ASSEMBLY OKS MEASURE TO ADD MORE PROTECTIONS FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The state Assembly has approved a bill that would add more protections for religious freedom in the workplace, specifying that California discrimination laws also should apply to religious clothing, hairstyles and the right to carry religious objects.
The bill's author, Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, said she was upset to learn that Sikh and Muslim workers continue to face discrimination at work despite laws prohibiting it.
AB1964, which passed Tuesday on a 59-3 vote, also clarifies that segregating an employee from other workers or the public because of their appearance is not an acceptable accommodation under the law.
"This bill is a little bit like the Rosa Parks issue of the 21st century for me," Yamada said. "To know that there are Sikhs and Muslims relegated to the back of the store in order to continue their employment is particularly heinous."
Some lawmakers noted that the law could save the state from costly legal cases, such as a lawsuit the Department of Corrections settled last year with a Sikh man who was barred from becoming a prison guard because he refused to shave the beard required by his Sikh religion so he could be fitted for a gas mask.
The state agreed to pay the man $295,000 in damages and give him a managerial job.
Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, said she was concerned the changes could endanger employees and their coworkers, such as if oilfield workers were unable to don respirators in the event of a gas leak.
Assemblyman Donald Wagner, R-Irvine, an attorney, said he has represented an employee who was terminated for wearing a head scarf.
"The federal law doesn't go far enough to accommodate the issues that are important in the modern workforce," said Wagner, who supported the bill.
The legislation now moves to the state Senate.
— Associated Press
10,000 SIGNATURES GATHERED IN FIGHTOVER NEBRASKA ANTI-BIAS ORDINANCE
LINCOLN, Neb. — A petition drive to force a vote on Lincoln's anti-discrimination rule for gay and transgendered people has garnered more than 10,000 signatures, four times the number needed to place the issue on the ballot, organizers said.
Family First and the Nebraska Family Council announced Tuesday that they submitted 10,092 signatures before the filing deadline. Roughly 2,500 signatures were needed from registered voters in Lincoln.
City officials in Lincoln, the state's second-largest city, have said they'll need one to two weeks to verify signatures.
The groups tapped a network of 310 volunteer petition circulators in the days after a vote by the Lincoln City Council.
Approved earlier this month, the city ordinance adds sexual orientation and gender preference to a list of factors that are legally protected against discrimination for matters that involve housing, employment and public accommodations.
The city's charter requires the council to either repeal the ordinance — which appears unlikely, given the 5-0 vote to enact it — or place the issue to a referendum that would let Lincoln voters decide whether it should go in to effect.
The vote could take place in a special election called by the city or in November's general election.
When the city council approved the measure on May 14, two members abstained. City spokeswoman Diane Gonzalez said officials were "still looking at all the options" and would release more details at a news conference Thursday.
- Defending the Faith: A case for the...
- Muslim leaders in U.S. facing challenges...
- Supreme Court to weigh in on legislative prayers
- Community of Christ recommends marriage,...
- New Harmony: Freshen, don't destroy, the old...
- Baby boomers turn to religious careers after...
- Pope Francis leads pep rally at Vatican,...
- Kerry: US, allies, ready to step up aid rebels