Unintended Consequences – Hospital Drug Theft Leads to Class Action Privacy Suit

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By I. Jeffrey Pheterson

It is a good rule of thumb for businesses to always expect their actions to be reported on page one, above the fold, of the local newspaper.  If you are fine with that, then go ahead with the action.  If not, well that is something to think about.

A recent lawsuit alleges Sharp Grossmont Hospital in San Diego used hidden cameras to secretly record procedure room contacts with 1,800 patients at a women’s health center in El Cajon, California, including hysterectomies, sterilizations and caesarean births.  The cameras also allegedly recorded women undressing.  Lincoln et al., v. Sharp Healthcare, Sup. Ct., San Diego, CA.

How could this happen?  Well, a legitimate underlying concern existed for the hospital.  A listed anesthesia drug, propofol, repeatedly was being stolen from medication carts.  This is a serious problem indeed.  The solution?  The hospital allegedly installed motion-activated cameras as part of an investigation into whether an employee was stealing the anesthesia drug from drug carts in the operating rooms. Continue reading

How Tax Changes to Alimony Could Affect You

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By Dane Leitner

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“Act”) signed by President Trump on December 22, 2017 made many significant changes to the tax code.  One of the significant changes made was to the deductibility of spousal support, otherwise known as alimony.  Alimony payments used to be deductible; however, as of January 1, 2019, alimony payments are no longer deductible to the payor.   Further, the alimony received by the recipient is no longer considered income, thus it is not taxable to the recipient.  Any divorce decrees entered prior to December 31, 2018 are grandfathered.

So how does this affect a new divorce case?  It will likely result in less money for the divided family, and more money to the IRS.

Previously, the payor could deduct the alimony, and the recipient would pay taxes on the alimony received.  Generally, the payor is in a higher tax bracket than the receiving ex-spouse. So the prior law resulted in the payor’s shifting of income to a lower tax bracket, thereby resulting in a reduction in the amount of taxes paid on the amount of alimony.

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Suspicionless Drug Tests of Personnel in Schools After Parkland: MSD Strong…er Than the 4th Amendment?

By I. Jeffrey Pheterson

Does the safety of our children prevail over the privacy rights of their substitute teachers? The US Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that public schools may require urine tests for all applicants to substitute teaching positions—even without any unique reason or particular suspicion that would necessitate a drug test.

Judge Stanley Marcus, writing for the Eleventh Circuit panel, shares his official opinion on the matter succinctly and engagingly:

“A suspicionless search by the government is presumptively unconstitutional. So goes the basic hornbook law of the Fourth Amendment. The details are a bit more complex. Suspicionless searches are permissible in a narrow band of cases where they serve sufficiently powerful and unique public needs. The force of these needs depends heavily on the context in which the search takes place.

At issue today is a matter of first impression—whether a county school board may require all applicants for substitute teacher positions to submit to and pass a drug test as a condition of employment. That is, to put it more directly, whether the Palm Beach County School Board (the “School Board”) may, without any suspicion of wrongdoing, collect and search—by testing—the urine of all prospective substitute teachers. We think that the School Board has a sufficiently compelling interest in screening its prospective teachers to justify this invasion of the privacy rights of job applicants, and thus conclude that the School Board has not violated the constitutional mandate barring unreasonable searches and seizures.”

Friedenberg v. School Board of Palm Beach County, — F.3d —, 2018 WL 6694799 (11 Cir. December 20, 2018)

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Leave for Domestic Violence Survivors:  An Issue Whose Time Has Come

By Denise J. Bleau

In the United States, 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). This equates to more than 10 million women and men in a year. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence (e.g. beating, burning, strangling) by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Victims of domestic violence may require leave from work to seek safe shelter, seek a protection order from the Court, work with their employer on safety issues in the workplace, or possibly seek new schooling for their children.

Effective April 1, 2019, employers in New Zealand will be required to provide 10 days of paid leave per year to survivors of domestic violence. The leave provides victims with time to heal, go to court, keep their children safe, and escape their abusive situation. This leave is separate from annual holiday or sick leave. New Zealand’s new law also allows victims to ask for flexible working arrangements and makes discrimination against victims illegal. Continue reading

Want to Live Longer and Make Work Easier? Reach For Meaning in Your Daily Tasks

By I. Jeffrey Pheterson

We all want to live in a better world, though our definitions of what that looks like may differ.

Do you do something every day that is meaningful to you, something that adds purpose or passion to your daily activities? Do you have a driving force behind you that adds fire to your days and gives you a reason to get out of bed in the morning?

If so, you may be making yourself more productive at work, and you may even become physically healthier as a result.

Current social science research is revealing data that shows what positive results will occur for those who act in ways that promote meaning or purpose in their lives. Each day brings its challenges, but how we react to them is key. Regardless of the trials we may face, we all have a lot to be thankful for. That’s why gratitude is so important.  

However, according to recent research, a positive attitude is not enough. You must also operate with a purpose in mind. Below are two recent examples of this research: Continue reading