, Hivey was still discriminated against based on her sex in that she did not conform to stereotypes about female sexual orientation. A Definitive Decision? The court's decision is groundbreaking. Until now, the majority of courts interpreting Title VII have held that it did not cover discrimination based solely on sexual orientation. While the Second Circuit found that sexual-orientation discrimination wasn't explicitly prohibited by Title VII, it recently found that gay workers who were subject to gender stereotyping still had the right bring sex discrimination claims. The Supreme Court has yet to decide the issue, but may need to soon, giving the disagreement between circuits. For now, the Seventh Circuit's ruling applies only to its own jurisdiction: Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Related Resources: Find Employment Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Seventh Circuit Holds That Title VII Forbids Anti-Gay Job Discrimination (The Washington Post) LGBT Worker Protections Missing in Mississippi and Most States (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 5 Signs of Employment Discrimination (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Is Mooning Someone Illegal?

Perhaps you just meant it as a prank among friends. Or maybe you were really mad and meant to insult a neighbor. Does that intent matter under state laws on indecent exposure? Do your bare buttocks count as "genitals" under state statutes? Here's what you need to know about mooning and indecent exposure laws. No Ifs, Ands, or Butts Most indecent exposure laws, like California's for instance, require intent by the exposing party to sexually arouse, or sexually insult or offend. The Golden State statute broadly makes it a crime to willfully expose your genitals to someone else, motivated by a desire to sexually gratify yourself or offend or insult the other person. So if you're not trying to offend or insult someone with your bared buttocks, you're probably alright. Even if you are trying to get a rise out of someone, the law also only applies to exposing one's genitals. Most courts have ruled that showing a bare female breast is not considered exposing your genitals, thus protecting breastfeeding mothers from prosecution on indecent exposure charges. So as long as you're showing your butt, and only your butt, it generally will not constitute indecent exposure under most indecent exposure statutes, including California's. Cheeky Free Speech In 2006, a Maryland court similarly determined that indecent exposure relates only to exposure of the genitals, noting that even if mooning is a "disgusting" and "demeaning" act, it was not illegal. "If exposure of half of the buttocks constituted indecent exposure," the court held, "any woman wearing a thong at the beach at Ocean City would be guilty." The Maryland court also held that mooning is a form of speech, protected by the First Amendment. Relying on a 1983 case where a woman was arrested for wearing nothing but a cardboard sign that only covered the front of her body during a protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, the court ruled the man could not be guilty of indecent exposure, even if the mooning took place in front of a mother and her 8-year-old daughter. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) BofA Exec Can't Moon His Boss and Keep His Job, IL Court Rules (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Foxy Brown Cleared of 'Mooning' Charges: Witness Refused to Testify (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice) State Indecent Exposure Laws (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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When Can You Sue for PTSD for Auto Accident Injuries?

