How Employers can Reduce Audit in PERM Filings for Roving, Telecommuting and Traveling Employees

The tech industry is facing many challenges today, notably denials from the Department of Labor (DOL) based on very little understanding of how the industry works. Most large employers in the sector are not the ‘job shops’ that USCIS fears; and DOL is convinced the tech industry is engaged in fraud of some kind, or is somehow interested in recruiting foreign workers when willing and able US workers are available!

US employers in this sector pay a premium in governmental application costs and legal fees because they are unable to find a suitable worker in the advertised job. In fact, most recruiters I speak to would prefer to hire locally rather than internationally.

Both USCIS and DOL target employers who file for an employee with job duties involving roving, telecommuting or travelling; USCIS has recently issued guidance on roving employees placed at client worksites, in the H-1b visa context. DOL continues to audit and issue denials for roving, travelling or telecommuting positions. Current audits require employers to define employees’ positions as either national or regional roving without a residential requirement, or roving with a residential requirement. Additionally, DOL has expressed concern that these jobs may not be bona fide opportunities for the positions advertised at the intended place of hire; and, in the case of roving employees with no fixed ‘intended area of employment’, the location chosen to advertise the job opportunity and the wage may be artificial and misrepresented by the employer.

Where to Advertise for Roving Employees

In the past few years, DOL has audited and denied applications where the residential address of the employee does not match the location of employment. DOL decided that this position was for a telecommuting employee, a benefit the employer did not disclose in the advertisement for the position and therefore not disclosed to an eligible US applicant, but offered to the beneficiary as a benefit. A PERM application can also be denied based on job advertisements in the incorrect Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). The employer advertised the job where the client worksites were located, instead of the MSA where the employer’s headquarters was located.

In Paradigm Infotech, Inc (BALCA, June, 2007), the employer advertised the roving position in Erie, Pennsylvania where the client worksite was located, instead of the company headquarters. To reach the PERM denial, DOL conducted research on the employer. DOL ascertained that the employer’s headquarters was in Columbia, Maryland as confirmed by employer’s tax records and DOL interviews with employees. DOL also performed site visits to the Erie location of the employer’s branch to ascertain that sufficient office space existed, and parking space was available for the number of employees who were supposed to work there, in accordance with employer’s documentation filed with Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA). Based on short term contracts with client companies, inadequate office space at Erie, and payroll records that confirmed that employees worked at different locations, PERM labor certification was denied by DOL and the denial was upheld by BALCA. BALCA reasoned that the employer needed to test the labor market at the place where the alien was working, and since this was a roving employee and that geographical area of the labor market was unknown, the job market to be tested for PERM purposes was located at the employer’s headquarters.

Following Paradigm, employers with large business units away from company headquarters should also advertise at headquarters location. This is confirmed by the Barbara Farmers Memo: ETA Field Memorandum 48-94§10, published by DOL in 1994 and still followed by DOL.

Prevailing Wage Issues

Employers should also file to obtain prevailing wage determinations from DOL in all the intended areas of potential work sites for the foreign worker. Future locations can be determined from itineraries and statement of work signed with the end client.

Employers with International Locations

In August 2012, BALCA upheld that advertisements in the PERM context also include ‘travel requirements’. The employer in M-IL.L.C., filed a PERM for an employee who was required to travel to international locations as part of the job requirement. This fact was listed on the PERM application Form 9089 and the prevailing wage determination, but not listed on the advertisement for the job opening. 20 C.F.R. § 656.17(f)(4) states, “Advertisements placed in newspapers of general circulation or in professional journals before filing the Application for Permanent Employment Certification must… indicate the geographic area of employment with enough specificity to apprise applicants of any travel requirements and where applicants will likely have to reside to perform the job opportunity.” The employer’s advertisements did not include the travel requirement. Denial was based on the fact that travel requirements listed on the PERM application and the prevailing wage determination was not matched by the advertisement for the position.

