News And Thoughts On The Law In Berkeley And Beyond

Employers urge Supreme Court to extend Title VII protections

The California-based Walt Disney Company is one of more than 200 employers that recently submitted a letter urging the U.S. Supreme Court to extend protections provided by the Civil Rights Act to LGBT and transgender workers. Title VII of the landmark 1964 law prohibits discrimination based on gender, but it does not specifically mention sexual orientation or gender identity. Courts in New York, Illinois and Ohio have recently ruled to extend these protections. The nation's highest court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the issue on Oct. 8.

The list of companies behind the amicus curiae brief, which was released on July 2 by five LGBT advocacy groups, includes the Bank of America, Xerox, IBM, Nike, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Coca-Cola and Microsoft. The brief states that corporate polices dealing with discrimination and a patchwork of state laws and regulations are not enough to protect LGBT and transgender workers.

Drivers are confused about what their cars can do

Drivers in California and throughout America may be confused about what autonomous vehicles are actually capable of. There are five levels of automation, with the highest level reserved for vehicles that can truly drive themselves with no human engagement. Currently, most autonomous systems are at level two, which means that a human operator must still be paying attention at all times. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety did a study featuring 2,000 drivers to see what they knew about current autonomous technology.

Of those who participated, almost half said that they could keep their hands off of the steering wheel while using Tesla's Autopilot feature. This was partially because they believed that the name implied that the car could do the driving for them. Advertising from companies such as Tesla and Mercedes have further led consumers to believe that their vehicles can drive for them.

Defective hernia mesh can cause painful consequences

People in California who sought treatment for a hernia may have wound up suffering serious damage as a result of the mesh products used to repair the injury. While hernia meshes have been used for over 60 years in these procedures, some of the options and materials developed over time have caused even more severe injuries due to product defects. Some of the materials that were used to create hernia mesh products had not been fully tested before being used in patients' surgical procedures. In many cases, patients have required additional surgery to treat the original hernia and additional damage.

Some of the defective meshes have included products produced by Covidien, Bard, Ethicon and Atrium. Many of them cause severe pain, but they can also lead to more severe problems, such as adhesions and bowel obstruction due to the mesh. When an adhesion form, scar-like tissue sticks together, leading to serious pain as well as other problems depending on the location of the adhesion. In addition, hernia mesh also poses a risk of rejection, infection or migration of the mesh to another area of the body.

How California women can fight back against harassment

Women in California should be aware that while women are filing more harassment claims than ever before in the #MeToo era, they are also facing substantial retaliation. Even though there have been issues with retaliation, there have also been many major success stories as a result of the #MeToo movement, including several high-profile cases involving celebrities. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released numbers showing that complaints about sexual harassment in the workplace rose 13.6% in 2018. These numbers are evidence that more people than ever before are reporting harassment despite obstacles meant to dissuade them.

However, the most frequent charge filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is retaliation. A whopping three-quarters of sexual harassment charges that have been filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission include a charge of workplace retaliation whether that retaliation comes from a boss or a fellow employee.

Operation Safe Driver Week targeting speeders

Law enforcement in California and across the country will be focused on bad behavior by commercial and passenger vehicle drivers during Operation Safe Driver Week, which is scheduled from July 14 to 20. The special focus of the program this year is on speeding. Statistics gathered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicate that speeding drivers were a factor in 94% of all traffic accidents during the year 2015.

The president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance pointed out that speeding has contributed to almost 33% of traffic deaths for more than 20 years. The president called that statistic unacceptable, especially in light of its preventability. The CVSA is sponsoring Operation Safe Driver Week, and the president of CVSA acknowledged that traffic tickets are not popular. However, driver behavior changes based on contact with law enforcement, citations and warnings.

Dealing with divorce in the workplace

It is important to keep the divorce out of the workplace as much as possible. However, this is easier said than done for many soon-to-be exes in California. That's why it's important to create some strategies for dealing with the process.

Anxiety from divorce issues and the time it takes to deal with them can be consuming. Rather than face continual interruption throughout the work day, it's better to set aside time each day to phone the attorney or do other necessary divorce-related tasks. Make phone calls in private, and send emails using a personal account. Having the communication pass through an unprotected server could put the attorney-client privilege in jeopardy. It's also wise to inform attorneys of court dates that may conflict with other work commitments.

Volvo announces drunk driving safety features

Volvos are popular choices for car buyers in California and around the country who place safety above all other considerations, and the Swedish company has developed a reputation for introducing new accident avoidance technology before other carmakers. Volvo added to their safety legacy recently by announcing that it will soon be installing sensors and cameras in its vehicles that are designed to detect signs of distracted or intoxicated driving.

According to Volvo, the sensors and cameras will observe driver and vehicle behavior and then slow cars down and park them safely to prevent serious accidents. The technology will intervene when vehicles weave across lanes, driver reactions are not as rapid as they should be, no steering input is noticed for a dangerous amount of time or motorists look away from the road ahead for more than a matter of seconds. Volvo has also announced that all of its 2020 cars, SUVs, crossovers and wagons will be limited to a top speed of 112 mph.

Rumors could create a hostile workplace

California and federal law generally makes it illegal to create a hostile workplace for an employee. In some cases, rumors that are spread about a person could make a workplace hostile or otherwise constitute sexual harassment. For instance, if an executive had a romantic relationship with an employee, it may be seen as the impetus for that employee's upward trajectory within the organization. However, employment decisions should not be made on anything other than merit.

If the employee deserves a promotion based on being the right person for the job, he or she should have a fair chance to obtain it. Holding a relationship with an executive against that person may be seen as sexual harassment or disparate treatment. In fact, failing to put a stop to rumors of an office romance could in itself be seen as harassment. That was the conclusion the 4th Circuit came to in a recent case involving a woman who was subject to rumors that she slept with her boss.

Driving while texting is more dangerous than many think

Arizona drivers have likely heard that driving while texting is dangerous. Recent studies have added figures to this claim that give it more impact.

A driver simply needs to think about the distance they travel in their automobile when they are driving at 55 mph. When a person is traveling at that speed, their vehicle covers a length a little bit longer than a football field every five seconds. Now, drivers should think how long it takes a person to send a text: about five seconds. That means when a person is texting while driving, they potentially cover the distance equivalent to the length of a football field while distracted. If that does not highlight the danger of driving while texting, very few things will.

Pedestrian deaths in 2018 close to all-time high

Californians may be interested in a new Governors Highway Safety Association report that reveals that 6,227 pedestrians were killed in the U.S. last year. That makes 2018 the deadliest year for pedestrians since 6,482 died in 1990. Pedestrian deaths were at an all-time low just a decade ago, but they have risen by a worrying 51.5 percent since 1990 and now account for 16 percent of all road fatalities. Groups like the GHSA have raised concerns about rising rates of driver impairment and the dangers of smartphone use behind the wheel. The association's report suggests that distraction and intoxication are a factor in many pedestrian accidents.

The GHSA study reveals that more than 90 percent of the pedestrians killed in 2018 died in accidents that took place after dark. Driver distraction is even more dangerous at night when peripheral vision is compromised. Drunk drivers are also a bigger threat to pedestrians at night. According to the report, alcohol was found in the blood of about half of the drivers involved fatal pedestrian accidents in 2018.

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