When a person is injured in an auto accident, they may be entitled to recover monetary damages for their injuries. In some circumstances, an injury victim can be entitled to recover after suffering an emotional, or mental health, injury, such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as a result of a car accident. Unless the mental health injury rendered a person incapacitated, they will need to file a lawsuit within the normal time period allowed by their state to file. While uncommon, in severe auto accidents, particularly when there is a loss of life, severe injuries, or maybe just a whole lot of property damage, it is easily foreseeable that an individual could suffer from PTSD. However, to establish a personal injury case based upon a PTSD diagnosis can be rather challenging. Unlike broken bones, cuts, bumps, and bruises, a mental health injury may not visible on the surface. Problems of Proof When suing for a PTSD injury related to a car accident, a plaintiff will need to prove that a qualified doctor made an accurate PTSD diagnosis and that the diagnosis is attributable, at least in part, to the accident. To accomplish this, it is highly likely that expert medical witness testimony will be required. However, despite what a medical expert states, other problems could arise if the accident was only a minor accident, or there are other tragic incidents, particularly recently, in the plaintiff’s past, or a prior diagnosis for PTSD. However, even if a diagnosis may not be attributable to an accident, a flare up of PTSD symptoms may still be relevant. In other words, it can be claimed that a car accident made an individual’s PTSD worse. One Bite of the Settlement Apple A significant problem with PTSD auto accident claims is the timing of a settlement. Frequently, injury victims will settle their cases within 6 month or a year after their injury without ever filing a lawsuit. Just as frequently, PTSD can go undiagnosed for months, or longer if a victim does not have a solid support network. Unfortunately, in nearly every state, once a person settles a personal injury claim, they cannot reopen the case unless there are extraordinary circumstances, such as a fraud in the inducement to sign. Typically, an undiscovered injury will not qualify to reopen a settled case. Related Resources: Injured in a car accident? Get your claim reviewed by an attorney for free. (Consumer Injury) Can You Sue Over Mental Stress, Trauma? (FindLaw’s Injured) Can You Get Workers’ Comp for PTSD? (FindLaw’s Injured) 5 Ways to Prove Emotional Distress (FindLaw’s Injured)
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Can the IRS Open a Safe Deposit Box?

Safe deposit boxes can provide individuals with confidence that important documents and valuable or prized possessions will be kept safe from loss, accidental destruction, and theft. However, courts do have the authority to issue an order requiring a bank to freeze, or open, a person’s safe deposit box. When it comes to collecting delinquent unpaid taxes, the IRS has quite a bit of leeway, but cannot act to seize assets without court approval, or other particular circumstances being met. In addition to freezing accounts, levying accounts, garnishing wages, and seizing assets, the IRS can get a court order to freeze and seize or force a sale of the contents of a safe deposit box to satisfy a tax debt or penalty. Nothing Is Safe From the IRS When it comes to collecting taxes, the law tends to favor the IRS, and provide them with mechanisms to force tax delinquents to pay. Not much is safe from the taxman. However, when a court order is issued to open or seize the contents of a safe deposit box, the order must specify exactly what is to be seized. If cash is stored in the safe deposit box, this can be seized directly. If valuable items are being stored, their value may be assessed, and strategically sold off to satisfy the debt. How Safe Is Your Safe Deposit Box? Unlike normal deposit, checking or savings accounts at a bank, safe deposit boxes are not FDIC insured (though you can purchase private insurance). Typically, a bank will not be able to open a safe deposit box without the consent of the customer, or a court order and a locksmith. Most safe deposit boxes are locked by two keys, one of which is kept by the bank, while the other is kept by the customer only. However, if a customer defaults on their safe deposit box rental agreement, a bank may be able to open the box and force a sale of the contents in order to recoup their losses. When this occurs, banks are expected to attempt to contact the box holder before the sale in order to notify them of a pending forced sale to give them an opportunity to pay the outstanding debts. After a sale occurs, banks are again required to attempt to contact the box holder to give them any proceeds from the sale that are in excess of the outstanding debts. Related Resources: Need help with your taxes? Get your tax issue reviewed by an attorney for free. (Consumer Injury) Safe Deposit Tips: What Goes in Safe Deposit and What Does Not (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life) Top 10 Tax Law Questions (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life) Top 6 Tips for Filing Taxes After Divorce (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life)
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3 Common Types of Tax Fraud