Conclusion

While we cannot with certainty expect every PERM filing with travel requirements to be audited by DOL, we must certainly file like that is a very real possibility. Any filing with the DOL is subject to audit, even if in the past those very same requirements were certified by DOL. The safest course in our uncertain climate is to match information on the prevailing wage with the PERM form, and the employer’s advertisement requirements for the position advertised.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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Visiting India

India is a very beautiful, colorful place–but like many countries, tourists must apply for a visitor’s visa in order to gain entrance. A foreigner is only granted a tourist visa if he/she does not possess property or a job in India, and whose only goal is recreational: sight-seeing and meeting friends and family.

Apply by Mail

To apply by mail, applicants should fill out and print the application with all the required documents. Send it through a carrier with trackable mail: FedEx, UPS or USPS. Applications sent by mail will take 7-9 business days to process. Once the India Visa Center receives an application, they will notify the applicant of receipt via email and attach an individualized URL that allows the applicant to check on the status of his/her application.

Apply in Person

To apply in person, visit the nearest India Visa Center; bring all required documents and a completed application.

Same Day Visas

Sam day visa applications for US-born US citizens will only be accepted in person by appointment at the India Visa Center. Applicants can choose an appointment time when filling the online application, and will need to pay the application fee in cash or by money order.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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USCIS Creates a New Online Filing System

Today U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) launched the first phase of its Electronic Immigration System, known as USCIS ELIS. The system has been created to enable immigration benefit seekers and legal representatives to create an account to file for benefits online.

Who is eligible to file online?

In this first phase, individuals can establish a USCIS ELIS account and apply online to extend or change their non-immigrant status for certain visa types, or file Form I-539. Eligible individuals include foreign citizens who have traveled to the US temporarily to study, conduct business, receive medical treatment, or visit on vacation. You can use USCIS ELIS to extend your status if you are a B-1, B-2, F-1, M-1 or M-2; change your status if want to become a B-1, B-2, F-1, F-2, J-1, J-2, M-1 or M-2; or reinstate your status if you were a F-1 or M-1.

If you are a student on F-1 visa…

Students on F-1 visa may have a date-specific visa, which means there is a completion date and a start date to their course of study. These students are eligible to file and extend their status on USCIS ELIS.

If you are a student and admitted for duration of status, then you should contact your Designated School Official (DSO) to extend your student status. Your I-94 will give the end date as D/S, in which case you cannot change your status on USCIS ELIS.

If you are a student on an M-1 visa, you cannot change your status to an F-1 visa.

If you want to reinstate status, and you were an F-1 or M-1 visa holder, then both you and your spouse can reinstate status on USCIS ELIS, provided you are not subject to any immigration bars and have not overstayed your visa. In other words, you can only reinstate your status if you meet the F-1 criteria for eligibility status under the applicable sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Why use USCIS ELIS?

According to USCIS, this online account will allow you to interact with USCIS; receive email and text notifications; obtain information in real-time; submit electronic evidence; use a US credit card; be represented by an attorney or accredited representative; be assisted by an online setup assistant; and obtain real-time case status information.

To create an account:
Log onto www.uscis.gov/uscis-elis, enter your email, choose a password, answer personal identity questions, and obtain a secure pin number.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

This blog is not intended as legal advice.

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What to Expect at Your Non-Immigrant Visa Interview

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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What would you do? Examples for I-9 Employers

I recently attended a seminar presented by Ronald Lee, attorney from the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) in St. Louis, Missouri. I thought the examples provided were a useful tool to illustrate why an employer who employs only US citizens should be wary of civil rights violations under Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA).

Henry’s lettuce harvest is not as large as usual–he needs fewer workers this season. He needs to make a choice between Juan and Pedro. Juan is authorized to work and is a permanent resident, or a green card holder; Pedro is also work authorized, but is a refugee with a temporary work permit. Henry ultimately decides to keep Juan because he is a green card holder.

