Wednesday, July 25, 2007

COBRA, Your Partner in Severance Package Negotiation

Severance package is not mandated by law to be granted to dismissed employees or employees who resign. It is left to the sound discretion and will of both parties, meaning between the employer and the employee.

Once the employer agrees to the grant of a severance package during the start of the employment, an employee can bargain the benefits that should be included once the package is given.

One of the things that you, as employee, should bargain for is the assistance of the employer in helping you continue with your health insurance after the end of employment. Usually, the employer provides health insurance that ceases at the time you are severed from work. Thanks to Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), you may continue your current coverage as provided by your then employer.

With the help of COBRA, you can continue to be covered and provided with qualified health providers, medical, dental, vision and other medical expenses. Your employer could be helpful in this matter. If included in the severance package, your employer can include the necessary paper works and instructions so you can process the continuation of your health plan. Aside from this, your employer could pay the first few months of premium payments for your continued coverage.

It will do good to you and your family as well. Ultimately, the severance package is governed by laws on ordinary contracts. Hence, any benefits agreed upon by the employer to be provided to you once your employment is terminated are considered as law between you and your employer. Any breach later on is actionable in court.

Sexual Harassment in Schools

Before, we know little about the nature and effects of sexual harassment. Only few sexual harassment cases are being tried in courts because only few of the victims are brave enough to come forward and file claims. This is not the case anymore.

People are more aware of their rights now. They are aware that, to stop sexual harassment, victims should come forward and make a stand. The problem with sexual harassment, however, is that it is becoming more common everywhere. Today, even our children are made to suffer and are made victims of sexual harassment.

What is really distressing, however, is that sexual harassment in schools is now becoming more prevalent. Sexual harassment affects not only students from colleges and universities. These sexual predators also target even our young children, who are in grade schools and high schools.

Sexual harassment in schools can occur in two forms:
1. Quid pro quo sexual harassment; and
2. Hostile environment harassment.

In quid pro quo sexual harassment, a student is made to believe by the school employee that the student must submit to unwelcome sexual conduct if the student wants to participate in programs or other school activities. Another way of committing quid pro quo sexual harassment is by making it seem that educational decision is affected by whether or not a student succumbs to sexual advances or favors. Example of this would be a teacher asking a student for a date.

On the other hand, hostile environment sexual harassment is committed when the sexual conduct is severe and pervasive that it affects the student’s ability to participate and benefit from the educational program or activity.

If you have been a victim of sexual harassment in your school, you can file charge with the Office for Civil Rights. The OCR will help you file action against the school for its failure to protect you against sexual predators.

OCR makes sure that they resolve your claims and mandate schools to provide a stricter policy against sexual harassment in schools and train school staff to address sexual harassments in schools. (

Disability Payments under the U.S. Office of Personnel Management

If you are a federal employee and becomes disabled, you may be entitled to U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) disability benefits. However, to be eligible for the benefit, you must have worked for at least 18 months as a federal employee regardless of your age.

If you have been awarded with disability benefits, you have a responsibility to get periodic medical exams to keep your disability benefits. The grant of benefit by OPM is conditioned on your not being able to perform your work as a result of your disability. Absent the determination that you are still under a state of disability, the OPM may stop your benefits.

OPM determines your disability, in granting you disability retirement benefits, based on your medical condition as evidence by your medical records. If you will not fulfill your obligation to provide current medical records upon request, OPM will have no option but to suspend your benefit until you comply.

Also, in case of disability, aside from the OPM, you can claim benefits from the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Worker’s Compensation Program (OWCP). However, you cannot claim from OPM and OWCP simultaneously.

If you are already receiving OPM disability benefits and you claimed benefits under OWCP, OPM will suspend your benefits. Nevertheless, you can ask OPM for disability benefits again if your OWCP benefits stop.

You may, however, be able to receive support from OPM and OWCP at the same time if the latter only granted you OWCP Scheduled Award and not continuing disability benefits.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Who is Entitled to Protection under the Whistle Blowing Laws?

U.S. laws define a whistle blower as an employee who reports or calls the attention of proper authorities against the illegal acts that have been committed by the employer.

U.S. laws protect whistle blowers through Federal acts, related statutes and state laws, rules and regulations. The laws protect would-be whistle blowers against possible retaliation of their employers.

On account of whistle blowing, the employer cannot discharge, demote, suspend, harass or discriminate against the employee. A whistle blowing employee is entitled to sue an employer, who retaliates against his or her righteous action, for damages.

However, not all employees are protected by whistle blowing laws. To be protected under such laws, an employee must report the alleged illegal activities of the employer to the proper government agency or police authority.

If the employee whistle blows within the company, the employee is strictly not protected by whistle blowing laws. However, he can still be protected from retaliation under public policy and fair and just dealings with employee.

However, even if the employee is mistaken in believing that the employer committed an illegal act when, in fact the latter did not, the employee can still be protected from retaliation. So long as the employee honestly believes that the employer is committing a wrongful act, the whistle blowing laws protects the employee.