Taxes can be scary for many people. The system is not necessarily user friendly. While debtors’ prisons are supposed to be a thing of the past, failing to abide by tax laws can result in criminal penalties, including fines and jail time. To make matters even more complicated, in addition to federal tax laws, there are also state and local tax laws that can have just as harsh, if not harsher, penalties, as one California man recently learned. Below, you’ll find three common types of tax fraud. 1. Underreporting Income Underreporting income is extraordinarily common for any person who is paid, or earns money, in cash form. However, this is a form of tax fraud and tax evasion and can result in serious criminal consequences. The IRS, and even state tax boards, require that all income be reported, which includes cash earned from the sale of goods, tips, and even casino winnings. Because there can often be little-to-no paper trail for industries where workers receive cash tips, or cash payments, oftentimes cash income will go unreported. However, not all underreported income will rise to the level of criminality, at least under federal law. It is conceivable that some cash income received is not reported due to ordinary negligence or a genuine mistake. However, underreporting can be charged as a felony with penalties including a couple years behind bars, and up to $250K in fines. 2. Using Fake Numbers Fudging numbers can result in serious criminal penalties for tax fraud. A person should never just guess, and should especially never knowingly use incorrect numbers, as it can be considered as making a false statement or falsifying a document. There are some checks and balances in place, some of which are computer automated, as well as specialized systems and tools, which can alert the IRS to inconsistencies.It will be hard to prove the defense that using wrong dollar amounts was unintentional, particularly if the results weigh in your favor, and there is not a clear explanation on how it unintentionally occurred. Fudging numbers is likely to be charged as a felony, and carry a few year jail sentence and up to $250K in fines. 3. Claiming Unqualified Deductions Another common act of tax fraud is claiming deductions, credits, and expenses, that an individual or business does not actually qualify for. Doing so can expose an individual to felony charges, a few years in jail, and the same hefty fines listed above. Related Resources: Need help with your taxes? Get your tax issue reviewed by an attorney for free. (Consumer Injury) What Is a Tax Haven? (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life) Avoiding Behavior the IRS Considers Criminal or Fraudulent (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law) Wesley Snipes Must Report to Prison on Tax Evasion Sentence (FindLaw’s Celebrity Justice)
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Top Legal Questions About the President’s Power

There were certainly questions about presidential power during Barack Obama's presidency, especially when it came to Obamacare and his executive actions on gun control. But those questions have reached a fever pitch under President Donald Trump, as he has attempted to remake the presidency in his own image. So what are the limits on the president's power, if any? 1. Can President Trump Change the Constitution? As a candidate, Trump proposed quite a few constitutional amendments. Now that he's president, can he make them happen? Even though a president can't unilaterally change the text of the Constitution, he can direct executive agencies in their interpretation and enforcement of its provisions. 2. What Power Does the President Have Over Deportation Policy? There are reports of immigration officials pulling undocumented persons out of hospitals. Is this a new practice? And how much impact can President Trump have on choosing who to deport and why? 3. Can the President Really Curb Speech of Federal Agencies? Trump's White House issued directives to several federal agencies, looking to limit public statements and social media posts regarding matters that the previous administration supported. But do those orders violate federal employees' First Amendment rights? 4. Ethics Rules for White House Employees There are strict ethics rules regulating what government officials should do when they have a personal financial interest in a certain business or industry, generally requiring the official to disclose their interest and recuse themselves from work where there could be a conflict of interest. But the Trump administration appears to be playing fast and loose with those rules. 5. Can Trump Cancel the Iran Deal? Previous President Barack Obama's administration brokered a historic nuclear agreement with Iran in 2015, an accord current President Donald Trump has called "the stupidest deal of all time." Does that mean the current administration can back out of the deal? Related Resources: Find Civil Rights Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Trump's First Week as President (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Do Restrictions on Protests Violate the Constitution? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Trump's New Travel Ban Blocked Like the Old Travel Ban (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Easter Egg Hunt Injury Lawsuit: Mom Sues for $112K

