Yearly Archives: 2017

California Law on Eggs Hurting the Economy?

Posted by Gen Nagai

A law passed on 2015 that eggs sold in California have to come from hen that have enough room for them to stretch in their cages. This may also be known as “free-ranged eggs”. The purpose of this is to not only let the hen live a better life but studies have found that not giving them the ideal way of living increases the chances of getting salmonella from the eggs that they produce.

This may sound good, however, bad news come with it. Firstly, consumers will have to expect prices of the eggs to rise. Secondly, there may be a shortage of eggs may occur as 90% of eggs come from places where it is not acceptable to sell according to the California Law.

Today, over a dozen states have filled a law suit directly to the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday (Dec.04, 2017) to block this law as it violates the U.S. Constitution’s interstate commerce clause and are pre-empted by federal law. Although, a similar case has been rejected 6 different times by 6 different states, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is confident in the new lawsuit as he has economic studies to back his case up.  He has mentioned that California’s egg law has cost consumers nationwide up to $350 million annually as a result of higher egg prices.

States that are backing up this case include Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin.

Gen is a business information technology management major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2019.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/12/04/the-associated-press-the-latest-13-states-challenge-to-california-egg-law.html

 

Cellphone Use While Driving May Be Linked to Increased Fatality Rates

Distractions can cause auto accidents and smartphones have been identified as one.  Many states have laws that limit the use of smartphones while driving. Lawyers generally do not pursue distraction cases if there is evidence of some other cause, such as speeding or reckless driving.

There has been an increase in motor vehicle fatalities across the country and they include those involving pedestrians and bicyclists. The studies, however, do not seem to attribute the increases to speeding or driving under the influence.

Many speculate smartphone use is a major cause of the spike in fatalities, but none of the studies show any causal connection. Part of the difficulty in collecting data lies in the reporting forms used by police.  “Only 11 states use reporting forms that contain a field for police to tick-off mobile-phone distraction, while 27 have a space to note distraction in general as a potential cause of the accident.”

 

 

Bill O’Reilly Files Defamation and IIED Charges Against Former Politician

In Torts, we discuss defamation and the strict limitations surrounding public figures when pursuing claims against people who say things that hurt their good reputation. Bill O’Reilly, a former prominent news commentator, filed a $5 million-dollar lawsuit against a former politician who posted statements on Facebook regarding his former girlfriend’s treatment by Fox News after she made harassment accusations.

The complaint states: “‘Plaintiff [O’Reilly] seeks damages for the public hatred, ridicule, disgrace, and permanent harm to his professional and personal reputations as a result of Defendant Panter’s publication of knowingly defamatory statements about Plaintiff, which were made with actual malice, as well as Defendant Panter’s intentional infliction of emotional distress upon Plaintiff.'”

Claims made by public figures are difficult, but not impossible, to prove because they require a showing of malice.  Here, the complaint alleges defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

SCOTUS Dismissal of a Case Can Also Vacate an Underlying Opinion

The United States Supreme Court dismissed cases involving President Trump’s executive order blocking people traveling to the United States from certain countries. A September order replaced the March order expanding the restrictions. Since the March order expired, the cases pending before the High Court were moot.

The Supreme Court also vacated the underlying Ninth Circuit opinion blocking the order.  The effect is now there is no precedent, which the district court in Hawaii relied upon to block the September order. The Justice Department will be asking the district court to revisit his ruling now that the Supreme Court has acted.

Third Circuit Court of Appeals Concludes That Employees Must Be Paid For All Rest Breaks of 20 Minutes Or Less

Posted by Divina Tanamal.

