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Category Archives: Personal Injury Blog

Did Bose Violate Consumer Rights by Collecting Listening Habits?

By some measures, Bose Corp’s wireless headphones are the apex of personal speaker technology. They block ambient noise while providing rich and robust sound that brings out the best in any music that a listener might select. One of Bose’s customers, however, believes that the company is using technology for more nefarious purposes, namely, collecting and selling information about user’s listening habits. A lawsuit that was recently filed in a Chicago federal court seeks an injunction against Bose to protect the consumer rights and privacy of individuals who do not want data on their listening habits to be sold to third parties.

This consumer rights and privacy lawsuit is one of many in a trend of legal actions against companies that allegedly collect and sell data about how their customers use their products without warning those customers about the data collection or giving them an opportunity to opt out of the program. Consumer usage data and related information are gold mine for marketing and advertising companies, but certain federal and state laws limit how and when that data can be collected, as well as what rights consumers have in removing themselves from any data collection programs. Mobile technology and the proliferation of smartphones has increased both the ease with which that data can be collected and the temptations to collect and use increasing amounts of that data. Consumers who value their privacy are pushing back against these efforts.

Although privacy is not a specific guarantee of the United States Constitution, a string of Supreme Court decisions that date back more than fifty years have long recognized that individuals have a right to privacy and an expectation that commercial interests will not violate that right. The attorneys at the Spencer Law Firm respect every consumer’s right to privacy and work hard to maintain that right in the face of corporations that aim to use personal information for their own financial benefit. If you believe that your consumer rights and your privacy have been violated by improper or unauthorized collection of your personal habits, please contact us for more information on how you can recover your own sense of privacy.

Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Uber for Invasion of Privacy

class action lawsuit is being filed against Uber for their reported “Hell” program, in which they tracked drivers who worked for their competitor, Lyft. The program used software which created fake Lyft rider accounts, which were used to spoof their location and gather data on Lyft drivers.

Uber then used this information to find out which Lyft drivers also worked for Uber. When a driver was found to be working for both Lyft and UberUber would target them with bonuses in an effort to get them to abandon Lyft entirely.

The “Hell” program got its name as a parallel to the nickname of the program Uber had used to track its own drivers, which earned the nickname “Heaven,” as a reference to the surveillance and tracking involved.

The class-action lawsuit, which was filed by a former Lyft driver, is based on four separate counts of privacy invasion. By intentionally collecting and intercepting communication, the lawsuit alleges, Uber violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the California Invasion of Privacy Act and the Federal Wiretap Act, and also engaged in unfair competition. The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California.

Lawyers who were consulted by The Information, the publication that originally broke the story, said that the suit can also open Uber up to charges of breach of contract and unfair business practices on both the federal and state level.

If you’ve been wronged by a company, whether through unfair business practices, false advertising or through an invasion of privacy, we can help! Contact us for more information.

Suit Against Shasta County Jail Becomes a Class Action

A lawsuit against the Shasta County Jail in northern California has achieved class Actions status, according to the Legal Reader. The suit, filed in Sacramento’s Federal District Court by a number of disabled inmates, alleges numerous violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The suit claims that the jail has inadequate facilities for disabled prisoners, including a lack of handle bars in showers, and doorways too narrow to accommodate wheelchairs. A lack of wheelchair seating in classrooms was noted. The action also claims that disabled inmates were abused, forced to traverse numerous barriers with little or no assistance and placed on 23 hours-a-day lockdowns. Conditions were so bad, some of the plaintiffs claimed, that the inmates could not shower, sleep, or be mobile. Guards were alleged to have threatened to withhold medication if the prisoners complained.

The designation of the suit as a class action means that any disabled inmate, current or former, can join in the civil action and seek redress for the alleged violations.

