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NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab Sued for Religious Discrimination, Wrongful Termination

March 14, 2012

In a recent Los Angeles, California wrongful termination and religious discrimination lawsuit that Vincent Howard, Howard Law's managing partner, has been following, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has been sued by a former employee who claims in his lawsuit that he was demoted from his 15-year position as a computer specialist, and then fired after expressing his views to co-workers about intelligent design--a belief that questions the theory of evolution, and whether a higher power played a part in creation.

David Coppedge reportedly worked as a team leader on the Cassini mission for 15 years until he was terminated from his position last year--for alleged religious discrimination, after he engaged in conversations about intelligent design with his colleagues, and handing out DVD's on the topic.

The wrongful termination and religious discrimination lawsuit claims that Coppedge was ostracized by his superiors because they saw his intelligent design beliefs to be religious--as Coppedge was known as a practicing evangelical Christian within the JPL community. Coppedge claims that after expressing his viewpoint on intelligent design, he was harassed, demoted and terminated, whereas other workers at JPL who express their anti-intelligent design viewpoints faced no employment consequences.

According to the California Institute of Technology, (Caltech) the institute responsible for managing JPL for NASA, Coppedge was given a written warning after his co-workers complained that Coppedge was harassing them--a conflict that resulted in his team leader title loss in 2009. Lawyers for Caltech claim that out of 246 JPL employees, only two technicians were let go last year, Coppedge and another technician--due to budget cuts that were planned.

Coppedge began working as a contractor for JPL in 1996 and was hired full-time in 2003. His duties at JPL were to maintain the computer networks and solve technical problems related to the mission. He was named as team leader in 2000, where he served as a go between for the mission's managers and technicians, before his 2009 demotion.

According to an Associated Press report that Vincent Howard has been following, Coppedge is an active participant in the community of intelligent design. He has also written a book on anti-evolution, manages an intelligent design website, and is the board member for a video documentary company producing intelligent design DVD's--the same group responsible for producing the videos that Coppedge distributed to his colleagues.

The trial began this week in Los Angeles Superior Court, and according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, the lawsuit has turned into an argument about whether the court can bar the media in order to protect the privacy rights of the witnesses--and whether the individuals testifying can be questioned about their religious beliefs at the trial.

In Laguna Beach, Santa Ana, and Anaheim, California, contact Vincent Howard to discuss your California labor and employment issues.

JPL trial focuses on access for media, The San Gabriel Valley Tribune, March 13, 2012

Trial to Begin in Intelligent Design Discrimination Lawsuit Against NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, Sacramento Bee, March 5, 2012

NASA faces 'intelligent design' lawsuit, The Associated Press, March 12, 2012

Related Web Resources:

California Department of Industrial Relations, (DIR)

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH)

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