An unnamed telephone marketing company was recently brought to trial by the Department of Labor. The company was accused of unfair treatment of its employees for not allowing them to be financially compensated while taking breaks in between working hours. Although the sales representatives were able to log off their computers and take breaks in any frequency or duration that they desire, once they become inactive for more than 90 seconds, their wage hours are placed on pause. Essentially, they are not paid for their break times. The Department of Labor implicated that Title 29, Part 785.18 of the Code of Federal Regulations stated that, “rest periods of short duration, running from 5 minutes to about 20 minutes, are common in industry” and that they “promote the efficiency of the employee, [therefore] are customarily paid for as working time.” This portrays the company’s unwillingness to pay its employees’ break times as incompliant with federal regulations.

Nonetheless, the company retaliated by claiming that another segment of the Code of Federal Regulations (29 C.F.R. § 785.16) states that when “an employee is completely relieved from duty which are long enough…to use the time for his own purposes,” that time is to considered as “hours worked.” In essence, the company has a loose break time policy that allowed its employees to leave their computers whenever or however often they liked, liberating their employers from any obligation to pay for the breaks taken.

In my opinion, the company’s institution of its break times policy was merely a stratagem to minimize the employees’ incentive to take breaks. Since it is expected for most places of employment to allow their workers to take brief paid breaks, this company should not be exempted from that same expectation. It is only just for employees to be able to take breaks in between hours of working without the deterrent.

The case was brought in the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania. The court claimed that 29 C.F.R. § 785.18 is a more widely accepted rule compared to the more specific 785.16, illustrating its disagreement with the company’s appeal.

Divina is a business administration in the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2020.

California Labor Statutes May Conflict with Federal Law

Posted by Connor O’Reilly.

On October 15th California Governor Jerry Brown signed several employment related bills into effect. These bills have been crafted and designed to change laws regarding the state’s employers. “The newly-enacted laws address a range of topics, including criminal conviction history, salary history and sanctuary immigration policy.”

The governor’s first major law bans inquiries regarding salary history when applying for a new job. “California will now prohibit all employers from inquiring about or relying upon salary history information of an applicant as a factor in determining whether to offer employment or an applicant’s salary.” This law was created in order to deter pay inequalities in regards to gender, race and ethnicity. This bill adds a completely new section to the Labor Code which applies to employers on both a state and federal level.

Next, California just passed a “Ban the Box” law which prohibits pre-application questioning regarding criminal records. In an effort to thwart discrimination and promote equal opportunity employment, “California will now prohibit all employers with five or more employees from inquiring into or relying upon an applicant’s criminal conviction history until an applicant has received a conditional offer of employment.” Further, if an applicant has a criminal record, employers are required to conduct individualized assessments on the conviction history including severity of the offense, the time that has passed and the nature of position sought. Their decision must be calculated, explained to the applicant, and be in compliance with California’s Fair Pay Act.

Additionally, California now declares itself a Sanctuary State and will prohibit employers’ compliance with newly passed federal immigration laws. This controversial law makes it illegal for employers to voluntarily permit federal immigration agents from searching private workplaces without a warrant. There are also several other regulations regarding time requirements before searches and harder requirements to obtain Employment Eligibility Verification from already employed workers. The penalties are extremely harsh for disregarding these laws which range from $2,000 to $10,000.

Without a doubt, California is creating laws that give more power and rights to workers. By eliminating salary history in the application process, each applicant will be given a salary solely based on their skills. California’s “Ban the Box” laws also promote equality in hiring and negate discrimination towards people with criminal records. Yet the new law prohibiting businesses from complying with Federal laws is extremely concerning and shocking. This is clearly a backlash at President Trump and his harsh crackdown on illegal immigrants, yet it will prove to be very taxing on the business owners of California. Overall, I believe California is creating important laws to give rights back to the working class, but creating laws that go against federal law will cause issues down the road.

Connor is an business administration major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2020.

Source:

https://www.natlawreview.com/article/recent-deluge-california-legislation-imposes-new-requirements-employers

 

$417 Million Jury Award Against Johnson & Johnson Tossed

Posted by Nicholas Lillig.