Shasta County seems to be taking a benign attitude toward the lawsuit, perhaps in recognition that it has a problem with its jail. The county counsel, Jim Ross, declined to oppose the motion to make the lawsuit into a class action. In the meantime, jail officials have vowed to work with disability groups to ensure that the conditions alleged to be present at the jail are corrected to ensure that disabled inmates are treated with dignity as the law mandates. No word exists as of this writing whether or when the suit will be settled or go to trial.

For more information contact us.

Judge Approves Trump Universitry Class Action

The class action lawsuit brought against President Donald Trump by former students of Trump University constitutes some unfinished business that faced the president from his days as a businessman. The suit alleges that Trump defrauded the students of the university out of thousands of dollars with high-pressure sales tactics and false claims about what could be learned about the real estate business by attending the university. Trump and his associates have denied these allegations and have vowed to fight the legal action in court.

However, a federal judge hearing the case, Gonzalo P. Curiel in San Diego, has approved a settlement that will bring the class action to a close, according to the New York Times. Trump would agree to pay $25 million to settle the fraud claims but will not admit to any wrongdoing. The settlement would constitute a recovery of 90 cents on the dollar, the best possible outcome, according to the plaintiff’s lawyers.

Judge Curiel turned back a challenge to the settlement by one of the plaintiffs, a former Trump University student named Sherri Simpson. Simpson believed that the settlement was inadequate and wanted the right to sue Trump individually. Besides a bigger settlement, she wanted Trump to be criminally charged for racketeering

The settlement is satisfactory to Trump, as it removes a distraction he can ill afford to deal with as he continues to be president of the United States. The lawyers for the plaintiffs’ class believe that the agreement will provide some degree of closure to the aggrieved former students. The settlement is subject to an appeal.

For more information contact us.

The Top Reasons to Hire a Personal Injury Attorney After Being Injured in a Car Accident

After being injured in a car accident, your biggest concern should be getting better and returning to your normal routine. However, as soon as you are home from the hospital, you will have to deal with insurance companies, medical bills, and paperwork relating to your accident and personal injury claim. This is why it can be extremely beneficial to hire a personal injury lawyer after being in an auto accident. If you are on the fence about hiring a personal injury attorney to help you through this difficult time, here are a few reasons why you should consider doing so.

Experience Assessing Claims

The fact is that after being injured in a car accident, many people do not realize what their claim is worth. However, it is likely that you are owed more than medical expenses and damages to your vehicle; you may also be entitled to compensation for time off of work and personal damages. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to best assess your claim, and will be able to help you determine what you are owed.

Someone on Your Side

Hiring a personal injury attorney is the only way to ensure that you have someone on your side during this difficult time. Insurance companies ultimately work for themselves, and may use sneaky tactics to get you to settle for less than what you are owed. Hiring an attorney will ensure that you have someone looking out for you, working to get you a proper settlement.

Reduce Your Stress

As was previously hinted at, the process of settling a personal injury dispute can be extremely time-consuming and stressful, as there is a variety of forms to fill out, deadlines to meet, and hoops to jump through. However, you should be focusing on healing during this difficult time. A personal injury attorney can remove this burden from you and allow you to focus on healing.

Contact us to learn more about the reasons why you should consider hiring a personal injury attorney after being injured in an auto accident.

Whistleblower Protections and Employment Law

In the United States we have federal and state ‘whistleblower laws,’ protections in employment law against retaliation by a workplace or employer for whistleblowing activities. These laws do not keep employers from retaliating against whistleblowers, but give whistleblowers legal redress when they are retaliated against for their disclosures.

Whistleblowing describes making information about the public safety, about illegal activities, about commerce activities that have been misrepresented, and any public disclosure of private business information that a company would prefer to keep quiet. In many instances, an employee is expected by professional standards and the law of the nation and state to take action when public safety is threatened, or a law is being broken or people are being harmed. In these circumstances, regardless of workplace policy or nondisclosure agreements, it is the legal expectation of members of society that disclosure to the proper authorities should occur.