IRCA was the first Federal law that made it illegal to knowingly employ workers who were not authorized to work in the US. After the enactment of IRCA, employers were required to confirm the identity and work eligibility of all employees hired after November 1986, not just workers who appear foreign or those who speak with an accent.

You might think that since your company only hires US workers, your company does not violate I-9. Think again! You are the President of the company with a hiring policy of employing US citizens and not employing anyone who looks foreign. As the President, you and the company are probably engaging in national origin and citizenship status discrimination by requiring all hires to be US citizens.

An aggrieved party can file a complaint with OSC. The complaint form is available at OSC complaints in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Chinese languages.

Employers can call anonymously to ask for guidance in their hiring practices 1-800-255-8155.

Going back to our example–has Henry committed citizenship status discrimination? Pedro is a protected person under the law. A protected person is a US citizen, a green card holder, permanent resident, refugee or asylee. Henry’s firing decision cannot be based on just ‘status’, nor can Henry only hire US citizens.

Why should employers care? OSC imposes huge fines on the employer, including training and reporting mandates imposed on the employer that last between 18 months and 3 years. These are costs an employer does not need in this, or any, economy.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Immigration Attorney

Copyright 2012.  All rights reserved.

This blog is not intended as legal advice, only as illustrations.

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Civil rights under immigration–is there such a thing?

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) introduced employer sanctions for ‘knowingly’ hiring undocumented workers. IRCA also initiated the Form I-9 employment eligibility verification process, and established the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) to administer anti-discrimination provisions. Since the advent of OSC, immigrants and “authorized” workers have had to regularly prove their work status.

Given this legal backdrop, the question for employers is whether it is still possible to discriminate against job seekers. In other words, is preferential hiring based on citizenship status legal? It is only legal if the individual is not work-authorized; if it is required by law, regulation, executive order or government contract; or if the individual requires sponsorship.

On a rainy day, a farmer’s lettuce harvest was less abundant than usual. The farmer, Harry, needed fewer farm workers than last season. He had to make a decision between keeping Hector or Jose. He decided to keep Hector because he was a legal permanent resident, and decided against Jose because he was an asylee with a temporary work permit. Did Harry commit citizenship status discrimination?

Yes, Harry committed citizenship status discrimination because the asylee is a “protected person” under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). A protected individual is a US citizen, US national, permanent resident, temporary resident, refugee or asylee. Harry could not fire Jose based on the fact that he was an asylee with a temporary work permit.

OSC defines national origin discrimination as treating employees differently based on country of origin and/or ancestry, accent, or appearing to be from a certain country. So if Harry (employer) had at least 6 employees under Missouri law, or 4-14 employees under federal law, he could not discriminate against an applicant based on the fact that he looked foreign.

What are some examples of national origin discrimination? Preferring people from a certain country; only hiring “native English speakers”; and not hiring someone with an accent.

CEO Jane had heard of the penalties for hiring unauthorized workers. Wanting to keep her company intact, she issued an order telling HR not to hire anyone who looked like they had crossed the border illegally. Did she commit national origin discrimination? Yes, she did. All hirees are required to be verified the same way regardless of whether they are immigrants or members of a foreign community.

Section 1 of Form I-9 needs to be completed after the employee takes the job, and by the first paid work day. Aliens who are authorized to work are refugees and asylees, who work with no expiry date. These employees can write N/A if he/she has no expiry date. Employees are not obligated to present documents confirming status.

Section 2 of Form I-9 needs to be completed within 3 business days of the first paid day. Employees must submit documents from List A or List B + C.

Some common problems often arise when filling out Section 2. Employers frequently ask non-US citizen workers to provide List A documents but do not ask the same of US citizen workers, while allowing US citizen workers to submit any document they choose. Employers also request non-US citizen workers to present documents from Lists A, B and C, which is against I-9 regulations. The Handbook for Employers and USCIS‘s I-9 website commonly go unreviewed by employers. Because of this, employers often don’t accept certain documents, such as receipts, from non-US citizen workers.

