California improves Religious Freedom Regulations to Protect Workers of all Faiths

California improves Religious Freedom Regulations to Protect Workers of all Faiths

A major addition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Title VII inclusion, was designed to make sure that every single American throughout the United States had every opportunity to pursue employment in any industry or field without any worry about their religion stopping them from gaining a new position.

Unfortunately, for one reason or another, this federal law has been eroded away to become almost meaningless with the protections that it was intended to provide. A number of federal judges over the past 40 years have interpreted the law very narrowly, essentially giving employers the opportunity to discriminate at will when that certainly wasn’t the idea behind this inclusion to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at all.

Thankfully though, government leaders and legislators in the state of California have pushed back against these narrow rulings and determinations.

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law the AB 1964 California Religious Freedom Act, a new set of legislation designed specifically to beef up the amount of religious freedom citizens throughout California are supposed to enjoy as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The focus of this legislation has always been to close up a number of the loopholes that have been discovered by lawyers, like Michael Rehm,  and legislators pushing back against religious freedom. The new law, a law that goes into effect immediately in the state of California, seals up those loopholes and is going to prevent a tremendous amount of discrimination that has been happening in workplaces up and down this state.

One of the major aspects of this new legislation is to make sure that employers aren’t able to compel employees to move away from any clothing or grooming standards that may be a part of their religion in an effort to continue working at their position. In the past, employers were able to meet their federal requirements by providing what was described as a “reasonable accommodation” that essentially took these employees from public facing positions in them of the public eye while allowing them to honor their faith with their garb or their grooming standards.

Today, objective evidence of a significant business hardship is now 100% mandatory to deny any religious accommodations whatsoever by employers. This is going to cut back significantly on the amount of employers that were able to use this loophole to discriminate against their employees and it’s going to open up a whole new avenue of religious freedom in California that didn’t exist previously.

According to statistics released by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, more than 500 religious discrimination cases were brought forward against employers in the state of California in just the last year alone.

This legislation is designed to bring those numbers back down, to compel employers to allow their employees to celebrate their religion in any and every way they see fit, and to make sure that no citizen of California feels as though they have to hide their religion or turn their back on their religion just to find and secure gainful employment.

California Governor signs California Religious Freedom Act

California Gov. Jerry Brown Stands Behind Constitutional Rights with Signing of California Religious Freedom Act

On October 15 of 2017, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the California Religious Freedom Act of a bipartisan effort supported by both Republicans and Democrats in the state legislature to uphold the values of the Constitution by celebrating our right to total religious freedom.

The bill, initially authored and put forward by State Sen. Ricardo Lara, had gained a tremendous amount of momentum in the months leading up to this signing, with both political parties reaching across the aisle in firm agreement to make sure that the rights outlined by the U.S. Constitution were being honored in the great state of California.

This new piece of legislature guarantees that California state agencies will no longer be able to share any digital or non-digital data or information with the US federal government that could be leveraged in any way, shape, or form to form a registry of individuals based on information pertaining to religion, originating nation, or ethnicity.

In trying political times, where Democrats and Republicans agree on just about no issues whatsoever, this new piece of legislation was able to garner near unanimous support in the California State Legislature. There were only 2 dissenting votes in total, showing just how serious California is about making sure that their residents are protected and that they can all enjoy and practice a religion of their choice with no fear of reprisals or discrimination.

The author of the bill, Sen. Lara, talked about the importance of being founded on a backbone of religious tolerance and religious freedom.

Our great nation is great because of the content of each individual’s character and not because of their individual religious beliefs. He went on to talk about the importance of respecting our constitutional rights for religious freedom, and how pleased he was that almost everyone in the state legislature was able to come together – over their differences when it comes to politics – and recognize just how special a right this is.

More than 200 different organizations representing dozens and dozens of different religions came forward to support this bill, and the state senators on all sides of the political spectrum heard their voices.

In the future, thanks to this legislation no state/local agency will be able to use any funds, technology, or other resources whatsoever to assist in the formation of any programs designed to track individuals based on their religion as well as a handful of other self-identifying and constitutionally protected factors.

On top of that, all state/local law enforcement agencies are totally banned from recording information regarding individual religious beliefs, except under very specific and extreme circumstances where the information is immediately relevant.

It is important to highlight that the new law does nothing to prevent state and local agencies from putting together aggregate and nonpersonal data about religion, originating nation, or ethnicity or exchanging this non-personally identifying information with local, state, or federal authorities.

New Law Aimed at Revenge Porn in New York

 

 

 

New York City now has a law that criminalizes revenge porn and the offender can potentially be fined a thousand dollars and/or be sent to prison for a maximum period of one year. There is no federal law at the moment that makes revenge porn illegal and effectively considers the offender as a criminal in the eyes of the law. Thirty-eight states across the country and Washington D.C. have laws against different forms of revenge porn and that includes images and videos. The state of New York does not yet have a law as the legislation is pending. But New York City takes the lead in the state with unanimous support for the legislation.

 

Revenge porn has been one of the banes of the information age. It happens unabated throughout the country. According to a report published by Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, one out of every eight internet users in the United States has been a victim of revenge porn. Despite the epidemic scale of the problem, there was no legal statute that could be used against those who made, circulated or facilitated revenge porn. With the new law, offenders in New York City can be punished, fined and imprisoned. Victims can take legal action against anyone who has taken pictures of their naked body, made and shared videos of their sexual activities, circulated nude images or any form of offensive media without their consent.

 

The law is a step in the right direction but there are some loopholes, mostly in the wording of the legislation that leaves plenty of room for defense lawyers to bail out the alleged perpetrators of the crime. For instance, the law states that anyone who has shared or threatened to share pictures or videos of their intimate moments with the intent to cause harm will be held guilty. There is a certain degree of ambiguity as to how the intend to cause harm would be established. Perpetrators can always claim their phones or computers were hacked or that they did not release or share the images and videos intentionally or with the intent to cause harm. There are of course cyber security apparatus in place that can always be used to verify the authenticity of such claims but the loophole exists and not many investigative authorities may be interested in delving into the depths of technicalities to find out how, when and why specific uploads and shares happened.

 

There is also a bit of a gray area in regards to jurisdiction. If a victim of revenge porn lives outside but the perpetrator lives in New York City then the crime can be tried in accordance with the law. However, if a perpetrator doesn’t live in the city, then a victim who may be a resident of New York City would not be able to file a legal case under the same law. The courts will have to decide on the jurisdictional issues here. Some people have complained that the fine amount is too low. Since criminality is harder to prove, most perpetrators may settle for the fine and not many may be deterred with just a thousand dollars penalty.