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New Jersey Employment and Civil Rights Attorney Discusses...

A mother of a murdered son, the daughter of a murdered father, had to stand before a congregation and thank them for their support. The son, Reat Underwood, was a high school freshman, 14. Also murdered was Teresa Lamanno. These people were killed on April 14th by Frazier Glenn Cross. Mr. Cross is a 73 year-old former KKK leader and general white supremacist piece of human filth.

And yeah, I get that I'm a civil rights lawyer and you're shocked I'd say that about a fellow human being, but frankly, at 73, he's had a long life in which to know better, and he's chosen to kill in the name of hate. So yeah, I'm writing him off the human list, without a speck of conscience about it. He's not worth the air he breathes.

New Jersey Employment and Civil Rights Attorney Discusses "Gay Panic" Legal Defense" Or . . . "Don't Panic!"

Bear with me. I know what the title of the blog says, but I want to make a point first.

A long time ago, in Ancient Greece, one man was standing next to another when the second man said something that the first man considered blasphemous - against the gods. Because the first man was afraid that the second man would be struck by lightning from Mount Olympus on the spot, and that he, the first man, would suffer by proximity, he killed the second man to save his own life.

Greece may have gotten a lot of things right with regard to early experiments in democracy, but they didn't get this one right. The first man was acquitted by a solemn jury of his peers because it was perfectly understandable why he would kill the second man to save his own life.

I guess we could call that "God panic."

Gender wage gap at center of political debate

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill agree that the wage gap between the average salary paid to men and the average salary paid to women for the same work still exists. Like many political debates, that is where the agreement seems to end. Exactly how large that gap is and how the problem should be addressed are two issues that are currently the topic of discussion.

The Paycheck Fairness Act is on the table for consideration in the Senate this week. With this piece of legislation, some lawmakers hope to increase the number of regulations that private companies must abide by when compensating those that are on the company’s payroll. “The more light you can shine on wages, the better,” said President Heidi Hartmann of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

New Jersey Employment and Civil Rights lawyer discusses New Jersey's Internet Harassment Law

"Or... Oh yeah, the internet."

I find myself a bit conflicted about New Jersey's Internet Harassment Law, L 2013, c.272.

On the one hand, as a civil rights attorney, I want to see hatred, bigotry and passive-aggressive abuse curbed (and as a parent, I want to freeze bullies in carbonate like Han Solo). Yet on the other hand, I don't want to see uneven or unfair treatment of speech simply as a response to a surging political movement instead of, as all law should be, representing a sound, considered response to a problem.

Please allow me to explain.

For the longest time, New Jersey has had a Criminal Harassment statute, NJSA 2C:33-4. This statute makes it a petty disorderly person's offense if one "harasses another" or makes a communication in offensively "course" language, or undertakes a communication "in any other manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm." The punishment for a petty disorderly person's offense has always been modest, keeping in line with the fact that a disorderly persons offense is significantly below the level of true "crime." In New Jersey, a true "crime" is a felony, an offense represented by four different degrees of seriousness.

The reason I feel conflicted, of course, has to do with the history of the movement to get this bill passed.

How does medical marijuana law fit in with employee rights?

When New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act was passed into law, it included very strict guidelines for eligibility. In fact, this past year there were only 1,670 people statewide that were registered under the program. Legislators likely thought about possible abuse of the system and the public health ramifications.

Did lawmakers forget to consider the consequences that those who legally obtained a prescription for medical marijuana could face if they choose to smoke it? We aren’t talking about substance abuse. A recent employment case could set precedent for how legal medical marijuana use affects an employee’s rights.

New Jersey Employment and Civil Rights lawyer discusses Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and its impact on "Obama Care" and abortion rights

Or... "Corporations Don't Have Faith."

I've blogged more than once on the incredible cynicism of the United Stated Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2001). That atrocious decision created the logically, legally and morally unsustainable view that corporations are "people," and that they have rights to contribute to political campaigns as an exercise of their "free speech" rights, rights that all "people" have under our Constitution.