The challenges come when the employee tries to do the right thing, and the proper authorities are uninterested; when the workplace threatens both the employee and others in the workplace; when the employee tries to correct a dangerous or illegal situation and gets blackballed by peers or set up to take the blame by an employer. Unfortunately, these are all things that have happened to whistleblowers in the past. Further complicating matters is when the whistleblowing involves the government, and materials disclosed can be said to impact national security.

Assuming that the fate of the free world is not on the line, and the issue of concern is not one of immediate public danger, there are several considerations to be thought through before acting. Carefully study any nondisclosure agreements you signed when taking the job. If the state or local government is involved, there may be ways to report anonymously. If that option is available to you, consider taking it. If you went to the supervisors or law enforcement about a problem, and received no help, make sure those interactions are carefully documented.

There may be restrictions on your legal protection against retaliation if you do not follow the chain of command in reporting. For instance, if you find a workplace safety issue, and rather than reporting to the safety manager or the unit supervisor, went straight to the newspapers, you may not be protected from retaliation, and in some cases, may be held liable for damage to a company’s reputation. Either way, however you decide to proceed, document carefully any efforts you made to work through the system. If you have to remove company materials, or use company computer time to document the whistleblowing activities, the company can take action against you. If at all possible, do not remove any company property to bolster your claims.

After the storm breaks, and you have been publically identified as the source of the news, the workplace cannot retaliate against you by demotion, firing, or other job actions that are considered punitive. If they do, you have the option of filing a civil rights action against them. Each state has unique whistleblower laws, with mechanisms for reporting retaliation; federal contractors, military, and federal government agencies also have federal systems in place.

For more information on employment law, please contact us.

Settlement Reached in Lyft Class Action

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco has hammered out a settlement between the Lyft ridesharing company and 95,000 drivers who worked between May 25, 2012, and July 1, 2016, in California. The drivers had filed a class action lawsuit demanding that they be treated as employees of Lyft for the purpose of qualifying for benefits. Ride-sharing companies like Lyft treat their drivers as contractors, which makes benefits like health care insurance and paid vacation unavailable to them.

The settlement will not resolve the issue as to whether rideshare drivers should be employees or contractors. The question is considered too complex to be decided in the courts at the current time. The plaintiffs also made the judgment that the outcome of a trial would have been too uncertain to take the risk.

Instead, Lyft has agreed to pay the drivers in the class from a fund of $27 million, with the longest-serving contractors getting the most money. Also, the ride-sharing company agrees to warn its drivers before it cuts them off from the app for violations of terms of service. Lyftalso decided to allow a third party arbitrator to decide questions concerning pay when they arise.

Ride-sharing services have upended how many people who lack private automobiles get from place to place, providing an alternative to expensive taxis and often inconvenient mass-transit systems. Drivers for such companies are often part-timers, supplementing income from a full-time job or else making money when they are between jobs.

UberLyft’s main rival in the ride-sharing business, is also involved in a class action involving the question of whether drivers should beemployees or contractors.

For more information contact us.

Employment Law and Misclassification as an Independent Contractor

Independent contractors and employees present themselves as similar and mistakenly, interchangeable terms for two distinct types of workers. Generally, independent contractors likely work for themselves and do not experience the withdrawal of taxes from entities they provide services to. However, employees’ earnings must undergo adjustments from respective businesses to cover taxes related to income, Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment.

Should business owners negligently misclassify an employee as an independent contractor, serious implications follow that affect both the government and workers concerned. When a business misclassifies you as an independent contractor, the business unlawfully:

  • Denies unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation for extenuating circumstances, including layoffs and work site accidents.
  • Fails to withhold income taxes, often subjecting workers to financial hardship in the face of costly tax bills.