Remember, if you are an employee who committed a selfless act of whistle blowing and felt that your employer is retaliating against you because of your actions, you have to file claims against your employer for the violation of whistle blowing laws. If you are based in California, particularly, seek the expert legal assistance of expert employment lawyers in the Mesriani Law Group based in California to help you.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Proximate Cause in Proving Product Defect Liability

People always talk about proximate causes in dealing with suits concerning accidents including product liability defect claims. What does proximate cause really means?

In product liability suit, a plaintiff must prove two things in order to claim damages from defendant. These two elements are:

1. Proof that the product was defective when it left the hands of defendant; and
2. Proof that the defective product was the proximate cause of plaintiff’s injuries.

A defective product is said to be a proximate cause of an injury if the injury was a direct, natural, or probable result of the defect's existence. In the end, the likelihood of plaintiff’s being able to claim damages against defendant rests on the real cause of plaintiff’s injuries.

If there is no other factor that could cause the injury aside from the defective product then pursuing claims for damages is easy. However, in cases where evidence indicates that the injury could have resulted from a number of causes, the case becomes complicated.

For instance, if the plaintiff was burned when he or she removed the glass pot from a drip coffee maker to pour a cup of coffee and the pot separated from the handle, a defect in the way the handle was attached to the pot could be one cause. Another cause, however, would be the fact that the plaintiff had previously dropped the pot on the floor and had heated it on the stove top, contrary to the manufacturer's instructions. In this case, proximate cause for proving liability will be harder to prove.

Similarly, if you are injured after altering a defective product, your alteration of the product may be the proximate cause of your injury and not the actual defect of the product.

Remember, proximate cause means the real cause of the injury. Figure this out first before you spend a lot of money pursuing your possible claims.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Drunk Driving Victims

Drunk drivers are dangers to the road. They can be hazards to themselves and to others. In California, where there are a lot of bars and night clubs, drunk drivers are a growing problem. Due to the bustling night life, like a moth to a flame, a lot of individuals especially young ones are drawn to the allure of partying all night, sometimes without regard to their own safety.

Drunk drivers can easily cause serious personal injuries and even wrongful death to other pedestrians or drivers. If you are a victim of a drunk driver, you are entitled to pursue personal injury claims against the negligent person.

In California, a drunk driver is not only liable for the personal injury caused to another person, he or she is also made criminally liable for driving under the influence of liquor and for driving recklessly which endangers the lives of other people.

As a victim of a car accident due to a drunk driver, you can claim damages for your personal injuries but not without the help of experienced professional personal injury lawyers.

In your case, the drunk driver is not your only option in pursuing your claims. Bar or club owners can also be held liable for serving liquor to already intoxicated patrons. As you can see, it is not easy to pursue personal injury claims as a result of car accidents, especially one involving a drunk driver. There are a lot of laws involved relating to theories of liability, as well as matters of evidence and filing deadlines among others that needs to be remembered when it comes to car accident liability claims. You should let your trusted personal injury lawyers to champion your cause.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Sexual Harassment, A Form Of Discrimination

Sexual harassment in the workplace is one of the serious problems faced by the employees today. Other than a cause of constant humiliation, it also creates a hostile work environment where victims are forced to work in unbearable conditions.

Sexual harassment, generally, has three elements. They are:

1. Acts constituting unwelcome advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature;
2. The sexual advances must also have a bearing on the status or condition of employment of the alleged victim; and
3. Sexual advances or acts are unwelcome to the victim and the latter made known his or her dislike of the unwelcome acts.

There are several circumstances that you should know regarding sexual harassment. People think that only opposite sex could be the aggressor and the victim. Below are several facts relating to the commission of sexual harassment that everybody should know in order to be better protected.

1. The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex. A woman can sexually harass another woman by uttering lewd remarks designed to humiliate the victim.
2. The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, an agent of the employer, supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee. This is a departure from generally conceived sexual harassment where the harasser is the superior of the person harassed.
3. The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct. An example would be if you are a co-worker and you are always subjected to the scenario of somebody sexually harassing a co-worker. It also makes the work environment hostile for you.
4. Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.

Employer must also be wary of sexual harassment in the workplace. Discrimination, in any form, is the responsibility of the employer. He owes it to his or her workers to make sure that the employment or the workplace is free from hostile environment.

If you have been sexually harassed, file a complaint with your grievance machinery immediately to make known to the aggressor that the sexual advances are not welcome. It is also an effective mechanism to make the employer known and be made answerable if the sexual harassment in the workplace is tolerated.

Computing the Value of a Loved One

A death in the family is unthinkable. However, all of us will pass away in time. It is however, more difficult if our loved one dies untimely because of the negligence and thoughtlessness of another person.

Wrongful death is when your loved one met an untimely demise due to the same circumstances that brings about personal injuries. Wrongful death can be caused by a car accident, premise liability, product liability, construction liability and medical malpractice among many others.

You can never bring back the life of your loved one. You cannot also definitely put a value or price tag on the life of your beloved. However, somebody has to pay for the death of your beloved as well as the consequences as a result of his or her untimely death.

Although the causes resulting to wrongful death are the same with causes which brings about personal injuries, pursuing damages are not the same. There are certain requirements in the laws that place these cases in a separate category.