Employers do not need to update or reverify US citizens, permanent resident cards holders (I-551), and List B documents.

Work-authorized individuals are protected from discrimination, while undocumented individuals are not. A few possible outcomes exist if an employer faces discrimination charges by OSC. Charges can be dismissed if OSC cannot find substantial cause; proof that the employer engaged in discrimination; or if OSC has no jurisdiction. If OSC decides that the employer is at fault, then OSC attempts to arrange a settlement; otherwise it will prosecute. If the settlement is rejected, then OSC reserves the right to file a complaint against the employer. The employee may also file his or her own complaint against the employer.

Part of the settlement that OSC may enter into with the employer could include requiring the employer to rehire the individual(s); reimbursement of back pay; providing injunctive relief to the complainant; requiring the employee to provide training to HR personnel; requiring monitoring of these activities; and reporting back to OSC about compliance with the steps required by settlement. The settlement could also mandate civil penalties.

Civil Penalties for citizenship status discrimination, national origin discrimination and retaliation can be high. Penalties for first-time offenders range from $375-$3,200; second-time offenders: $3,200-$6,500, and third-time offenders: $4,300-$16,000. Penalties for document abuse range from $110-$1,100.

A TNC, or a tentative non-confirmation is when there is a tentative non-match between the applicant’s name and Social Security Number (SSN). If a TNC is issued, the employee should be allowed to contact the federal agency and remedy the situation. An employer has eight federal days to contact Social Security, and Social Security can continue the matter for 120 days. In the meantime, the employer cannot terminate; suspend; delay the employee’s job; persuade the employee to quit; decrease the employee’s hours; deny pay; asking for further documentation; or delay employing the applicant. But if the TNC becomes a “final non-confirmation”, then the employer is within rights to fire the employee.

E-Verify cannot be used as an applicant self-check or prescreening by the employer.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Immigration Attorney

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012.  All rights reserved.

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Part VIII: How can employers protect themselves from discrimination?

The Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) has 10 recommended steps that helps employers avoid discrimination in the work place.

1. Treat all people the same when announcing a job, taking applications, interviewing, offering a job, verifying eligibility to work, hiring, and firing.

2. Examine and accept original documents that appear genuine and relate to the employee.

3. Do not demand different or additional documents as long as the documents presented prove identity and work authorization, are listed on the back of Form I-9, and appear genuine.

4. As long as the job applicants are authorized to work in the US, avoid requiring job applicants to have a particular citizenship status unless mandated by law or federal contract.

5. Give out the same job information to all callers, and use the same application form for all applicants.

6. Base all decisions about firing on job performance and/or behavior, not on the appearance, accent, name, or citizenship status of your employees.

7. Complete the I-9 form and keep it on file for at least three years from the date of employment or for one year after the employee leaves the job, whichever is later.

8. On Form I-9, verify that you have seen documents establishing identity and work authorization for all your new employees hired after November 6, 1986.

9. If re-verification of employment eligibility becomes necessary, accept any valid documents your employee chooses to present. For re-verification, employees need only present either a List A document or a List C document.

10. Be aware that US citizenship, or nationality, belongs not only to persons born within the fifty states, but may belong to persons born to a US citizen outside the United States. Persons born in Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, or Swains Island also are US citizens or nationals. Also, an immigrant may become a US citizen by completing the naturalization process.

Yet in 2011, we had nine cases of document abuse and seven cases of improper inquiry about citizenship status.

The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Medical Center committed document abuse when it discriminated against non-US citizen employees by requiring them to produce specific List A documents, but did not ask for the same specific documents from US citizen employees. If a potential employee wrote that he or she was a noncitizen in Section 1 of Form I-9, UCSD Medical Center required them to issue particular List A documents to establish employment authorization. UCSD Medical Center continued the same documentary abuse, asking for specific List A documents, even at the re-verification stage. The employer entered expiry dates of all List A documents and then proceeded to re-verify List A documents that did not need to be re-verified.

