Archive for the 'Laws' CategoryPage 2 of 27

NFL Domestic Violence Sparks Review of Union Policy

In the wake of a string of instances of alleged domestic violence, it’s clear the NFL has an inconsistent policy for when a player may or may not be disqualified. One player may be suspended for a season, another for several months, another may be suspended for two games, and another may not be suspended at all.

NFL Domestic ViolenceBy contrast, players that have been caught for drinking and driving, or possession of drugs like marijuana, have received specific and occasionally stiffer penalties.

The NFL’s inconsistent response to domestic violence issues hasn’t been very popular among the general public, and understandably so: if a player is suspended for one year due to a legal issue with controlled substances, but a player who is facing domestic violence charges is only suspended for two games, it communicates that domestic violence is inherently less awful than drug abuse offenses.

The NFL and Commissioner Roger Goddell seeks to change the league’s policy on suspension. However, doing so may be problematic. As it stands, the league wields the unilateral power over punishment and appeals.

The biggest hurdle may negotiations with the players unions. For example, policy decisions generally cannot just be made on a whim. The NFL and player’s union has been negotiating for years concerning the leagues drug policies; there is a general concern that similar negotiations may be conducted concerning a new domestic violence policy. This would mean it could be years before an actual policy is in effect.

Which raises one of the biggest questions regarding these unions: what’s the point? When unions were created, they served a purpose of protecting the rights of factory workers and other laborers who may not have had a voice on their own, but found strength in numbers.

These days, and specifically with respect to individuals who are typically making at least six figures, with the prominence of consumer protection and worker’s rights laws, it’s odd to imagine how collective bargaining and unionization protects their rights, as opposed to simply acting as an unnecessary step in an already complicated process.

Is Air Travel Heralding the Future of Inequality in America?

Flying economy class has never been more miserable. Pillows and blankets no longer come with the ticket. Seats are cramped.  Passengers are using devices called “knee defenders” to keep the seat in front of them from reclining. When fights break out, the flights are forced to divert, delaying the trip. What’s the source of all this?

economy class airlineWell, it’s the same reason flights are cheaper today than a few decades ago. As demand for cheaper transportation has gone up, the airlines have supplied that need. Unfortunately, there is a trade off. Cheaper tickets mean that airlines have to sell more tickets. More people means less room and more fighting over reclining chairs.

Of course, it’s not just that there are more people. As the number of economy passengers has gone up, airlines have shrunk the cabin space of those in economy class. But don’t worry, that extra space is being put to good use by business and first class. Leg room isn’t the only perk at the front of the plane. Many airlines are also offering passengers who pay more full entertainment systems, pajamas, Wi-Fi access, and actual food. Some airlines go so far with the perks that they bar economy passengers from using first class toilets.

Do Passengers Have a Right to Space?

I’m not going to argue that first class or business class passengers can’t have these perks or that airlines can’t offer them. A free market system demands that consumers get what they pay for, especially if the public has been demanding cheaper and cheaper flights. However, reducing space for one set of passengers so that another set of passengers can pay extra for more space should be legally dubious at best.

Airlines have a duty to ensure that passengers have a safe trip. This duty includes making sure that passengers don’t throw water at one another or bash each other’s brains open. Now “safe” doesn’t mean “comfortable.” A car could be perfectly safe but be so small that only one person could reasonable fit inside.

However, if the airlines are designing their vehicles so that people feel they have to resort to fists and cuffs for a little space, it is arguable that those airlines have breached their duty to keep passengers safe. Airlines should be held responsible for injuries that passengers suffer, even if the injuries came from other passengers. The design and business model of the airlines are directly contributing to many of these fights. It’s not like the stories of fighting between passengers because there isn’t enough space are new. The New York Times began reporting on this story as early as 2007. There has to be a limit to the number of people that airlines can cram into a small space. Even if you don’t “believe” in class warfare, human safety should always be a concern.

Is Fantasy Football Illegal?

As football season gets underway, so do many “fantasy” leagues. Fantasy leagues allow average, everyday fans to undertake the role of owner and general manager as they draft a team, select a roster, and watch the chaos ensue on game day. As millions of virtual managers watch their virtual team hit the field, specifically those who have paid money or bet on their team, chances are very few stop to ask an important question: Is this legal?

fantasy footballIt may be that most assume it is, or that they are not playing for money. However, if money is involved, this question is vital.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 is legislation that greatly diminished the prevalence of online gambling. However, it also carved out an exception for fantasy sports, provided they meet three requirements:

  1. Prize value is not determined by the number of participants or the value of fees
  2. Winning reflects skill of participants and their knowledge of real-world statistics
  3. Winning is not based on the final score of a real-world game, or the single game performance of a single real-world athlete or team.

Based on these criteria, many traditional fantasy leagues are perfectly legal under federal law.

However, as the popularity of these leagues grows, the variety and type of games also grows: where there are daily, by game payouts, or pay-to-enter “survivor pools” are concerned, the exception laid out above slowly disappears, leaving no federal protection from illegal gambling charges. In fact, any game that is not structured to meet these three requirements may in fact be violating several federal laws.

Moreover, even where fantasy football is legal under federal law, it still faces state review.

Curiously, and unnervingly, while the federal government has, subject to the definition above, deemed fantasy sports games of skill, many states define them as games as “chance.” Moreover, in some states, even if the fantasy football is acknowledged as predominantly a game of skill, it may nonetheless still be illegal if it involves any element of chance.

