Wednesday, December 30, 2020

U.S. Army National Guard Reservist Wins Case of Employment Discrimination Against Jeweler Harry Winston


Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
Wednesday, December 30, 2020
Justice Department Secures Relief for U.S. Army National Guard Reservist on Employment Discrimination Claim Against Luxury Jeweler Harry Winston
The Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas announced today that they resolved a claim that luxury jeweler Harry Winston Inc. violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) by refusing to offer full-time employment to U.S. Army National Guard Reservist John A. Walker because of his military service obligations.
“Discrimination against members of the National Guard or Reserve because of their service to our country is intolerable, violates the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, and the Department of Justice will not stand for it,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric S. Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “We honor all service members for their service to our nation, and this settlement signals the Justice Department’s ongoing commitment in protecting the rights of our men and women in uniform.”
“Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines fight for us. Fighting for their legal rights is the least we can do,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick for the Southern District of Texas. “All service members, including members of the National Guard and Reserve, need to know that employers cannot discriminate against them based on their military service obligations. This settlement sends a strong message to employers that the U.S. Attorney’s Office will protect the rights of our service members.”
In December 2017, reservist Walker applied for a job with Harry Winston, Inc., which denied his application. Walker alleged that Harry Winston, Inc. refused to hire him because of his military service obligations. Under the terms of the settlement, Harry Winston, Inc. has agreed to fully compensate Walker for his back-pay and non-wage damages.
Congress enacted USERRA to encourage non-career service in the uniformed services by reducing employment disadvantages; to minimize the disruption to the lives of persons performing military service, their employers and others by providing for the prompt reemployment of such persons upon their completion of such service; and to prohibit discrimination against persons because of their service in the uniformed services or if they pursue a claim under USERRA.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) referred this matter following an investigation by their Veterans’ Employment and Training ServiceTraining Service. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas and the Employment Litigation Section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division handled the case and work collaboratively with the DOL to protect the jobs and benefits of military members.
This investigation was led by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Keith Edward Wyatt and Annalisa Cravens and Paralegal Specialist Raymond Babauta of the Southern District of Texas, along with Assistant Director Andrew Braniff of the Department of Justice’s Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative and Senior Trial Attorney Alicia Johnson of the Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section.
Servicemembers Initiative
Civil Rights
Civil Rights Division
Civil Rights - Employment Litigation Section
USAO - Texas, Southern
Press Release Number:

Sunday, December 27, 2020

COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Chain Threatened By Cyber Attackers


Cyber Attackers Threaten COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Chain

Jason G. Weiss, Peter Baldwin, Faegre Drinker, December 8, 2020

As COVID-19 vaccine approvals and eventual distribution kicks into high gear, there has been a corresponding – and not particularly surprising – increase in cyber threat activity targeting both vaccine producers and other companies involved in the vaccine distribution chain. Most notably, “cold chain” companies responsible for safely storing and transporting the vaccines have been targeted. The problem has become so severe that both the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department ofHomeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recently issued a joint security alert on December 3, 2020, highlighting the risk to the coronavirus vaccine distribution chain.

The alert from the FBI and CISA follows on the heels of an international security alert issued by Interpol warning that there may be an onslaught of all types of criminal activity linked to the COVID-19 vaccine by organized crime. On December 2, 2020, Interpol issued an “Orange Notice” outlining   potential criminal activity against COVID-19 cold chain transporters and highlighting the risks associated with online fraud linked to “advertising, selling and administering fake vaccines.”  Interpol warned that, as COVID-19 vaccines get closer to approval and distribution, it will be critical to “ensure the safety of the supply chain and identifying illicit websites and fake products.” Interpol also advised member nations to warn the public about cyber threats associated with websites purporting to offer information about vaccines. Notably, Interpol found that, after reviewing over 3,000 websites of online pharmacies suspected of selling illicit medicines and medical devices, “around 1,700 contained cyber threats, especially phishing and spamming malware.”

The threat alert released by the FBI and CISA   included information provided by the IBM Security X-Force threat intelligence task force, which is dedicated to monitoring COVID-19 cyber threats. For example, the IBM intelligence report highlighted a recent global phishing campaign targeting organizations associated with the COVID-19 vaccine distribution chain, which targeted many leading COVID-19 vaccine producers. As part of this campaign, cyber threat actors sent spear-phishing emails directly to executives involved in sales, procurement, IT, and finance positions at pharmaceutical companies involved in developing vaccines. In addition, the cyber threat actors sent phishing emails in “Requests for Quotations” to COVID-19 vaccine executives throughout the world. The emails contained malicious HTML attachments in order to conduct “credential harvesting” attacks and steal login and passwords for many of the victim’s accounts.