The complaints started when a lawful permanent resident employee complained that UCSD Medical Center required her to present an unexpired “green card”, or she would be fired. An inquiry from OSC to UCSD Medical Center confirmed the complaint. From January 2004 to June 2011, UCSD Medical Center required noncitizen new hires to present specific List A documents. UCSD Medical Center misunderstood ‘green card’ for a visa or work permit, and thought this ‘green card’ required re-verification at expiration date. The employer also rejected combinations of List B and C documents if presented by noncitizen new hires; however, if a US citizen new hire presented those very same documents, the employer accepted those documents.

USCD Medical Center was charged with continuing a practice of document abuse according to U.S.C. § 1324b(a)(6), and adopting a “knowingly” and intentionally discriminatory policy toward non-citizens.

In another case, the company Life Generations Healthcare, LLC committed similar discriminatory conduct against its non-US citizen employees: Life Generations required non-US applicants, who were both naturalized and work-authorized, to compile more or different documents than needed on the Form 1-9; the company did not ask the same of native-born US citizens.

The complainant in the case was a work-authorized asylum applicant. When applying for a job, the company’s HR department asked the applicant to present a “green card”. The applicant explained that she did not have a Permanent Resident Card but was authorized to work. The second time the applicant applied for the job, she was asked to present her work authorization papers, or Employment Authorization Document (EAD). With her EAD, she was authorized to work as an asylum applicant. Even though the applicant was qualified for the job, she was told that she would not be employed because her EAD carried a future expiration date.

Between January 1, 2008 and April 12, 2010, the company required all newly hired non-US citizens to produce a List A document during the Form 1-9 Employment Eligibility Verification process because of their citizenship status and/or national origin. During the time the complainant was authorized to work, June 23, 2009-June 22, 2010, Life Generations Healthcare hired five new individuals: one US citizen and four lawful permanent residents. The lawful permanent residents presented a permanent resident card to show work authorization.

Life Generations Healthcare, LLC was found guilty of unfair immigration-related employment practice and in violation of the anti-discrimination provision of the INA, 8 U.S.C. § 1324b(a)(l) and (a)(6).

Citizenship status discrimination refers to employers treating potential employees differently because they may or may not be US citizens, or may or may not be authorized to work in the US. US citizens, recent permanent residents, temporary residents, asylees and refugees are protected from citizenship status discrimination. But there is an exception to the citizenship status discrimination: those permanent residents who do not apply for naturalization within six months of being eligible to apply are not protected from citizenship status discrimination.

Employers seem to be fixated on green cards. From the cases above, the employer’s HR employee asked for a green card during the I-9 employment verification process. In particular, HR was fixated on asking for green cards from non-US citizens even though these employees had produced valid and acceptable documents; HR consistently asked for more documents than required, and refused to accept valid and acceptable documents. This constitutes document abuse.

The result has been that OSC has settled with employers for very costly monetary fines, civil penalties and remediation. In addition, employers have to enter into agreements to undergo training, reporting and monitoring between 18 months to three years. This is an unnecessary expense for the employer. Fines have ranged from $10,000-$115,000.

What is the solution? First, employers should make sure HR personnel understand the laws, especially which documents are required in order to establish identity and work authorization. Second, seek help from an immigration lawyer. Last, use the newest updates and technology to ensure that no mistakes are made.

Next Week: Part IX: Best Practices

Part X: Managing I-9 in Mergers and Acquisitions

Part XI: Correcting I-9

Part XII: Storing/Retaining I-9

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012.  All rights reserved.

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OCI and Renunciation Certificate for Travel to India

A client of mine asked me if they would become dual citizens if they obtained ‘Overseas Citizen of India’ (OCI). Although the word ‘Citizen’ is included in the name, the OCI holder does not become a citizen of India. OCI could be likened to becoming a permanent resident of the United States. There is no eligibility to vote or be elected to public office, nor is there eligibility to be employed by the Government of India or hold an Indian passport. A US ‘green card’ holder can buy agricultural land, but an OCI holder cannot acquire agricultural land in India, unless they inherit the land.