On October 20th, a judge tossed out a $417 million jury award to a woman who claimed that she developed ovarian cancer by using Johnson & Johnson talcum-based powder for feminine hygiene. The lawsuit is continuing even after the woman, Eva Echeverria, has died. Her attorney released a statement saying, “We will continue to fight on behalf of all women who have been impacted by this dangerous product.” Under clear scrutiny for their product, Johnson & Johnson has most recently been hit with a multimillion-dollar jury verdict. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Maren Nelson granted the company’s request for a new trial, saying there were errors and jury misconduct in the previous trial that ended with the award two months ago.” She also ruled that there was not enough convincing evidence that Johnson & Johnson acted with malice and that the award for the damages was far too excessive. This was the fourth time that Johnson & Johnson had to go to court in order to address this matter.

The product, Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder, uses a talcum based powder in which is used to treat diaper rashes. It is commonly found in soap, antiperspirant, toothpaste, makeup and even bath bombs. Many people use this powder to fight inflammation on their skin or for personal hygiene. The reason as to why this company is brought under the microscope is to debate whether the talc based powder can cause ovarian cancer in women. There is evidence on both sides of the argument for how it can effectively cause ovarian cancer. A report that was released in May of 2016 determined that 63 percent of women with ovarian cancer had used talc. Another previous study reports, “In 1971, four OB/GYNs found talc particles in more than 75 percent of the ovarian tumors they investigated”. Scientific studies and the juries involved point to yes, this product is liable to cause ovarian cancer. Evidence against the case states that the exact relationship is unclear as tumors can develop regardless of whether talc is applied in the situation.

The issue is that for over 100 years, Johnson & Johnson has been marketing their baby powder to treat diaper rash and as a daily feminine hygiene product. In the most recent cases, juries are pointing towards the evidence that it does cause ovarian cancer. Eva Echeverria and her attorney believe Johnson & Johnson failed to warn the public about “talcum powders potential cancer risks”. A spokeswoman for J&J said, “Ovarian cancer is a devastating disease – but it is not caused by the cosmetic-grade talc we have used in Johnson’s Baby Powder for decades. The science is clear and we will continue to defend the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder as we prepare for additional trials in the U.S.” The company has decided that it will continue to fight for their product in further trials.

Nicholas is a finance major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2020.

Sources:

Unethical Lock-Rate Fees at Wells Fargo

Posted by Daniel Szatkowski.

According to Chris Bruce in a Bloomberg article dated October 17, 2017, Wells Fargo was found charging costumers fees to lock interest rates on mortgages and other loans made with the bank. The lock rate fees earned by Wells Fargo are up to $98 million in the period of approximately four and half years ending February 2017. Wells Fargo incorrectly claims that their clients are behind and/or missing payments, which would lead to increased interest rates. Instead of increasing the rate, Wells Fargo tells them to pay rate-lock fees to keep the rate where it is.

The manner in which Wells Fargo is charging lock-rate fees is unethical. First of all, many of the Wells Fargo clients were not actually behind on their loan payments. According to Brian Brach and other mortgage applicants, “Wells Fargo employees wrongfully blamed customers for loan processing delays and made them pay fees to maintain a lock on interest rates that might otherwise expire.” The delays were caused by Wells Fargo, which triggered the rate-lock fees; therefore, no fees should have been issued to the clients.

Wells Fargo wanted to unethically increase their profit by charging these rate-lock fees even though they did not apply to the situation. The company’s reputation will drop due to the new unwanted press and the clients are putting Wells Fargo on trial. The first of the reimbursement will be sent out during the final quarter of this year.

Daniel is an accounting major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2020.

US vs. Microsoft Dispute Over Emails

Posted by Noah Stanton.