The Clakamas County annual Easter Eggstravaganza egg hunt is scheduled to proceed this year with 20,000 eggs, and the Easter bunny being flown in by Helicopter, just like tradition dictates. However, a recent lawsuit for $112,000 filed against the Eggstravaganza venue and organizer as a result of an injury that occurred last year is attracting attention in the lead up to this year’s event. Although the event is geared towards participants under 12, last year, an adult who was accompanying their child was injured when the crowd rushed in, knocking her over, causing her a severe knee injury. The injury required surgery and a protracted recovery. The lawsuit alleges that the venue and organizer were negligent in not providing sufficient staff, security, and/or crowd control to ensure the safety of attendees. Event Organizer and Venue Liability The organizers of an event, as well as the venue where an event takes place, can both be held liable if an event attendee is injured as a result of negligence, such as poor property conditions, or allowing overcrowding to occur. Generally, organizers and venues are responsible for ensuring the safety of their guests, and must take reasonable steps to do so. When reasonable steps are not taken, organizers and venue owners can be sued under a legal theory of negligence or premises liability. In the Eggstravaganza case, for instance, the plaintiff is alleging that the organizers and venue allowed overcrowding to occur, and did not have effective crowd control. The complaint explains that this was case, particularly, when people who were not supposed to be on the Easter egg field, ran onto the field and knocked the plaintiff over, causing her injury. Eggshell Plaintiffs An injury victim can sometimes seem to have a disproportionately large injury given the circumstances surrounding an accident or event. However, under the law, a person with a pre-existing condition, or a high-susceptibility to injury, is entitled to recover for the full extent of their injuries. In lawyer-talk, these types of individuals are often referred to as eggshell plaintiffs, and can include the elderly, disabled, or those with medical conditions. Related Resources: Injured in an accident? Get matched with a local attorney. (Consumer Injury) 3 Easter Injuries to Avoid (FindLaw’s Injured) Is It Legal to Dye Baby Chickens? (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life) First Grader Handcuffed After Easter Egg Tantrum (FindLaw Blotter)
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Can a Child Decide to Live With the Noncustodial Parent?

Child custody disputes and court cases can be fraught with emotions. When one parent is granted physical custody by the court, or via an agreement, children sometimes express their desire to live with their other parent. Despite the obvious emotional challenge to the current custodial parent, there are a few potential legal obstacles that must be overcome. Depending on several factors, and your state’s laws, a child’s opinion may or may not matter when it comes to where they want to live. Typically, in addition to the noncustodial parent’s willingness to take on physical custody, the age and maturity level of a child will be taken into consideration.Apart from these initial considerations, a court will base the decision on what is in the best interest of the child. However, if there is no child custody agreement, nor child custody court order, depending on your state laws, so long as the parents are in agreement, a child can live with whichever parent they choose without the court’s interference. A Child’s Wishes Although children may be able to clearly state their desire to live with the noncustodial parent, courts generally will give this little weight unless the child appears to be mature enough to make the decision. In some states, all custody determinations require a court to conduct a best interests analysis. As such, a child’s desire may not convince the court that a change in custody will serve the child’s best interests. Courts frequently must be attuned to a teen that is just trying to live with the more lenient, “cool” parent. One issue courts are frequently tasked with identifying, particularly when younger children express a desire to live with the noncustodial parent, is custodial interference. Unfortunately, it is not too uncommon for a noncustodial parent to attempt to convince their child during visitation that the child should say they want to live with them.While there may be a tiny ethical grey area here, if a noncustodial parent provides any sort of incentive, it will likely run afoul of the laws that protect against custodial interference. Related Resources: Facing a custody dispute? Get a free case review now. (Consumer Injury - Family) How Child Custody Decisions Are Made (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law) Can You Get Emancipated From Only One Parent? (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life) Child Custody Over the Summer: Dos and Don’ts (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life)
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Teens Charged in Sexual Assault Live-Streamed on Facebook

