April 25 roundup

“Chalking tires constitutes unreasonable search, 6th Circuit rules”

“Parking enforcement officers in Saginaw, Michigan, who use chalk to mark the tires of cars to track how long they have been parked are violating the constitution, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.” [Amanda Robert, ABA Journal] In particular, the court found that chalking was a trespass and a search meant to obtain information that was not reasonable under a probable-cause or community-caretaker standard, nor under an exception allowing orderly regulation of road traffic, since in the court’s view it was aimed primarily at obtaining revenue rather than mitigating public hazard. Orin Kerr has more analysis at Volokh Conspiracy.

Does existing law ban workplace bias against gays? SCOTUS will decide

My new post at Cato covers the Supreme Court’s decision to resolve three cases in which it is argued that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act bans private workplace discrimination against gay and transgender employees. I cite a 2017 Seventh Circuit showdown on the question between Judges Richard Posner and Diane Sykes: “These philosophical divides on statutory interpretation — which of course play out every term in lower-profile cases — are likely to be on the Court’s mind next fall.” More: Jared Odessky, On Labor (rounding up commentary).

Viral near-kidnapping tales

Fueling moral panic and safety-first policies, the regularly circulated viral accounts of near-kidnapping at shopping centers and supermarkets are curiously stylized: “Inevitably, the mom congratulates herself on having had the wherewithal to figure out what was going on just in time, and bravely thwart the heinous crime by, uh, staring the guys down.” [Lenore Skenazy]

Discrimination law roundup

  • Internal Google pay study “found, to the surprise of just about everyone, that men were paid less money than women for doing similar work.” [Daisuke Wakabayashi, New York Times] “What the Data Say About Equal Pay Day” [Chelsea Follett, Cato; Hans Bader]
  • Otherwise routine on-the-job injuries can have dire consequences for those suffering hemophilia, and a manufacturing company learns its “insurance costs could spike” as a result if it employs three hemophiliac brothers. Don’t think you can turn them away for a reason like that, says EEOC [commission press release on ADA settlement with Signature Industrial Services, LLC involving $135,000 payment and “other significant relief”]
  • Multnomah County (Portland), Oregon to pay $100,000 settlement to black worker who says she was retaliated against after complaining about “Blue Lives Matter” flag [Aimee Green, Oregonian; Blair Stenvick, Portland Mercury]
  • “The social justice madness of college campuses is now seeping into HR departments of large employers. The result is the rise of the woke corporation, and it might affect the way you work” [Toby Young, Spectator (U.K.)]
  • “The FDNY’s diversity monitor has cost the city $23 million in 7 years” [Susan Edelman, New York Post]
  • Before taking an exam required of federal employees in Canada, best to study up on intersectionality theory [Josh DeHaas on Twitter, GBA+, Tristin Hopper/National Post]

Maryland toughens “cyber-bullying” law yet further

“We’re not interested in charging children or putting them in jail or fining them,” says a campaigner for Maryland’s “cyber-bullying” law, “Grace’s Law 2.0,” which is drafted to do exactly those things. “What we want to do is change the behavior so the internet is more kind,” says the same campaigner regarding the new law, which would encourage online users to turn each other in for potential 10-year prison terms over single instances of certain kinds of malicious, abusive speech, and is being billed as going farther than any other law in the country, as well as farther than the earlier Maryland law passed in 2013.

Bruce DePuyt at Maryland Matters reports that Senate Judiciary Chair Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore County):

said the 2013 law required that abusive comments be sent to the individual and be part of a pattern of conduct. With the rise of social media, that proved to be too high a hurdle, he said.

Under the new law, “a single significant act can land you in trouble,” he told reporters.

Due credit to the ACLU of Maryland, which called out this dangerous venture in speech regulation:

Toni Holness, the group’s public policy director, said in February that the bill fails to adequately define what constitutes a “true threat.”

Holness also was concerned about other words in the bill that had not been defined: encourage, provoke, sexual information, intimidating, tormenting.

“There’s way too much prosecutorial discretion in these terms that are not defined,” she said.

I criticized the bill in February and noted language from Zirkin suggesting that the Court of Appeals, as distinct from the legislature, would sort out its constitutionality. Before that, I criticized the 2015 law as itself going too far (more). DePuyt reports that Zirkin may approach U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) about introducing a similar bill on the federal level. Let’s hope Raskin says no to that bad idea. [cross-posted from Free State Notes; see also earlier]

Related: an Ohio student has been arrested and faces expulsion over a Twitter account on which he made vicious comments about female classmates; whatever view the law takes of the prospective expulsion of 18-year-old Mehros Nassersharifi by Perrysburg High School, his arrest, on charges of telecommunications harassment, may overstep the First Amendment [NBC24, Hans Bader, Eugene Volokh (reworded to reflect fuller accounts which make clear that the student’s offensive speech went further than simply “rating” of classmates)]

Liability roundup