The period in pursuing a wrongful death claim is different from other personal injury cases and the damages that need to be compensated are not ordinary. If you have a loved one lost due to a wrongful death the following are some of the claims for damages you are making:

1. Medical and funeral expenses;
2. Loss of the victim's anticipated earnings until the time of retirement or natural death;
3. Loss of benefits caused by the victim's wrongful death;
4. Pain and suffering experienced by the victim leading to the wrongful death;
5. Loss of care, protection and companionship to the survivors; and
6. Mental anguish suffered by the survivors

As you can see, the elements in pursuing wrongful death are very complex. Lawyers adept in pursuing cases of wrongful death are the ones you need to find in pursuing your suit.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Corporate Fraud Whistle Blowers

Generally, whistle blowing is a legal term used for an act where an employee reports to the proper authorities the wrongful, illegal or fraudulent acts perpetrated by his or her employer.

In publicly traded companies, if you are an employee at a brokerage firm or their contractor, subcontractor or agent and you have reason to believe that your employer is committing mail fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud, securities fraud or violating any SEC rules and regulations or federal laws relating to fraud against shareholders, you must inform the proper authorities of these illegal acts at once.

If you are ever prosecuted, assisted in the prosecution or in any manner help in the proceedings under one of the regulations or laws, your employer cannot discharge or discriminate against you for doing a noble thing.

If in case you are discharged or discriminated against or retaliated against by your employer in any manner that puts your work in jeopardy, you are entitled to claim damages against your employer. The law prohibits whistle blowers like you from being retaliated against for bringing dishonest employers to justice.

Some of the retaliatory acts that may be committed against you by your employer for whistle blowing are discharge, demotion, suspension, threats, harassment, failure to hire or rehire, blacklisting and disciplinary action among others.

If you have been retaliated against for helping prosecute the frauds committed by your employer, you should protect your rights by filing whistle blowing claims against your employer.

Rest assured that if you whistle blow on the side of the law, the only wind you are blowing are the winds of justice.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Liability for Bus Accidents

Everyday, our roads and highways are witnesses to innumerable car and bus accidents causing serious injuries and claiming lives. Often, these unnecessary accidents are caused by carelessness, negligence or recklessness on the part of the drivers involved in car accidents.

With bus accidents, the devastation is numerous and unexpected than that of smaller vehicles. With the sheer size of buses roll over accidents, head on collisions and other high speed accidents involving buses always result in catastrophic injuries, property damages and lost lives.

Most bus drivers, like truck drivers, are tired and weary from whole days of driving through heavy traffic. They are always stressed out and some are sleepy due to extended hours of work as well as body fatigue as a result of the stress sustain by the body during those thousands of miles of road trips daily.

Whether through bus driver negligence or poor maintenance of buses and equipments, the bus owner or operator is liable for bus accident claims for the injuries you sustained as a result.

Unfortunately, most of the bus companies would rather spend money defending themselves rather pay for you medical bills outright. They don’t want to admit liability if they can help it because it is bad for their business.

Before pursuing a case of personal injury on account of being a victim of a bus accident, it is advisable to study the legal implications of it, first.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Severance Package: Gratuity or Guilt?

No law requires employers to offer severance package to employees who are laid off. However, a lot of employers are offering severance package left and right to employees who they are going to forcefully lay off. The question now would be the intent or purpose for granting severance package.

An employee, at the same time, generally cannot rightfully ask for severance package if one is not offered to him or her by the employer. However, an employee can demand severance package in at least three instances: (1) when the employee is promised one either verbally or impliedly as when it is written in the employee handbook or manual; (2) when it is granted as part of the employment agreement; or (3) where it has been a long standing procedure to give severance package to employees of equal position or circumstance.

If you have been laid off and you have no right to a severance package but you are offered one, do not accept the severance package outright unless you are aware of the rights that you may be giving up in exchange for the package.

Usually, severance package includes small sums like a month salary’s worth. Others grant packages to include insurance benefits and other gratuities. There is no standard amount or package unless stipulated.

In case you were laid off and a severance package is dangled in front of you, ask yourself if you feel that your employer has wronged you in any way.

Protection against Product Liability Suits

Manufacturers and retailers have been the growing target of the more recent trend in personal injury cases – product liability claims. A growing number of consumers, especially in California, are now getting bolder in filing product liability claims for injuries because of defective products.

Although some or most of the claims are with basis, the jury verdicts on these cases have been increasing all the time. There were even cases where claimants were awarded huge sums of damages against products that caused them injuries even if there were abuse or misuse of said products.

Statistics show that the highest jury verdicts awards are against automobile defects and medical claims. However, not all product manufacturers are safe from product liability claims.

The best thing to do to be protected from product liability suits if you are a manufacturer of goods or products is risk management. You can never go wrong with product liability insurance protection.

A lot of insurance company offers manufacturers coverage from product recalls, intentional product tampering or adulteration for intentional and malicious destruction or sabotage of products and product rejection or condemnation where insurance companies are assured that their exports will not be condemned by importing countries.

If you want to be assured of damage control from product liability claims, your exposure will be limited by securing product liability insurance today.