No matter how many stories get written about criminal activity streamed on Facebook Live, criminals don't cease to record their crimes for prosecutorial prosperity and the crimes themselves don't get any less heinous. A 14-year old girl in Chicago was lured into a home and raped by as many as six men, one of whom broadcast the sexual assault live on Facebook. The Chicago Tribune notes it's at least the fourth crime in the city captured on Facebook Live since the end of October 2016. Two teens are in custody thus far, and the victim and her family have been moved following threats and online bullying after reporting the crime. Facebook Crime According to the Tribune, the girl was attacked on her way home from church, and not found until two days later. A relative was told the assault was on Facebook, and Chicago activist Andrew Holmes was able to forward the video of the sexual assault to police. The girl's mother was then able to identify her daughter from screen shots of the video. Two boys, one 14 and the other 15, are now in custody facing charges relating to the rape and the posting of the video. Both have been charged as juveniles with aggravated criminal sexual assault, manufacture of child pornography, and dissemination of child pornography, though it is unclear if either was the one who initiated the broadcast of the assault. Social Media Cycle of Trauma Police say their investigation has been hampered by the victim's trauma and harassment of her and her family. Chicago Police Cmdr. Brendan Deenihan described the difficulty at a news conference over the weekend: "She's just having such a difficult time even communicating what occurred to her. We obviously have a video of the incident, so we have verifiable objective evidence of what occurred to this young lady, but she's just having a very difficult time ... On top of it, there's constant social media ... bullying (of the girl), making fun of what occurred. This is just a very traumatic incident." The social media bullying has manifested in real life as well. The victim's mother told the Tribune that after word of the attack got out, people began harassing the family at home, ringing the doorbell and appearing at the house in a threatening manner. Police were also frustrated with the lack of response from the estimated 40 people who viewed the livestream of the assault, none of whom called 911. Deenihan says authorities are exploring what criminal charges may be available against those who watched the video, but proving exactly who did watch the video may be impossible. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) 2 Teens Arrested in Chicago Sex Assault Streamed Online (CNN) Police Officer Who Killed Philando Castile Charged With Manslaughter (FindLaw Blotter) Prostitutes Use Facebook to Drum Up Business (FindLaw Blotter)
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Worst Legal Mistakes Parents Can Make in Divorce

Divorce can be hard on anyone. And when you add children into the equation, the process can only get more emotionally and legally challenging. Dealing with custody, support, and yes, even tax issues on top of an already difficult divorce can lead even the best parents to make some bad decisions. Here are a few of the worst legal decisions you can make during a divorce and how to avoid them. 1. Not Respecting Child Custody Decisions and Guidelines You may not trust your ex or the courts to do the right thing, but, unfortunately, you must respect any legal rulings regarding child custody and your former spouse's parental rights. Failure to do so may amount to parental kidnapping, and could mean losing what visitation can custody rights you do have. (And, just as importantly, make sure you pay child support if the court orders it.) 2. Not Following Marital Property Decisions How your property gets divided in the divorce will often come down to where you live and the circumstances of ownership before, during, and after the divorce. You may not lose exactly half of everything you own, but be prepared for a split that will generally try to leave both parents equally well off. Things can get tricky regard the home and the family car, but divorcing parents are usually allowed to construct a fair property split agreement on their own. 3. Dragging Your Ex on Social Media No, that's not a misprint -- "dragging" in this sense means disrespecting someone online. And what happens on social media tends to stay on social media, forever. Meaning that the mean things you post about your former spouse or soon-to-be ex on Facebook, Twitter, and wherever else online will be visible to everyone from your kids to the court. So follow some simple rules for social media use during a divorce and keep those arguments offline and IRL. 4. Not Clearing Up Who Gets to Claim Children Come Tax Time The easy part: Only one parent can claim a child as a dependent on their taxes. Now comes the hard part: which of you will do it? And what if you have multiple children? If this sounds like a simple or inconsequential question, think again. The IRS takes dependency claims seriously and will punish parents for doing it wrong. 5. Not Hiring a Lawyer The legal ins and outs of divorce are always complex, and getting divorced with children will only make it more complicated. Make sure you find a divorce lawyer that you trust to protect your parental and legal rights. Related Resources: Dealing with a divorce? Get your case reviewed for free now. (Consumer Injury - Family) Top 5 Parenting Tips During Divorce (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 10 Common Divorce Mistakes to Avoid (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Top 5 Marital Property Questions During a Divorce (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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