The Legal Insider

November 2011

Need a Job? The Law of Holiday Season Hiring

All of us could use some extra cash right now. Since the Holiday Season is descending on us like the Jolly Man himself, there are going to be a number of upcoming expenses like travel, food, and presents. Luckily, there are also lots of seasonal jobs available for some extra money to make it all possible.

The downside to being a seasonal employee can be drastic. Dealing with an unfamiliar workplace and a likely overworked manager can be tough. It can also lead to a variety of potentially hazardous work environment issues.

Talking to your boss or the human resources person is a good way to resolve most problems. If they persist, you may have one of the common workplace lawsuits below:

You should always be getting paid fairly for your time, including minimum wage and overtime, for each hour over 40 per week - it’s required by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Wrongful termination is normally guarded against with strict seasonal employment contracts. However, if you’re fired as a result of discrimination or retaliation then you may have a valid claim.

Hostile work environment lawsuits most often are a result of harassment, sexual or otherwise. Nobody must undergo this type of terrible workplace situation. The first steps include reporting it to the appropriate sources (manager, HR representative, etc.). If the harassment continues, the employer is likely to be liable for legal repercussions. 

Surviving Airport Security With Your Luggage (and Possibly Medical Marijuana)

Between college kids flying home, winter ski vacations, and Christmas/New Years, the roads, airports, and trains will be packed. Logically, security will be tightened and we’ll all be subject to the shake-down. The TSA will x-ray and rummage through your things, which are also “subject to damage, search, and removal.”  Sorry Grandma, that's what happened to your gift.

Below is a rough idea of the current security measures and remedies to problems they might cause:

Lost and damaged luggage is a major inconvenience and can cost serious money. Check out your airline’s Contract of Carriage. In most cases, they will outline their procedures for lost and damaged baggage.  In some situations you may be entitled to compensation.

Vacation and travel mean bringing everything you need, like medications, while you travel. However, TSA agents can confiscate controlled substances when the proper protocols aren't met. If you’re flying with serious painkillers, be sure to keep them in the original bottle with your name on it.

Another hot topic is flying with medical marijuana. Depending on the local laws, you may be able to call ahead to ensure you’ll meet the criteria (like a valid medical marijuana license). If you’re not sure, ask. There are serious repercussions for possession and transportation of controlled substances.

For a complete list of what you can and cannot bring on a plane, read the official TSA regulations here.

Holiday Gifts Part 1: As Seen On TV

Arguably, one of the best parts of the holidays is gifts. I understand your trepidation toward spending money and finding just the right something for your significant other. Diamonds, an iPad, or homemade trinkets all seem like safe bets.

However, there are a number of outstanding “As Seen on TV” items for sale this year. If you’re a sucker for ridiculous products and B-rate marketing videos, then you may want to get your credit card out now.  Who knows? One might turn into the next high profile consumer protection lawsuit. Here are our favorite four:

BrightFeet are just what you can get for your relatives who are spies, midnight snackers, or folks who like to drive their pets crazy! LA Lights did it with high-tops. Why not slippers?

Do you have a hard time with screen doors? Keep walking through them like these people? Magic Mesh has you covered. Keep the bugs out and the people inside.

Call it a ShamWow or a Zorbeez. Either way, this is the perfect gift for the homemaker you hate. The saran wrap-like absorbency will have them cleaning spills for hours.

The Forever Lazy is perfect for the person(s) you have a “cult” attraction to. Okay, it looks like a cross between some kind of ritualistic clan-wear and onesies for adults. But who cares about what you look like when you’re home? It’s comfortable and has a zipper in case you need to make a #2.

Making Child Custody Changes During the Holidays

Child custody arrangements can be modified with the consent of both parents or by the court that issued the ruling. Normally, it’s best to try and work things out with the other parent, especially during the holidays. That could mean making a deal like exchanging weeks or days, or being flexible for Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks. In other cases, the best option is hiring a lawyer who can mediate or argue on your behalf.

A permanent change in the custody arrangement normally comes from the court. Courts always focus on the child's best interest, and 2 situations may cause the court to shift parental responsibilities, even over the holidays:

Relocation: one spouse decides to move out of the city, county, or state where the other parent is located.  This is a major issue and some states allow a certain distance while others allow any distance.

Substantial Change in Circumstances: if a spouse loses a job and remains unemployed for a long time, is arrested for a crime, or there are allegations of abuse – all will weigh heavily on custody arrangements.

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