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Supreme Court Weighs Who’s The Boss

The Supreme Court justices struggled with the issue of who qualifies as a supervisor in the workplace, an important question when employees sue and claim that they were victims of harassment based on their race or sex. Is a supervisor a high-level boss with the power to hire and fire workers, or can a supervisor also be a mid-level employee who oversees the daily work of several others? Federal civil rights law makes it illegal for employers, acting through their agents — essentially, supervisors — to discriminate against employees because of their race, religion, sex or age. But judges have been split on whether mid-level employees count as supervisors if they subject other workers to on-the-job harassment. The justices heard the case of Maetta Vance, a black food-service worker at Ball State University in Indiana who claimed that Saundra Davis, a white woman who served as a catering specialist, had slapped her and referred to her as “Sambo” and “Buckwheat.”  Vance sued the university for racial harassment, but lost before a federal judge and the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. The appeals court opinion by Judge Diane Wood said the catering specialist was not Vance’s supervisor because she had no power to fire, demote or discipline her.

Ericsson Sues Samsung For Patent Infringement

Ericsson, the world’s biggest telecom network equipment maker, said it was suing Samsung Electronics Co for patent infringement after two years of talks failed to yield a license agreement, Reuters reports. Sweden’s Ericsson, which reckons more than 40 percent of the world’s mobile traffic passes through its networks, filed a lawsuit in the United States saying Samsung had refused to sign a license to use technology on terms it referred to as fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND).  Ericsson has over 30,000 patents and more than 100 license agreements with major players in the industry. A surge in smartphone and tablet computer sales has driven a switch in traffic on telecoms networks from mainly voice calls to video and music, which take up more capacity. But although data traffic is surging – smartphone subscriptions alone are expected to rise to 3.3 billion by 2018 according to Ericsson’s own figures – operators are finding it hard to get customers to pay much extra, squeezing their profits.

Delta, KLM Sued For Death Of Obese Woman Denied Flight

The husband of an obese woman who was turned away from flying because of her weight is suing two airlines for causing her untimely death. Janos Soltesz and his wife Vilma, a 56-year-old diabetic with kidney disease, took their annual trip to their native Hungary in September 2012. The couple, who lived in the Bronx, were scheduled to return to New York on Oct. 15 — but both Delta and KLM airlines refused to let Vilma fly because of her 425-pound size. Their attorney, Peter Ronai, said Vilma and Janos waited five hours in the airport before she was told she would have to travel to Prague to catch a flight she could travel on. Once she boarded a plane in Prague, the captain told her she was too fat and kicked her off the plane. Rescheduling her flight took nine days, which delayed the necessary medical treatment she needed. They found a flight that could take her to New York from Vienna, but she passed away in the bathroom while her husband finalized that arrangements.

NYC Amassing Trove Of Cellphone Logs

The NYPD has quietly amassed a trove of telephone logs, all obtained without a court order, that could conceivably be used for any investigative purpose, according to the New York Times. The call records from the stolen cellphones are integrated into a database known as the Enterprise Case Management System, according to Police Department documents from the detective bureau. Each phone number is hyperlinked, enabling detectives to cross-reference it against phone numbers in other files. The subpoenas not only cover the records of the thief’s calls, but also encompass calls to and from the victim on the day of the theft. In some cases the records can include calls made to and from a victim’s new cellphone, if the stolen phone’s number has been transferred, three detectives said in interviews. Police officials declined to say how many phone records are contained in the database, or how often they might have led to arrests. But police documents suggest that thousands of subpoenas have been issued each year, with each encompassing anywhere from dozens to hundreds of phone calls.

FDA Halts Company’s Peanut Butter Operations 

The Food and Drug Administration halted operations of the country’s largest organic peanut butter processor Monday, cracking down on salmonella poisoning for the first time with the new enforcement authority the agency gained in a 2011 food safety law, reports USA Today. FDA officials found salmonella all over Sunland Inc.’s New Mexico processing plant after 41 people in 20 states, most of them children, were sickened by peanut butter manufactured at the Sunland plant and sold at Trader Joe’s grocery chain. The FDA suspended Sunland’s registration Monday, preventing the company from producing or distributing any food.  The food safety law gave the FDA authority to suspend a company’s registration when food manufactured or held there has a “reasonable probability” of causing serious health problems or death. Before the food safety law was enacted early last year, the FDA would have had to go to court to suspend a company’s registration. Sunland Inc. recalled hundreds of organic and non-organic nuts and nut butters manufactured since 2010 after Trader Joe’s Valencia Creamy Peanut Butter was linked to the salmonella illnesses in September.

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