At all times, an OCI holder remains a citizen of the country of their current citizenship. So a US citizen applying for an OCI does not hold dual citizenship; rather, she or he holds a permanent visa to India, with the ability to enter and exit India at anytime. The OCI holder does not have to register with the local police authorities to stay in India past six months. The OCI is a booklet that is carried in addition to your passport; the passport is stamped with a U visa that is a permanent visa. At this time, India does not recognize dual citizenship.

To be eligible for an OCI, the applicant must be eligible to become an Indian citizen on January 26, 1950 or later, was never a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh, or is a child or grandchild of an Indian citizen.

The applicant must renounce Indian citizenship. If Indian citizenship was renounced before June 1, 2010, then the surrender fee is $20.00; $175.00 for renunciation of Indian citizenship past June 1, 2010.

A surrender certificate is required to obtain consular services at the Indian consulate, after receiving OCI, if you obtained non Indian citizenship after May 31st, 2010. If you were not an Indian national before that date, then you do not require renunciation certificate. Contrary to popular myth, you do not need a renunciation certificate to enter India. You need your OCI card, and your passport with your permanent visa ‘U’ visa to India.

A surrender certificate is issued when you surrender an Indian passport to obtain an OCI card. A renunciation certificate is issued when the Indian passport is lost and only Indian citizenship is renounced, no passport surrendered.

Hope this clears up my client’s doubts.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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Civil Unions

Civil unions are usually viewed as a benefit to same sex couples, allowing the parties to legalize their relationship and recognize that they are a couple just like you and me. The Illinois Senate has passed the bill and it has gone up to Governor Pat Quinn for signature. Governor Quinn is scheduled to sign the bill next year. The law could take effect next summer, June 11, 2011. But with this law, Illinois has enacted a law that has widespread effects. The law is called The Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act. The law was enacted because same sex couples were denied marriage benefits, and there was no compelling state interest or rational basis to deny same sex couples these marriage benefits. The bill particularly mentions that the purpose is not to interfere with religious freedom or beliefs about marriage. The bill will apply equally to same and opposite sex partners (something new) who want to enter into a civil marriage or union. Same sex partners will be called ‘spouse’, ‘immediate family’, and ‘dependent’. This is important because it has implications for divorce, probate law and other domestic relations law. So same sex couples can marry, divorce and have standing in court to sue on these actions. They can also inherit under probate law as a civil union spouse, sue for emotional distress, wrongful death, loss of consortium under Illinois tort law. As spouse, they can apply for insurance benefits – health and accident, be eligible for group insurance in employee insurance plans. Under Illinois tax law, they will be eligible as spouses for taxes and tax deductions as spouses and dependents. Marriage, under the Illinois law, is prohibited between siblings, uncle and nephew, aunt and niece. Because same sex couples are treated as ‘spouses’ under the marriage and divorce law of Illinois, they can now share rights to make end of life decisions, nursing home decisions, transfer of property to spouses, and survivor benefits. Under workers’ compensation rules, ‘spouses’ can claim benefits. Did I say there was something different about this bill? Well, heterosexual couples who do not want to marry, can opt for a civil union and enjoy the same benefits as a married couple would do. Why, you ask? Let us say that a couple is interested in a domestic partnership because they face loss of health insurance and other benefits, or seniors who will lose their social security survivor benefits, pension or income if they remarry, then this bill offers a way out. Seniors can also now have the right to make emergency decisions for their ‘spouse’ under this new law. It recognizes the relationship without the concomitant problems of marriage. So it provides straight couples some legal support but no title of marriage. Employers should review their employee benefits, especially health insurance, and family leave benefits and their compliance with applicable labor laws. Couples who opt for civil unions under this law can also make end of life decisions–they do not have to have powers of attorney to end, for example, a vegetative state. Remember the Terry Schaivo case? They also have the right to make funeral home decisions and take charge of the remains. But these protections are offered only at the state level and have no application at the federal level. Tax law, immigration law and a host of other laws will not recognize these relationships as spouses. I guess you could then claim a ‘spouse’ under the new law as a dependent under state law but not federal law. The federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act, recognizes marriage as a union only between a man and a woman. DOMA does not recognize civil unions even if the union is recognized by the state. This is a legal conundrum because the full faith and credit clause of the US Constitution makes it mandatory to recognize the laws of another state in the Union, and accord foreign state laws equal application and status. But same sex unions or marriages are non-existent in federal law. A United States Citizen or legal permanent resident cannot sponsor a same sex partner of foreign citizenship to live with them in the United States as their ‘spouse’. Same sex marriage was banned in California after Proposition 8 was passed. But on August 4, 2010, a federal district court decided that such a ban violated the Equal Protection clause of the US Constitution. The equal protection clause does not guarantee equality among individuals or classes but only that the laws would be applied equally to all. The question remains for us: are some more equal than others? Is the federal government practicing discrimination by the unequal application of laws, or by denying rights to some? Is this a slippery slope we should not venture on?