Even more frustrating are states where fantasy sports have not received much attention at all. For instance, in 1991, Florida’s Attorney General issued an advisory opinion (which means it has little legal authority, but is nonetheless indicative of how the state may treat something) questioning the legality of fantasy sports. Under state law, unless the fantasy sport is a game of “chance” (which would ironically make it illegal under federal law), it is a misdemeanor to wager money on the game. Fortunately, to date, Florida has yet to take any legal action against fantasy leagues or their participants. However, that may cold comfort for those who will continue to play under a constant reminder that what they are doing may one day be taken out of the grey area and deemed to be illegal.

Florida does not stand alone in opposing fantasy sports on the books. Recently, the Kansas Gaming & Racing Commission updated their website, indicating that many types of fantasy sports are most likely illegal. This update may add the Sunflower State to a shortlist where participants are forbidden from participating in the larger, “for cash” online fantasy leagues. Other states include Arizona, Louisiana, Iowa, Montana, and Washington.

As the season unfolds, participants would be wise to brush up on the laws of their state. After all, educating oneself in the legality of fantasy sports is the best way to avoid a reality check later.

Can Crowdfunding Help My Startup Business?

If you’re starting a business, a primary roadblock is probably the issue of raising money. In the old days, fundraising was a tiresome process that involved soliciting potential pools of investors, making cold-calls, and doing whatever it took to attract attention – even if it meant selling mattresses.

crowdfuning for startupsWith crowdfunding, you can now start your own business simply by asking your Facebook friends and other Internet users to make small donations to your business. To encourage donations, you can offer awards or promise a share in the value that the business creates.

The 2012 JOBS Act, which stands for Jump Start of Business Startups, has made crowdfunding more advantageous than ever. The JOBS Act exempts crowdfunding from the strict registration requirements of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1933 of the Securities Exchange Commission.

Now, a potentially limitless number of individuals lacking accreditation can invest their money in your startup!

It is helpful to consider what the Act does:

  1. It imposes limits on how much a crowdfunder can invest and on the amount a startup owner may raise in a year to one-million dollars. This represents a compromise to having no regulation at all.
  2. It imposed disclosure requirements, but otherwise the details were left to the Commission’s administrative rule-making process.  The Commission reserves the right to shape policy in how the rules are applied to crowdfunders.

How Does the Act’s Loosening of Requirements for Crowdfunding Benefit Startups?

The Act now allows the Commission to permit relatively inexperienced investors with modest savings to help support highly risky startups. If you were once a startup that would normally receive large investments, you can now establish yourself with the help of many crowdfunders.

This benefits the market as crowdfunders have greater options to choose from when it comes to supporting small-scale business innovation by startup owners lacking traditional support of high-profile venture capital firms.

Critics of the changes in the law point out that there is a limitation of the amount that crowdfunders can contribute in a twelve-month calendar year. They also point out that the full-disclosure requirement of crowdfunders indicate a distrust of crowdfunding among regulators as a legitimate way for a start-up to raise funds.

Athough the Act may not be perfect, it does allow crowdfunders and startups to work together in a constantly growing and changing marketplace.

Incoming search terms for the article:

Why the Satanists’ Plan to Use Hobby Lobby Exemptions Won’t Work

Many religions believe in some version of “what goes around comes around.” So it seems appropriate that Satanists can demand the same religious liberty exemptions that the Supreme Court recently gave Hobby Lobby.

satanists anti-abortion using hobby lobby exepmtionsThe Satanic Temple has a simple argument. If the Supreme Court believes religious beliefs trump scientific fact, then religious beliefs which are based on scientific fact should also pass muster. Since the Satanic Temple believes that individual liberty is important, informed consent laws violate the Satanist’s religious beliefs because those laws require women to listen to false information before they can obtain an abortion. Of course, the Satanists believes all women who support abortion should be exempt from informed consent laws, so the Temple has drafted a letter that women can present to their doctors when the woman wants an abortion.

The Satanists’ Plan Won’t Work

I appreciate the effort that the Satanic Temple has put into this plan, but the anti-abortion campaign suffers from a number of flaws. First, it’s not that religious beliefs trump scientific fact. Judges do not question the sincerity of the parties’ beliefs, no matter how absurd those beliefs sound. The rule is necessary, even if it seems stupid. Imagine if there was a divorced couple fighting over whether their young child should be baptized. Courts want the attorneys to argue about the rights of the parents and child, not whether baptism will increase ones chances of going to heaven or whether heaven even exists. The last thing we want is judges deciding which beliefs are valid and which beliefs are full of it.

Second, judges won’t exempt women from laws based on religious beliefs the women don’t hold. If a woman seriously wants an exemption based on Satanic beliefs, the woman must hold those beliefs. It would be extremely ironic if Hobby Lobby’s legacy is a mass conversion to Satanism. However, a pregnant woman seeking an abortion might have enough things to worry about without trying to convert to a new religion.

Third, Hobby Lobby extends the right to exercise religion to closely held corporations. Unless a pregnant woman who wants an abortion works for a corporation whose owners belong to the Satanic Temple, the decision won’t exempt individuals. Indeed, there was another Supreme Court in 1990 which held that states didn’t have to accommodate every religious belief. The irony coming from Hobby Lobby is as thick as San Francisco’s fog cover. The Bills of Rights are supposed to be individual rights, but the Supreme Court has twisted the First Amendment such that fictional people have more religious liberty than real individuals. No wonder people are turning to Satanists for help.