On the 16th of October, the Supreme Court has made the decision to proceed on the dispute between government authorities and technology companies like Microsoft, who are being forced to give emails and other digital information “sought in criminal probes but stored outside the U.S.” According to the article, justices intervened in a case of federal drug trafficking investigation where they needed emails that Microsoft had on its servers but were beyond the search warrant being that the servers are in Ireland. The Supreme Court decision is impeding investigations, according to the Trump Administration and 33 states. Cases regarding terrorism, drug trafficking, fraud and child pornography are all being delayed because courts are waiting on the ruling regarding obtaining information that is kept abroad.

This case is among many that tech companies like Microsoft about digital privacy that might relate to crime and extremism. This Supreme Court case is an example of finding the balance between older laws and recent technological developments. Microsoft is saying, “Congress needs to bring the law into the age of cloud computing” where most information is not held in the jurisdiction of current law. Back in 2013, a warrant issued to obtain emails pertaining information about illegal drug transactions. Microsoft cooperated but went to court at the time because the emails held at servers overseas were not handed over.

A Justice Department lawyer stated Microsoft can retrieve emails stored domestically or not with a single click of a button. The simplicity of the action does not change the boundaries the warrant has though. All of these troubles relate back to the 1986 Stored Communications Act, which has minimal use when information is held overseas. The article states, “The current laws were written for the era of the floppy disk, not the world of the cloud.”

The president of Microsoft said Congress needs to act by passing new legislation. This would help put an end to the numerous legal actions that take place about officials trying to obtain private information from U.S. based tech companies because they keep servers around the world. The court is expected to confront the issue of emails from an American citizen or foreigner and where they reside. The Supreme Court Case will take place early next year.

Noah is a business administration major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2020.

 

USDA Rule May Make It Difficult For Farmers

Posted by Charles Bond.

My article is about the people who feed millions of Americans, farmers. Specifically, a ruling the USDA first tried to implement, but then decided to rescind. This ruling would have offered more protection for farmers who raise cows, pigs, and chickens for the largest meat producers in the United States. The USDA’s plan would have made it easier for farmers to sue those meat producers they are in contract with for unfair, discriminatory, or deceptive practices. This was a policy that was set to be enacted at the end of the Obama Administration but was put on hold until the Trump Administration took over; the USDA under the new administration decided to drop it. “Currently, several court rulings have interpreted federal law as saying a farmer must prove a company’s action harm competition in the entire industry before a lawsuit can move forward.” The farmer’s cannot just say they believe a company is aiming to cause harm; they must prove the company said this was their intent.  Passing the new rule would ease the burden of finding proof.

This new rule would have been extremely beneficial for chicken and pork farmers. “Chicken and pork producers must enter long-term contracts with companies like Tyson Foods and Pilgrim’s Pride that farmers allege lock them into deals that fix their compensation at unprofitably low levels and forces them deeply into debt.” Farmers are unaware of the repercussions of these deals until it is too late to do anything about them. The National Chicken Council President was strongly against this rule and thought the rule would have “opened the floodgates to frivolous and costly litigation.” Politicians are split on the ruling. Senator Pat Roberts was pleased with the rule being dropped stating, “It demonstrates the Trump administration’s commitment to promoting economic prosperity and reducing regulatory burdens in rural America.” Meanwhile Senator Charles Grassley criticized the rule being shot down saying ,“The USDA is the U.S. Department of Agriculture, not the U.S. Department of Big Agribusiness.”

This is a complicated issue, with reasonable arguments on both sides. However, it seems unreasonable not to have this rule. It is proven that meat producers exploit farmers across the board just so they can maximize profit and keep the farmers reliant on them for business. An argument made against the rule was that it opens the floodgate for farmers to bring cases against the companies, whether they have sufficient evidence or not. If the companies really were doing no wrong than they would not care because the cases would always go there way and secondly the ruling is only being implemented because so many farmers are claiming the companies are doing wrong and they have means to bring them to court. It really is a dicey issue, but ultimately the farmers should be allowed to take the companies court and have the law settle the disagreement.

Charles is a sports management major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2020.

Source:

https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2017/10/18/us/ap-us-farm-rules.html