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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TSA and Other Intrusions on Our Privacy

Yesterday, it was TSA intruding on our privacy with full body scanners and full body pat downs. These searches caused issues for persons with disabilities. TSA officers need more training on how to interact with disabled persons. Tom Sawyer, a retired special education teacher, had a urostomy (artificial bladder) and was embarrassed by TSA officers who ruptured his bag in an over zealous search. Today, air travelers are participating in a boycott of full body x-ray and opting for the full body pat down. The only persons who were affected were their fellow passengers!  The shoe bomber of 2002 and the Christmas day bomber of 2009 taught us not only to fear the dreaded holiday weight gain, but also terrorists who feel the holidays merit their special attention. I’ll take weight gain over being blown up…ha!

The alternative to intrusive scans is racial profiling. Targeting a particular racial group for extra law enforcement attention: Israel has mastered the art. Sometimes air passengers are questioned for 3 hours before a flight. If you are Arab, Israeli or a foreigner flying on El Al, then you are subject to humiliating body searches and in depth interrogation. The Israelis do not find it necessary to question innocent passengers who are 99% of the traveling public. There are no airline terrorist incidents affecting the Israeli airline.

An even greater threat to us is our online privacy. Today, the Wall Street Journal has a front page article about information collection by data mining companies. Two US companies, Kindsight, Inc. and Phorm, Inc, are promoting deep packet inspection as a way of collecting information about you as you surf the net. Their technology reads and analyzes data as it flies across the internet. This is very detailed profiles of internet activities, capable of reading e-mail and sensitive online activity. These services are used by internet advertisers to target consumers with particularized ads tailored and based on developed, detailed internet profiles. How does it work? You are online, sending e-mails, watching online videos, site surfing. The information is collected and sent in data packets from your computer to your internet service provider (ISP). The ISP channels your search to websites. These companies have the capability of reading (inspecting) these data packets traveling between ISPs and the websites you want to visit. Then when you visit the website, you see an ad from a store that you last visited online, or a news story that may be in your interest range. This profiling is possible because these companies know more about your habits, income, assets and debts than you thought possible. They know your age, driving history, your addresses, whether you rent or own, the names of your family members. These details from public websites can be easily obtained by anyone who knows where to look on the internet. The technology is largely driven by the need for more revenue; targeted ads garner more interest and revenue. This is especially true now that ISPs are under greater fire to provide more services at lower prices. When I was researching articles for this blog, I received ads from my favorite stores. Of course, I would be more tempted to click on the ad. That is what these companies want; targeted ads provide larger revenue streams. As I surf the net, I try to use not only Google, but also Bing, Ask and Yahoo for my searches. Use some of the lesser known search engines. Opt out of privacy announcements. I now read every online agreement before I agree. As with everything internet, buyer beware.

See you in my next post.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2010.  All rights reserved.

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