A Business Name vs. a Trademark: Do You Know the Difference? (June 8, 2015)
Nellie Akalp
As an entrepreneur, you understand the importance of protecting your business name. Think of the sales you might lose if another company opened up using your same name. If you’re building a brand, investing in advertising and hoping customers can find you, you’ll want to make sure you’ve properly protected your business name so no one else can use it.
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Uber worker ruling highlights the legal troubles of a 'sharing economy' (June 17, 2015)
By Chris Kirkham, Christine Mai-Duc and Andrew Khouri
Los Angeles Times
The Uber business model is pretty simple: People use the ride-hailing app to find a driver to take them where they want to go for a price.
But is that driver an Uber employee or an independent contractor?
Now, the California Labor Commissioner's office has ruled that San Francisco Uber driver Barbara Ann Berwick was an employee — and entitled to receive more than $4,000 in mileage and toll expenses because her services were “integral” to the company's business model.
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Cabin crew 'plan legal action over toxic cabin air' (June 8, 2015)
By Hugh Morris
A group of former and serving cabin crew are planning legal action against a number of British airlines after alleging they were poisoned by contaminated cabin air.
As it stands there are 17 staff looking to bring civil claims, but according to the Unite union, which represents 20,000 flight crew and is funding the cases, this is expected to grow.
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AT&T hit with $100M fine, company vows to fight
(June 17, 2015)
ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — AT&T Mobility LLC has been slapped with a record $100 million fine for offering consumers "unlimited" data, but then slowing their Internet speeds after they reached a certain amount. The company says it will fight the charges.
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Trademarks: The First Line of Defense Protecting Your Brand
(June 20, 2015)
Catherine Clifford
The most visible component of your brand are the logos, words or phrases that instantly identify your goods and services to customers. Think about the Nike swoosh or Google written in blue, red, yellow and green. These logos, words and phrases are also the easiest part of a business to copy.
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Supreme Court quotes 'Spider-Man' in toy patent case, gives win to Marvel
(June 22, 2015)
By Lauren Raab
Los Angeles Times
“[I]n this world, with great power there must also come — great responsibility,” Kagan wrote in Monday’s Kimble vs. Marvel Entertainment decision, explaining why the high court chose not to overrule an older decision that says patent agreements cannot require that royalties keep being paid after the patent expires.
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Warehouse fined $2.2 million after testing employee DNA to catch a rogue pooper
(June 22, 2015)
By Russell Brandom
Supervisors forced two workers, named Dennis Reynolds and Jack Lowe, to submit to cheek swabbing, comparing their DNA to the DNA found in the poop. Both men were exonerated by the test, but it raised the thorny question of whether Atlas had the right to demand a test in the first place. Ultimately, the court ruled that the company had overstepped, and awarded Reynolds and Lowe $2.2 million, including nearly $1.75 million in punitive damages. Atlas has vowed to appeal the ruling and pare down the final sum.
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Regulators are going to start making banks refund your overdraft fees (April 29, 2015)
By Ryan Gorman
American consumers paid nearly $32 billion in overdraft fees in 2014 despite regulators attempts to curb the financial sector's ability to levy them.
So the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has decided to take more serious measures. On Tuesday, a regional bank was forced to refund fees to customers.
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Former Chicago Bear wins suit over Cleveland's 'jock tax' (April 30, 2015)
By Ameet Sachdev
Chicago Tribune
Former Chicago Bear Hunter Hillenmeyer won a lawsuit Thursday claiming he was unfairly taxed in Cleveland during his playing career, a ruling that may ripple across professional sports leagues.
Professional athletes face unique tax issues, colloquially known as the "jock tax." With few exceptions, athletes owe income taxes in every state they play. In addition, Cleveland and several other cities levy separate income taxes.
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A Game-Changing Moment for Fast-Food Workers (May 12, 2015)
By Mary Kay Henry
Huffington Post
Two and half years ago, 200 fast-food workers went on strike in New York City demanding $15 an hour and union rights. Most people, including many in the labor movement, thought the cooks and cashiers from restaurants like McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's had no chance to win. But nine strikes later, and having sparked a global movement for
higher pay, $15 doesn't seem so crazy anymore.
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Woman Says She Got Fired for Deleting a 24/7 Tracking App Off Her Phone (May 11, 2015)
By Kate Knibbs
The legality of employee tracking this extensive—not to mention allegedly firing employees for resisting tracking—is very unclear here.
