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Retaliation

- Federal courts have issued two recent opinions on the retaliation provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act. These provisions protect whistleblowers who report wrongdoing to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In one case, the court ruled that the provisions do not apply outside the United States. The other decision found that employees can be covered by the provision even if they are terminated before reporting to the SEC.

Homeland Security Spending

- A Government Accountability Office report details a variety of Department of Homeland Security programs that fight transnational crime by bolstering the security capacity of partner nations. DHS spent $451 million on these programs in 2012, but the GAO says the department must establish clearer priorities and better ways to track whether program spending was directed in ways that were optimal for furthering those priorities.

Whistleblowers

- A New Jersey jury has awarded a lab technician more than $2 million after he was terminated over a whistleblower complaint. The technician had complained to senior managers about insufficient blood bank staffing and procedures. Issues such as failure to have skilled technicians on staff violated state law. After the technician complained, he was subjected to unfair discipline and was then fired.  

NSA Surveillance

- A federal judge has ordered the White House to declassify all of the legal opinions issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court after May 2011 that relate to Section 215 of the Patriot Act. In a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the judge noted that the disclosures made by Edward Snowden require greater transparency and that disclosure of the opinions is necessary for an informed debate on the issue of government surveillance and privacy.  

Border Security

- A border patrol agent violated the Fourth Amendment when he answered a suspect’s phone and impersonated the suspect, even though the suspect had given the agent permission to search the phone.  

Civil Liberties

- Civil liberties groups joined together to produce this report on the repression and criminalization of protest activities. The report explores how some law enforcement agencies are using aggressive tactics in dealing with peaceful protesters.  

Whistleblowers

- A federal appeals court has ruled that the whistleblower provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley act apply to employees of publicly traded companies who report fraud, even if that fraud does not relate to company shareholders.  

ADA

- An employee who could not do her job part time while healing from an injury may not subsequently claim that maintaining that part-time job was a reasonable accommodation for her disability. An employee suffering from a back injury was absent from work or unable to complete even a few hours a day in her job. When she was terminated, the employee filed a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act claiming that maintaining her part-time job should have been offered as a reasonable accommodation. A federal appeals court ruled that the employee’s request was unreasonable because the employee could not demonstrate that she was capable of filling this position if it were offered to her.  

Nuclear Facilities

- This study from a nuclear nonproliferation group revealed the differences in security standards among the nation’s nuclear facilities. The study found that government-owned facilities has stricter security procedures than those in the private sector.  

Employment

- A ruling in California finds that security officers who are required to be on the worksite and on-call but not actively working, must still be paid for that time because their ability to engage in personal pursuits is limited. However, officers need not be paid for the eight hours allotted to them for sleep.

Privacy

- A federal appeals court has ruled that law enforcement can extract historic location data from telecommunications companies without a warrant. The information is not protected by the Fourth Amendment, ruled the court because consumers knowingly give up the data each time they make a call or send a text message. The case contrasts with a recent New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that requires police to get a warrant to obtain cell phone information that could be used to track an individual.

Transportation Safety

- A recent Government Accountability Office report discusses the need for better data and analysis of safety risks involving cargo tank trucks.

Liability

- An employer may be held liable for vehicular manslaughter committed by an employee after hours. An employee became intoxicated at a company party and then later, after he had returned home and then left again, crashed into another car, killing the driver. The parents of the victim may sue the employer because the employee was acting within the scope of his employment when he got drunk.
 




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