San Francisco, CA

Innocents claim 9/11 discrimination

November 13, 2002
U.S. authorities responded quickly and vigorously to the post-September 11 backlash against Arabs and Muslims, but they should have been better prepared for such violence, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.
      After the terrorist attacks, a wave of hate crimes against people perceived to be Arab and Muslim swept the nation. The violence, which included murder, beatings, arson, vandalism and death threats, was especially pronounced in the months just after the attacks.
      "Government was great reacting" to the hate crimes, said Amardeep Singh, U.S. program researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. "Once the backlash occurred, people went into action. We want to move the government to the point where they're proactive in dealing with the issue."

HUD sues San Francisco HA for apathy about bias

September 19, 2002
The federal government sued the city's public housing authority Wednesday, alleging it has been indifferent to claims of racial harassment.
     The suit, filed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, claims the San Francisco Housing Authority tolerated harassment of residents on the basis of race, color, religion and national origin.
     Gregg Fortner, the housing authority's executive director, denied the allegations.

Harassed gay student wins $451,000

August 28, 2002
When he was in high school, Derek Henkle says, he was beat up by his classmates,insulted by the principal, and once was lassoed around the neck in a schoolparking lot, just because he was gay.
      He tried changing schools twice. Then he sued.
      Late Tuesday, his school district in Reno, Nev., agreedto a $451,000 settlement, as well as new policies to protect gay and lesbianstudents, formally recognizing that students have a constitutional right to beopen about their sexual orientation.

Judge rejects S.F. man's support pit bull

August 09, 2002
Ever since Guy Lowe rescued Sophie from the pound where she was about to be euthanized, the dog has been the balm of his life. She gets him out of his San Francisco apartment, takes him to the park each day and helps him fend off depression from his diagnosis of AIDS.
     One other detail: Sophie is a pit bull. That was enough for a federal judge to grant the landlords' request to move her out.
     "It was unreasonable to have selected a pit bull rather than a dog of gentler reputation" as a companion dog, U.S. District Judge William Alsup said Wednesday. He cited expert testimony that pit bulls killed or injured more people in the United States than any other breed except rottweilers.
     Lowe said Thursday the judge had bought into stereotypes. 

Pledge ruling reversal expected

June 27, 2002
A federal appeals court panel drew outrage from across the political spectrum by ruling that it is unconstitutional for schoolchildren to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, but the decision may not last long.
     Some legal scholars say the ruling, which takes issues with the phrase "one nation under God," will likely either be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court or reversed by the full 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
     "I would bet an awful lot on that," said Harvard University scholar Laurence Tribe.
     Wednesday's 2-1 ruling was in response to an atheist's bid to keep his second-grade daughter from being exposed to religion in school.
     Circuit Judge Alfred T. Goodwin said leading schoolchildren in a pledge that says the United States is "one nation under God" is as objectionable as making them say "we are a nation 'under Jesus,' a nation 'under Vishnu,' a nation 'under Zeus,' or a nation 'under no god,' because none of these professions can be neutral with respect to religion."
     The decision was met with widespread criticism. 

Calif. readies for race initiative

June 26, 2002
California counties have certified only 25 percent of the signatures needed by Thursday to put an initiative on the ballot that would bar the state from classifying residents by race, officials said Wednesday.
     "There is just no way that we're going to get the full count by tomorrow," said Ward Connerly, the University of California regent who has championed the proposal. He said the initiative would likely be postponed until 2004. 

Court: Age can decide benefits

June 25, 2002
Employers may give older workers fewer benefits than younger ones, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday, siding with a company that refused to pay for a master's degree for a 56-year-old.
     The high court has said older workers cannot be discriminated against when it comes to hiring and firing, or from being demoted or suspended. But the court found that state law allows employers to consider age when parceling out benefits.
     The case concerns Dan Esberg, a former Union Oil Co. telecommunications specialist. After working for the company for 14 years, Esberg decided to get a master's degree. He said the company paid for graduate education for younger workers, but told him he was too old to invest in.
     An Orange County jury sided with Esberg, now 64, and awarded him $86,000 in damages. The high court's decision reverses that award. 

Calif. court backs religious groups

May 17, 2002
Religious groups have some control over religious speech in their workplaces, the California Supreme Court ruled, backing a Catholic medical center's decision to fire a clerk who preached born-again Christian views.
      The unanimous court ruled Thursday that First Amendment rights were superseded by state and federal laws granting religious organizations some latitude to choose employees in furtherance of their religious mission.
      Restricting that control "could excessively entangle the courts in determining what kind of religious speech is appropriate in a religious organization's workplace," Justice Carlos Moreno wrote.

Jazzercise settles weight bias suit

May 08, 2002
Jazzercise Inc. says it will no longer require instructors to look trim and fit, settling a woman's complaint that she was refused a job because she weighed 240 pounds.
      The change in company policy, based on a settlement with the San Francisco woman and mediated by the city's Human Rights Commission, was announced Monday.
      Jennifer Portnick, 38, complained that San Diego-based Jazzercise refused to hire as an exercise-class instructor her because her build 5-foot-8, 240 pounds would give students the impression she was not in shape.

Poll: Calif. race initiative favored

May 01, 2002
A proposed ballot initiative that would bar the state from classifying people by race is backed by nearly half of California voters, but most also say they don't know much about it, a new poll says.
      Conservatives champion the "Racial Privacy Initiative" as a step toward a colorblind society. Liberals blast it as an attempt to undermine anti-discrimination laws.
      It would ban state and local governments from recording race on everything from high school dropout rates to whether a city's police force is as diverse as its population.

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