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Los Angeles California Civil Rights Law Blog

Understanding why car accidents happen

Accidents happen quickly. California drivers who are involved in an automobile accident may find themselves wondering what caused the accident. Identifying what was behind an automobile accident is of interest to insurance companies as well as law enforcement agents. Insurance companies are interested in knowing what caused an accident and who was at fault to determine the type of compensation that is due and how much compensation is due. Law enforcement officials are interested in identifying who is legally liable and whether the individual should be issued a ticket.

While there are a number of factors that contribute to an automobile accident, many of them can be put under the umbrella of human error. A perfect example of human error is driving while distracted. Most would agree that there are more gadgets and devices available that can distract the driver than ever before. A number of mobile devices are constantly requiring attention. Many of these devices are designed to connect or interact with the automobile.

Auto maker sued for racial intimidation

A large U.S. auto maker that sells models in California and in many other parts of the world is being sued in federal court for acts of racism at its transmission plant. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio by nine former workers who allege that they were wrongfully terminated and ignored when bringing up civil rights violations. They said that they were repeatedly harassed by their white co-workers throughout their employment at the plant.

One major allegation in the lawsuit was the display of nooses in the plant over a three-month period. The auto maker suspended one employee spotted throwing a noose at a black worker but did nothing more according to the plaintiffs. The workers also allege many other racist activities, including wearing Nazi regalia, using slurs and putting "whites only" signs outside of bathrooms. Plaintiffs claim they have photographic evidence of many of these actions.

Upholding your rights involving those who protect and serve

Most adults believe they know the difference between right and wrong. But when you are in a situation where someone has authority over you, you may not know what you are, or are not, allowed to do. This may be especially true regarding police involvement. Considering allegations of excessive force spread across social media and the news, you may not know whether you have the right to record your traffic stop or how you can protect yourself if things get out of hand.

In California, it is legal to record your interactions with on-duty law enforcement officers (LEOs), as long as doing so does not interfere with their job duties. Though you should be able to trust the police, you may choose to record your interactions. This is one way to protect yourself against possibilities of police misconduct, although new laws also continue working toward that goal.

Sleep deprivation an issue in ride-sharing industry

Ride-sharing drivers in California are often endangering themselves and others by working during extended periods of wakefulness. Drowsy driving, according to estimates from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, contribute to an average of 328,000 car crashes every year in this country. Of those, 109,000 result in injuries and 6,400 in at least one death.

The reasons for sleep deprivation among ride-sharing drivers are several. Many feel compelled by the low fares and salary incentives to work as long as possible. Though ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft require a six-hour break between every 12 and 14 hours of work, respectively, their drivers can circumvent the rule by holding more than one job.

Study looks at retaliation rates for sexual harassment claims

From 2012 to 2016 in California, thousands of sexual harassment claims were filed. Over half of those employees were fired, and more than two-thirds were retaliated against. These were among the findings of a study conducted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst Center for Employment Equity. Nationally, nearly two-thirds of people who filed a complaint about sexual harassment were let go from their jobs within the year. More than two-thirds reported employer retaliation.

The study looked at over 46,000 claims that state agencies and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received during the period in question. It found that 99.8 percent of the approximately 5 million employees who face sexual harassment each year did not file formal charges, and of the formal charges that were filed, only around 1,500 were heard in court. Fewer than one-fourth of employees who filed claims with the EEOC got a payoff, and the average amount received was less than $25,000.

Police powers and civil rights for citizens

In general, police officers have the right to exercise a wide range of powers to carry out their duties. There are, however, limits to the way officers can treat people when attempting to enforce the law. The law that gives victims of misconduct the right to seek justice is known as Section 1983. The statute originally passed shortly after the Civil War in order to stop oppressive conduct against freed slaves from groups like the Ku Klux Klan.

Section 1983 is intended to protect people from police misconduct like false arrest, malicious prosecution and unreasonable force. False arrest is the most common form of accused conduct. The Fourth Amendment provides protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, so officers must have probable cause before arresting someone for a crime like drug possession. If the police violate this due process, the charges may be dismissed.

Police brutality and the power of the badge

While many police officers may uphold a strong moral code, some can get carried away with the authority they have over civilians. More people have been coming forward with stories of police brutality, suggesting that some officers could be abusing the power of their badge for their own benefit.

Last year, two police officers in New York arrested a teenage woman for marijuana possession, only to force her into performing sexual favors. They threatened her with criminal charges, and eventually raped her. This incident sparked a discussion on how some police officers may be targeting young and vulnerable women.

Preparing for the challenges of winter driving

Drivers in California will want to be prepared for the storms and the snowy, icy or wet roads that they encounter during winter. This means ensuring that their vehicles are ready and equipped. The first thing that drivers should do is have a mechanic check the components, such as the battery, brakes and ignition; ensure the right tire pressure; and ensure the right antifreeze levels.

Inside their vehicles, drivers should have fresh antifreeze, a tank of gas and an emergency kit containing things like jumper cables, ice scrapers, tire chains, a first-aid kit and flares or reflective triangles. When stranded in snow, drivers are advised never to push their vehicle out. They should never leave their car but should light flares in front of it and behind it.

How drivers and pedestrians can contribute to safety

In 2016, there were nearly 6,000 pedestrian deaths. This was an increase from 2015, meaning that a pedestrian died in a traffic accident roughly every 90 minutes that year. However, there are several steps that pedestrians in California can take to stay safe and that drivers can follow to keep roads safer for them.

Pedestrians should use sidewalks when they can, and when they cannot, they should walk facing traffic. They should remain alert, behave predictably and avoid getting distracted by devices. If crosswalks are available, they should be used although pedestrians should still look both ways for cars. They should always assume drivers do not see them. It's recommended that pedestrians use intersections if there are no crosswalks and an area where traffic can be clearly seen, or they should at least cross in an area that is well-lit if there is not an intersection. Pedestrians should make an effort to be visible, wearing bright colors and carrying a flashlight at night or wearing reflective clothing. They should also be aware of cars in driveways and parking lots and should avoid using drugs or alcohol.

California employers may cheer if daylight saving time ends

One of the ballot measures California residents voted on when they visited the polls on Nov. 6 determines whether or not the Golden State will continue to observe daylight saving time. Employers dislike daylight saving time because it causes hours to appear and then disappear as clocks are moved forward and then back. This can create a bookkeeping headache for employers and lead them to run afoul of federal and state wage and hour laws.

Workers who are on duty when the nation's clocks move forward will work one hour less than their timecards indicate, and those who are at their posts when daylight saving time ends will appear to have worked one hour longer than they really did. Laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act require companies to pay their nonexempt workers only for the time that they actually put in, which means that either shifts or wages must be adjusted when the clocks change.

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