The issue in that case was whether or not corporations could create "super-PACs" and influence elections disproportionately. Being a conservative-stacked and minded Supreme Court owing to the right wing republicanism that got the majority in position, it was distressing, but not surprising that the decision in Citizens United was one that has damaged, and will continue to damage, the nation's political landscape, the majority of its people, its reputation, and the very core of the values we continue to claim for its founding. In short, the Citizens United decision was a travesty, and, as predicted - both by myself and by thousands of other legal commentators and thinkers - its reverberations continue to do harm in ever more creative ways.

For a corporation to claim "personhood" is a direct lie. A corporation is not a "person." As I've said in other blogs, a person is a "person." People have thoughts, feelings, nerve impulses, and consciences developed by biological evolution and the by the process of society. Corporations are paper constructions designed to maximize the intake of dollars and the distribution of same. There is nothing inherently evil in the corporate model; it's done wonders for the world's economy. There is something tremendously evil, ignorant and hypocritical, however, in suggesting that the corporation is more than what it is. I've always argued that there's something inherently evil - and societally reckless - in allowing the individuals who make decisions to maximize profits (often at the expensive of morality, law, safety and lives) to immunize themselves from personal accountability for what they've done, simply because they did so in service of the corporation.

That corporate reality is the only corporate reality that humanity has experienced; self-serving commercials, websites, and charitable contributions notwithstanding. Anybody who is intellectually honest, regardless of their position in society and regardless of their education, knows what a corporation really is. When people talk out of their rear-ends about the Citizens United decision and how "fair" it is for corporations to behave like "people," they're lying to themselves and to anyone who happens to be listening. I don't care if they're a Judge, an attorney, or if the person holds 11 PhD's. They know that what they're saying is nonsense; unless they're saying it in a political echo-chamber where everyone else is lying to themselves as well, anyone who listens to the nonsense knows it for what it is.

Two decades later, documentary remembers EEOC harassment case

Anita Hill was involved in a sexual harassment case that not only drew national attention but helped drastically increase awareness about workplace harassment. Hill had taken the bold step in 1991 to testify in a Senate Judiciary Committee about the sexual harassment that she said she endured while working at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

A documentary was recently released that reminds us what she went through during those hearings and after. Clarence Thomas, the man that had been nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States was the subject of the hearings, but it may have seemed as if it was Hill who was on trial at the time.

New Jersey Employment and Civil Rights Attorney Discusses "Expansion of Sarbanes-Oxley Protection"

Or..."Court darns hole in SOX"

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX, for short) is a federal statute that, ironically, New Jersey employment practitioners don't often use or run across. Here's why.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Whistleblower Protection Act is a federal statute, which means that it applies in all 50 states and in all U.S. territories. Obviously, many states don't go to the same lengths to protect workers that New Jersey does, and so most states don't have an anti-whistleblower retaliation law like we do.

Would a federal tipping wage of $8.25 have effect in New Jersey?

Minimum wage is one of the current events topics across the nation. Some states have proposed or already enacted measures that would increase the minimum wage in certain industries or jurisdictions. This debate recently came to the state of New Jersey. Earlier this month, national advocacy groups spoke out on behalf of seasonal restaurant workers at the Jersey Shore.

The restaurant industry is unique in that some employees actually earn a base pay that is less than the minimum wage, and it is perfectly legal. There is something called a tipping wage, and it is different from a minimum wage. Under federal law, the minimum tipping wage is $2.13 per hour. States have the authority to set their own tipping wage as long as it is matches or is higher than the federal amount.

Do words in section title strictly limit Sarbanes-Oxley relief?

The English language is not as easily understood as some people may think. The grammatical rules that give sentences meaning are detailed and complicated. The choice of a word or the placement of a comma can change the meaning of a sentence entirely.

Take the common example of the phrase “Let’s eat, mom.” Then compare it to “Let’s eat mom.” In the first, the child is telling the mom that they should eat. In the second, the child is suggesting that they actually eat mom. It is nuances in written legislation that are often argued over in court. A recent whistleblower case involved the choice of words used in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, and the ruling could mean relief or no relief.

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