If you believe that your employer misclassifies you as an independent contractor, depriving you of the above benefits, consider taking the following actions:

  • Contact the California Department of Industrial Relations. Individuals who report suspected misclassification are kept anonymous, and reports meriting further review should result in an investigation led by the proper state entity.
  • Wages serve as a key indicator of misclassification. If you work overtime and receive inadequate compensation, or if your earnings amount to less than minimum wage, report violations to the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division.
  • When businesses fail to withhold taxes, they commit tax fraud. Workers may determine their status as an employee versus an independent contractor through the Internal Revenue Service’s Form SS-8. However, unlike the other entities mentioned, the IRS does not keep workers’ identities anonymous. Therefore, misclassified workers should consult experienced legal counsel for proper recourse.

At the Spencer Law Firm, our legal team strives to ensure fairness in pay and benefits allotted to workers based on lawful classification. If you, a friend, or family member experiences or experienced misclassification as an independent contractor, contact us to discuss your options.

Federal Employment Protection During Pregnancy

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, provides federal protections for women’s choices related to pregnancy, if she works for an employer with more than 15 employees. The protections are against discrimination and harassment, and there are further protections regarding exposure to hazardous working environments during pregnancy.

The PDA, or Pregnancy Discrimination Act, provides for protection against negative employment actions related to pregnancy, intent to get pregnant, and abortion. This means hiring decisions, firing, promotion or demotion decisions or other job actions cannot be made based on these reproductive health issues.

Workplaces must make sure the environment is safe for pregnant women, and these safety precautions include hazardous chemicals, noise, radiation, and heat/cold. However, an employer cannot remove a pregnant women from employment for these safety reasons, but must, if able, provide a different job or a different work environment. The worker cannot be placed on leave for the extent of the pregnancy for these reasons. An employer is expected to make reasonable accommodations.

If the pregnancy is causing difficulty doing the job, employers can offer reasonable workplace accommodations such as sitting rather than standing, breaks, altered work schedules, and work from home options. These changes in the work environment much be accommodations, rather than demotions, and be time-limited. In all instances, the change must not place an undue burden on an employer.

If an employee cannot work during the pregnancy, and paid leave is available, then that leave is allowed, and further unpaid leave can be a workplace accommodation. How the employer uses workplace accommodations for other employees needing assistance or altered work environments, such as those protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, can be used to also offer similar to pregnant employees.

If a pregnant woman is experiencing harassment in the work environment, the employer has a responsibility to stop the harassment. Harassment alone cannot be used as a need for an accommodation in the workplace.

If an employee feels that she has been discriminated against due to pregnancy or reproductive health issues, she can speak first to HR or directly to the EEOC. Employers are prohibited from retaliation against employees for filing an EEOC complaint. The burden of proof rests with the person filing the complaint.

For more information about employment law, please contact us.

Employment Law and Unlawful Termination

Have you been wrongly terminated from your job? Don’t worry, there are legal bulwarks put in place so that you get the justice you deserve.

What does “Wrongful Termination” mean?

It’s important to note that wrongful termination means something very specific in legal terms. Simply being fired for unethical reasons isn’t enough of a reason to pursue a legal case against your employer. In order to win in the courts you have to show that you were terminated because of discrimination against your race, ethnicity, gender, disability, or due to religious beliefs. Being terminated for the act of whistle-blowing against your employer is grounds for legal action.

The concept of at-will and your rights

Employment in all states except Montana is considered “at-will” and ultimately subject to the whims of your employer. Termination over your race, gender, etc, or for retaliatory purposes such as punishing a whistle-blower, is against the law. However, if a contract that emphasizes job security exists between you and your employer, then at-will does not apply. Assurances of job security through conversation can also be a substitute for a contract in the event that one doesn’t exist.

Protection against retaliation

Your employer does not have the legal right to terminate you for reporting sexual harassment or for other types of activities such as jury duty or taking medical leave. Terminating an employee for serving in the military, being absent from work to vote, and trying to establish a labor union would all be considered retaliation and punishable by law.

Please, contact us. We’ll put the “right” in “wrongful termination.”