Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Diversity Posters OK; Opposition Posters With Anti-Gay Scriptural Verses Are Not


So sayeth the 9th Circuit which upheld summary judgment in a religious discrimination case. Peterson v. Hewlett-Packard Co. (9th Cir. 1/6/04) [pdf]. Earlier this year, in this post I suggested a possible theme in 2004 might be the tension in the workplace caused by those with strong religious opinions. This could be exhibit A. According to the opinion,
The undisputed evidence shows that Hewlett-Packard carefully developed its campaign during a three-day diversity conference at its Boise facility in 1997 and subsequent planning meetings in which numerous employees participated. The campaign’s stated goal —and no evidence suggests that it was pretextual—was to increase tolerance of diversity. Peterson may be correct that the campaign devoted special attention to combating prejudice against homosexuality, but such an emphasis is in no manner unlawful. To the contrary, Hewlett-Packard’s efforts to eradicate discrimination against homosexuals in its workplace were entirely consistent with the goals and objectives of our civil rights statutes generally.
The campaign resulted in posters depicting various employees, with labels such as "old, hispanic, gay" with the label "Diversity is our strength."

Peterson, countered by posting his own scriptural posters:
One of Peterson’s postings was taken from Corinthians 10:12. The other featured the following passage from Isaiah:The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! For they have rewarded evil unto themselves. Isaiah 3:9 ... Subsequently, Peterson posted a third scriptural passage. This time he chose the well-known and highly controversial passage from Leviticus: If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be put upon them. Leviticus 20:13
When he refused to take down his posters unless Hewlett-Packard would remove its diversity posters, he was terminated for violating the anti-harassment policy, which prohibited "Any comments or conduct relating to a person’s race, gender, religion, disability, age, sexual orientation,or ethnic background that fail to respect the dignity and feeling [sic] of the individual are unacceptable."

There was no question, Peterson intended to offend, saying without truth there could be no correction and he hoped the gay and lesbian employees would read the passages, repent and be saved.

Although the Court's discussion on religious discrimination law does not seem to break new ground, it certainly points up yet another battleground for the social divide that is present in the country.


Comments: Post a Comment
Links to this post

An Affiliate of the Law.com Network


From the Law.com Newswire

[about RSS] Law.com Privacy Policy
Google
WWW Jottings