By Eve Tahmincioglu
Employees have religious rights in the workplace, but wearing your religion on your sleeve at work can be hazardous to your career.
The question of how much religion in the workplace is too much is playing out in a California court this week with a closely watched case involving a former NASA employee.
David Coppedge, a former computer specialist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is claiming he lost his managerial role and then his job because he believes in a higher power. His employer says he was harassing employees but was ultimately let go as part of a round of mass layoffs.
Coppedge admitted in a court filing that he was engaging his co-workers in religious conversation, most notably handing out DVDs on intelligent design, and that he was warned by a supervisor to cut it out because it amounted to “pushing religion,” and that the dialogue was “unwelcome” and “disruptive.”
Despite this, Coppedge is suing his former employer for religious discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination.
This type of religious conflict at work is something we’re seeing more of today, compared to even a few decades ago when the workplace was more homogenous, said Jamie Prenkert, an attorney and associate professor of business law at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business.
There is more diversity in offices and factories, and the labor laws have been bolstered to protect the religious rights of employees, covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Indeed, cases of religious discrimination filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have been on the rise since 1997, reaching 4,151 charges last year.
Employers are required to provide “reasonable accommodation for the religious practices and beliefs of employees” under the law. When it’s not considered an undue hardship for employers by the courts, workers have won battles including everything from not working on certain religious holidays to prayer time to wearing religious garb.
Increasingly, however, workers are pushing the envelope on what they want to do in the name of their religion, Prenkert said, because many individuals are politically and socially emboldened today to “carry their religion into all aspects of their life.”
That desire, however, can create problems at work. “When you bring that together in the workplace with people of varying backgrounds and beliefs that have to work together, it often results in allegations of intolerance that fly both ways,” he said.
It’s tempting to say we should leave religion at the door, Prenkert added, “but that does ignore some people’s deeply held beliefs.”
Clearly, an employer can’t discriminate against an employee based on religion, but that doesn’t mean your boss has to put up with all behaviors associated with your beliefs, especially if they include harassment, said Joanna Friedman an employment attorney with Tully Rinckey in Washington.
When it comes to religion in the workplace, she said, “it’s fine for employees and even supervisors to talk about religious beliefs as long as it’s not done in a manner that’s intimidating or interferes with employment duties or creates a situation where you’re abusing your authority,” she stressed.
It’s unclear if Coppedge stepped over the line.
In his suit, he claims he did not “coerce” or “compel” anyone and that he was singled out because of: “his religious convictions generally, and specifically for his belief in God as the creator of the universe, his support for California’s Proposition 8, which was adopted by voters in November 2008 (striking down the rights of same-sex couples to marry), and his request that JPL’s annual “holiday party” be renamed the “Christmas party,” as it had been called in the past.”
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By Sevil Omer, msnbc.com
Evan Miller and Kuntrell Jackson are lifers, condemned at 14 to spend their lives in prison without the possibility of parole for their involvement in separate murders. Their backers say their sentences are cruel and unusual, leaving them without the second chance the young are so often given. They hope the U.S. Supreme Court agrees.
Next Tuesday, the court will hear arguments in their cases and its ruling could have far-reaching effects. More than 2,200 people nationwide have been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for crimes they committed as juveniles — defined as 17 or younger — according to the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., a civil rights group that represents Miller and Jackson.
The group hopes the companion cases will be another victory for juvenile criminals, who have found some relief before the Supreme Court over the past seven years. In 2005, the court abolished executions for juvenile offenders. Then, two years ago, the court ruled that it is unconstitutional to impose life sentences on juveniles convicted of crimes that do not involve homicide.
Lawyers for Miller, now 23, and Jackson, now 26, contend that juveniles are works in progress and will argue that forensic evidence shows adolescent brains are not fully developed. “Condemning an immature, vulnerable, and not-yet-fully-formed adolescent to life in prison – no matter the crime – is constitutionally a disproportionate punishment,” they say in their petition to the court. The Equal Justice Initiative declined to discuss the case because of the pending hearing.
Kim Taylor-Thompson, a professor of clinical law at the New York University School of Law, has studied juvenile offenders for nearly a decade and agrees with the group. “No one is excusing the fact of what happened,” she said. “What we are saying is: Did these two young men engage in thought processes that would make us say today they’re the type of individuals who can never be rehabilitated, never change and be locked up to never see the light of day?
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Article From http://www.spinner.com
There are too many stories of musicians signing rights away to songs and future royalties, and now a member of ’60s group the Chambers Brothers — best known for their classic ‘Time Has Come Today’ — is taking his plight to the masses via YouTube and Facebook, attracting the support of Yoko Ono.
Earlier this week, a photo began circulating online showing 72-year-old Lester Chambers hiding behind a gold record with a lengthy message beneath it. “I am the former lead singer of a 60’s band,” the letter began, adding the various festivals the group played. “I did not squander my money on drugs or a fancy home. I went from 1967-1994 before I saw my first royalty check. The music giants I recorded with only paid me for seven of my albums. I have never seen a penny in royalties from my other 10 albums I recorded.”
Chambers also said “our hit song” was licensed to over 100 “films, TV & commercials without our permission.” He concluded the message by stating his current economic status, trying to live on $1,200 US a month, with music charity Sweet Relief taking donations for him. Chambers also said only one percent of those in his situation are financially capable of suing for royalties, stating: “I AM THE 99 Percent.”
A video featuring a song co-produced by Chambers was posted Wednesday on YouTube; it expands on the musician’s situation. “America, we have been given a bad cheque, a cheque that has come back labeled insufficient funds,” he says in spoken word on the song ‘Make a Stand.’ “We cannot believe that there are no funds in this money vault of opportunity, in this great nation, this great country that we call America.”
The five-minute video features various images of the Chambers Brothers — one of rock’s first interracial bands — with facts on the band’s history and sales, including the point that six of the band’s albums made Billboard’s Top 200 and six singles were in the Hot 100.
“My foreign royalties from 1977-1999 were $1,300 total for only a few Columbia albums,” a statement in the video reads. “Never received foreign royalties on any of our other products.”
Chambers also says ABC used ‘Time Has Come Today’ for a national ad in 2000 but “Sony insisted we only receive payment from Boston ABC network, so the payment I received for an 8 week national commercial was $625.”
“So even though we face trouble of today and tomorrow I have hope that we will stand up, join hands, unite and make a stand,” says a message that concludes the video.
Chambers’ campaign has struck a chord with many. According to The Examiner, 24 hours after it was posted, Chambers’ Sweet Relief Musicians Fund received close to $10,000 in donations.
“We received an e-mail from Yoko Ono’s office this morning, and they were glad to see that the word was getting out and hoped that Lester’s cause would get more attention now,” Sweet Relief’s executive director Rob Max said. Max also said Chambers’ living conditions as recent as two years ago had him “sleeping on an air mattress” in a house that “was under construction and it had no roof” north of San Francisco. Max also stated that Sweet Relief is not assisting Chambers regarding his royalties dispute but “we wish him all the success, always.”
Although his health condition makes touring quite a challenge, Chambers is taking advantage of the Internet again by playing a concert as Lester Chambers & The Mud Stompers on March 24 which will stream online.
The Chambers Brothers released their final album, ‘Recorded Live in Concert on Mars’ in 1976.