Friday, April 27, 2012

Can Report But Can't Sue

All 50 states, the US territories, and the District of Columbia provide legal immunity from lawsuits or criminal prosecution for reporting suspected child abuse. In addition, many states also protect employees who report abuse from workplace retaliation.

While some states make it relatively easy for employees to sue to enforce their rights, others may require a state agency to take legal action.

One Connecticut school principal learned this lesson the hard way. Under Connecticut law, employers are forbidden from retaliating against an employee who reports suspected child abuse. If they do, the law authorizes the state Attorney General to sue the employer.

So, when principal Carmen Perez-Dickson was demoted and later suspended after reporting two incidents of suspected child abuse, she sued the school board for retaliation. After a trial, the jury awarded her over $2 million.

Unfortunately for the former principal, the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned her verdict. Although Perez-Dickson was correct in principle that she could not legally be fired for reporting abuse, she erred by assuming that she could sue to vindicate her rights. Instead, the Court ruled that only the Connecticut Attorney General was legally authorized to prosecute employers who retaliate against employees for reporting child abuse. [Perez-Dickson v. Bridgeport (CT 2012)]

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Senior Scams

The IRS has issued an alert warning seniors that they are the target of yet another scam.

With April 15th looming, the con artist tells seniors they are entitled to a tax refund or stimulus payment but - as many scams go - in order to get the money they need to pay an upfront fee. Of course, the tax refund or stimulus payment never arrives and the upfront payment is never seen again.

This is a new spin on a list of scams that still work so they bear repeating. One scam that has stood the test of time involves the trickster who claims to be a "grandson" (or "granddaughter"), and who calls grandpa (or grandma) frantically explaining that they've been in an accident, arrested, and need money sent quickly to get out of jail. The phone is handed to the kid's "lawyer," who directs the grandparent to send thousands of dollars via Western Union.

This scam only works when worried elders are so rattled that they suppress their legitimate doubts. Don't fall for it!

Here is a list of the Federal Trade Commission's 10 tips to avoid fraud:
  • Remember, once you wire money, you can't get it back.
  • Don't send money to anyone you don't know.
  • Don't respond to any message - phone call, text or otherwise - that asks for personal of financial information.
  • Don't play foreign lotteries.
  • Don't deposit checks from someone you don't know and then wire money back, no matter how convincing the story.
  • Read monthly bills and statements carefully.
  • After a crisis or disaster, give to established charities.
  • Talk to your doctor before buying health products or signing up for treatments.
  • Know where an offer comes from and who you're dealing with.