The idea of mandatory constant surveillance as a requisite for gainful employment is objectively creepy. Getting your whereabouts digitally tracked 24/7 by employers keen on humiliating you for your after-hours choices couldn’t sound like more of a plot point from a capitalist horror dystopia movie if Katniss farted it on a Kindle. But when employer property rights clash with employee privacy rights, it usually ends pretty well for bosses. “My property, my tracking rules,” tends to beat out reasonable expectations of privacy. That said, California has stronger regulations on phone tracking than most states, so that may work in Arias’ favor.
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ACLU calls for investigation into gender discrimination in Hollywood (May 12, 2015)
By Oliver Gettell
Los Angeles Times
Letters sent to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs cite statistical evidence revealing dramatic disparities in the hiring of women directors in television and big-budget films.
A USC study cited in the letters found that only 1.9% of directors of the top-grossing 100 films of 2013 and 2014 were women, and of the 1,300 top-grossing films from 2002-14, only 4.1% of the directors were women.
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Supreme Court: Employers can be sued over high fees in retirement plans (May 18, 2015)
By David G. Savage
Los Angeles Times
The Supreme Court put employers on notice Monday that they can be sued if their retirement plans offer employees mutual funds with unnecessarily high fees.
In a 9-0 decision, the justices revived a lawsuit against Edison International and said the company had a "continuing duty to monitor" the investments that were offered to its employees.
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Debt collection: How long before you can't be sued? (May 20, 2015)
By David Lazarus
Los Angeles Times
Each state has a statute of limitations for the period in which you can be sued for outstanding debt.
After that time has passed, a debt collector can still try to squeeze money out of you, but he or she can't take you to court.
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This lawyer fought for FedEx drivers and strippers. Now she's standing up for Uber drivers (May 27, 2015)
By Biz Carson
There's no easy litmus test, though, as to determine who is an employee and who is an independent contractor. The California Department of Industrial Relations says on its website that there is "no clear definition" of the term independent contractor — signing a 1099 form doesn't mean you are one.
In cases of misclassification, its up to the courts to decide. In March, two judges ruled Liss-Riordan's Uber and Lyft cases will go to a trial by jury. Uber had been asking for a summary judgement because it argued that it was a technology company, not a transportation company.
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Verizon and Sprint to pay $158 million to settle mobile cramming case (May 12, 2015)
By Jim Puzzanghera
Los Angeles Times
Verizon Communications Inc. and Sprint Corp. have agreed to pay a combined $158 million, including at least $120 million in consumer refunds, to settle federal and state investigations into allegations mobile customers were improperly billed for premium text messages.
The so-called cramming of unauthorized charges onto customers' bills involved one-time fees of 99 cents to $4.99 for third-party text-messaging services and monthly subscriptions to those messages that cost $9.99 to $14 a month, federal regulators said Tuesday.
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Florida says former Uber driver is an employee, threatening its business model (May 22, 2015)
By Josh Lowensohn
As BuzzFeed reports, McGillis tried to get Uber to pay for the repairs with its insurance, and the company told him it was actually his problem to deal with. Out of work, he decided to file for unemployment with Florida's Department of Economic Opportunity, claiming that Uber's job description and modus operandi for drivers shared more in common with Internal Revenue Service's definition of an employee than an independent contractor. The state agreed, marking McGillis eligible for unemployment.
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Evidence of Life on Facebook (April 29, 2015)
Appearing happy on social media may be used against you in a court of law.
By Amanda Hess
In 2006, a Long Island high school teacher pleaded guilty to third-degree rape and endangering the welfare of a child. Danny Cuesta admitted to preying on a 15-year-old sophomore who attended the school where he taught Spanish. He lured her into a private school office to “make copies,” took her to motels for sex, and posed as her personal “tutor” as an excuse to visit her at home. Cuesta’s victim—known in court filings as “Melissa”—spent four days on the stand; two other girls came forward to testify that the teacher had assaulted them, too. Cuesta wassentenced to 15 months in jail. Then, Melissa sued Cuesta, the school district, and school officials, seeking damages for, among other things, “repeated sexual injury and assault,” “nightmares and sleep deprivation,” “emotional distress,” “alienation of affections,” and “loss of enjoyment of life.”
Soon, lawyers for the school district started poking around Melissa’s Facebook feed.
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Almost 40% of California hospitals graded C or lower for patient safety (April 29, 2015)
By Chad Terhune and Doug Thomas
Los Angeles Times
Nearly four in 10 California hospitals received a grade of C or lower for  patient safety in a new national report card aimed at prodding medical centers to do more to prevent injuries and deaths.
The Leapfrog Group, an employer-backed nonprofit group focused on healthcare quality, issued its latest scores Wednesday, it said, so consumers and employers can be aware of poorly performing hospitals before using them.
"There is absolutely room for improvement," said Leah Binder, Leapfrog's president and chief executive, of figures showing that 37% of California hospitals received a C, D or F grade.
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