January Legal News Roundup 2018

January Legal News Roundup

By Marleigh Green & Matthew Harvey

All the best news in California, Business, Employment, Insurance, and Transportation for January, 2018. 

California News

  1. The Supreme Court is being asked to revisit a 1992 decision to not enforce sales taxes on online purchases. The attorneys arguing for the law to be overturned claim that billions of dollars in tax revenue have been lost as a result of the boom in online shopping.

“Now lawyers for 35 states, including California, are urging the high court to overturn the physical-presence rule as outdated and unfair to them as well as to the struggling “brick and mortar” retailers who must collect sales taxes.”

  1. California may stop allowing those accused of crimes to get out of jail on bail. The system has been criticized as unfair to those with low income.

“The current process is fundamentally unjust, as it too heavily relies on an accused person’s financial status—rather than flight risk and danger to the public—to determine whether that person goes home or stays in jail.”

  1. The California Treasurer’s office has launched a new website to aid business owners in finding incentives to grow their businesses. It is the Treasurer’s hope that the user-friendly website will aid California business owners in finding and applying for incentive opportunities.

“The website will include local, state and federal incentive opportunities available to California businesses.”

  1. The Obama administration’s net neutrality rules have come to an end, but in California, the fight isn’t over. Lawmakers are continuing to work towards reinstating net neutrality, a measure they say will protect consumers.

“Legislation by De León introduced this month would put the California Public Utilities Commission in charge of creating new net neutrality rules, and give the state’s attorney general the power to enforce them.”

  1. The Eagles, a popular American band, sued a Mexico-based hotel named “Hotel California”, claiming that the hotel was attempting to monetize on the popularity of their most famous song. The band and the hotel have chosen to settle the lawsuit, though the terms of the settlement have not been made public.

“While the terms of the parties’ mutual agreement haven’t been made public, it happened less than a week after the hotel told the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that it was abandoning its trademark application.”

  1. Grumpy Cat, A.K.A. Tardar Sauce, prevailed in a copyright infringement case against a coffee company. Grumpy Cat skyrocketed to internet fame after a photograph of his permanent frown was posted on Reddit and has appeared in memes, advertisements, and television shows.

“‘We asked the jury what they thought was right and they came to the right conclusion,’ Grumpy Cat’s lawyer David Jonelis, told AFP, adding he believed it was the first time an internet meme had won a victory in court.

Employment News

  1. Google is facing a wage inequality lawsuit from female employees who claim the company violated the California Equal Pay Act, which prevents employers from basing an employee’s salary on salary history, and prohibits them from asking about a prospective employee’s salary history.

“The problem of using prior pay to set salary is that women make less than men in our society, and so using prior pay institutionalizes gender discrimination,” Finberg says.

  1. In a similar but unrelated class-action lawsuit, Google is also alleged to have discriminated against conservative, Caucasian males such as plaintiff James Damore. Mr. Damore was made famous by a controversial memo he authored and distributed to his Google coworkers. He was since fired, and filed suit.

“According to his filing, Google employs ‘illegal hiring quotas to fill its desired percentages of women and favored minority candidates, and openly shames managers of business units who fail to meet their  quotas—in the process, openly denigrating male and Caucasian employees as less favored than others.’”

  1. In states like California and New Hampshire, employers are now required to give advance notice to employees on work schedule changes.

“These laws, aimed at protecting workers from unpredictable and unreasonable working schedules, are becoming more common around the country.”

  1. California Law classifies obesity as a disability, given that its cause can be proven as physiological. Plaintiffs can file discrimination lawsuits on the basis of weight bias and classify the lawsuit as a FEHA violation.

“Under FEHA, it is unlawful to discriminate against an employee because of a “physical disability.” The plaintiff must first show that she suffered from a disability, could perform the essential duties of the job with or without reasonable accommodations, and was subject to an adverse employment action because of the disability.”

Business News

  1. Elon Musk’s business The Boring Company is marketing and selling $500 flame-throwers. The flame-throwers are technically legal in California thanks to a loophole, so politicians are scrambling to ban them, fearing how they will be used by consumers.

“Musk has confirmed on Twitter that the gun does not meet the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ definition of an illegal flamethrower, which means The Boring Company’s model does not emit a flame larger than 10 feet in range.”

  1. Mozilla Firefox is a trusted browser for many internet users, thanks to its policies against data-mining. The company is evolving to include features that suit the interests of its customers, but that requires the very data collection they assure their users they don’t practice. Firefox users are now doubting the company’s commitment to transparency.

“Some Firefox fans are skeptical of the direction Mozilla is heading, and are already vetting new ideas on a Reddit post: ‘Firefox going downhill: What are the alternatives?’”

Insurance News

  1. According to R Street’s Insurance Regulation Report Card, an annual look in to each state’s regulatory environment in the business of insurance, California received a D Grade (Rank #46/50). Vermont scored the highest with an A+ score.

“A dozen states tied with 10.0 points, while California and Delaware faired worst, tied for the most politicized markets in the country.”

  1. Cannasure Insurance Services is launching comprehensive insurance coverage programs for recreational and medical cannabis businesses in California. Big news for canna-businesses in the wake of recreational legalization.

“’We are excited to announce that Cannasure recently finalized the development of a cannabis program that will offer all lines of coverage to medical and recreational business owners,’ said Cannasure CEO Patrick McManamon. ‘Our program is backed by Topa Insurance Group, a leading boutique property-casualty insurer and will provide enhanced and comprehensive coverages.’”

Transportation News

  1. New Federal Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Mandates are being blamed for the rising cost in produce. The rules are widely unpopular in the trucking industry, though they were put in place to make highways safer.

“The electronic devices hold drivers to a more rigid compliance with hours-of-service regulations, which federal regulators and law enforcement officials say is needed to prevent fatigued driving. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates the devices will eliminate 1,844 crashes, prevent 562 injuries and save 26 lives annually. Time will tell if those numbers prove true, but the mandate’s already affecting local businesses.”

  1. Cargo-theft numbers in 2017 were some of the lowest ever recorded, with a 12-percent dip from 2016’s numbers on stolen cargo and trucks, according to CargoNet.

“CargoNet attributes much of the decline to successful law enforcement investigations the year prior, 2016. California, where the firm says successful law enforcement investigations had the biggest impact, saw a 32 percent decrease in cargo theft in 2017 when compared to 2016.”

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