The IBM security intelligence report recommends the following defenses to help combat cyber threats against the COVID-19 distribution chain:

·         Create and test incident response plans

·         Share and ingest threat intelligence

·         Assess your third party ecosystem and assess potential risks

·         Apply a zero-trust approach to your security strategy

·         Use multifactor authentication (MFA) across your organization

·         Conduct regular email security educational training

·         Use Endpoint Protection and Response

Given the proliferation of cyber-attacks against vaccine producers and the COVID-19 vaccine distribution chain, organizations involved in vaccine development or distribution should carefully review and study the recent threat alert from the FBI and CISA. Finally, in these turbulent times, it is critical that everyone remain vigilant of the threats surrounding the entire COVID-19 vaccine distribution chain.

© 2020 Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. All Rights Reserved.

Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure

Two Federal Courts Uphold Coronavirus-Related Restrictions on Abortion Clinics


Federal Courts Uphold Texas, Arkansas Abortion Orders AmidCOVID-19

Two federal circuit courts this week upheld coronavirus-related restrictions on abortion clinics in Texas and Arkansas, offering some legal victories in the larger national debate over whether abortion is an essential medical procedure.

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that Federal District Judge Kristine Baker in Little Rock, Arkansas, erred in granting a preliminary injunction against Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s order prohibiting surgical abortions during the pandemic. The Arkansas victory will be of short effect, however, as the state prepares to open up for elective medical procedures next week.

Meanwhile, a U.S. Fifth Circuit panel, in a 2-1 ruling Monday, allows Texas to restrict medication abortions during the crisis. A week ago, the Fifth Circuit ruled that Texas could prohibit surgical abortions because of public health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, turning back a lower court ruling, while delaying a ruling on medication abortions.

In Arkansas, questions quickly swirled Wednesday as Gov. Hutchinson, feeling pressure from hospitals and medical practices trying to avoid layoffs, announced the state would seek to open up for elective medical procedures as early as Monday, provided certain public health requirements are met. One of those requirements is that medical patients be tested for coronavirus 48 hours in advance of being treated for an elective procedure.

Jerry Cox, president of Little Rock-based Family Council, says although the federal court ruling victory will only be effective until Monday, the governor’s order on the Little Rock Family Planning Clinic, the state’s only surgical abortion provider, and the subsequent ruling plowed some important ground for future cases. Planned Parenthood had joined with the clinic to challenge the governor’s order.

“The ruling by the Eighth Circuit yesterday was a huge pro-life victory,” Cox said, “and here’s why: It allowed the governor’s cease and desist order to stand, which means the clinic had to stop doing surgical abortions; and two, they severely slapped the hand of a federal judge here in Little Rock named Kristine Baker, and she has been very prone to rule in a pro-choice direction. … I think the court is sending a very strong message to her that she is out of bounds.” Baker was an Obama appointee.

Cox also mentioned that a group of pro-life legislators visited the Little Rock abortion clinic after the governor’s order and prayed as a group outside, which he said was unprecedented and drew significant attention to the clinic. “The exposing of evil that has been done has been a huge benefit,” Cox said. “The clinic may get back to business as usual, but they have lost big-time in the court of public opinion.”

In Texas, meanwhile, the Fifth Circuit’s ruling vindicates pro-life GOP Gov. Greg Abbott’s contention that abortions, whether medication abortions or surgical abortions, don’t rise to the level of a medically necessary procedure.

Trump appointee Kyle Duncan cast the deciding vote in the 2-1 decision, something abortion proponents were quick to note.

The court agreed with the state that a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) was a valid reason to disallow abortion procedures, even those using medication methods. The judges opined that abortion proponents had failed to show that PPE wouldn’t be necessary to at least examine women seeking medication abortions.

Conservative group Texas Values reports that because of Abbott’s executive order, “an estimated 1,800 babies’ lives at least have been saved from abortion to date. On average, abortionists perform 144 abortions per day in Texas.”

Photo: Rex Wholster/Alamy Stock Photo

Betsy Combier,
Editor, ADVOCATZ Blog
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials