This is almost the last in our series examining the post-trial pleadings filed by David Coppedge, the creationist who claims he was wrongfully demoted and later fired by his employer because he was promoting Intelligent Design (ID) on the job. Coppedge used to work as a computer technician for Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is part of Caltech. He also maintains a creationist website:Creation-Evolution Headlines — which was recently moved here.
When the trial ended, the judge told JPL-Caltech to write up a final decision document that rules against Coppedge on all counts, and Coppedge is now objecting to that proposed order. In two recent posts (Part 1 and Part 2) we examined the first five parts of Coppedge’s seven-part Objections to JPL’s Proposed Statement of Decision. Here we’ll look at part six. Part seven and one other pleading are for later. (We had planned to finish up here, but this stuff is just too much to deal with all at once.)
These pleadings are pdf files available at the archive maintained by our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), located here: NCSE’s Coppedge archive. They’re scans of the originals so we can’t cut and paste. Typing excerpts is tedious, and to add to the tedium, we’ve been through this stuff before during the trial, but the case is important because it’s an attempt to establish a creationist’s right to evangelize his co-workers on the job.
Okay, let’s look at Coppedge’s Objection to JPL’s Proposed Statement of Decision, 6. It’s 29 pages long and it starts with paragraph 14 of JPL’s proposed order, which discusses the counseling Coppedge received, and concludes that it wasn’t an “adverse employment action” when Coppedge was warned that if he continued to harass his colleagues and make them uncomfortable, it would limit his employment options. Further, and here the bracketed language was added by us:
The court finds that Chin [a supervisor] had a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for counseling Coppedge as to the potential impact of of his actions, and that Coppedge presented no evidence to suggest this reason is pretextual [a cover for an improper motive].
Coppedge objects to that for three pages, claiming — as he did during the trial — that it was all about Chin’s hostility to intelligent design and other religious issues.
Paragraph 14(c) of the proposed order says that the removal of Coppedge from his position as “Team Lead” wasn’t an adverse employment action because it didn’t affect the terms or conditions of his work, and was justified by Coppedge’s behavior during the administrative appeal process Coppedge had requested, during which he admitted his difficult relationships with his co-workers, but insisted that JPL’s actions were all about hostility to his discussion of intelligent design during work hours.
Coppedge objects to that because he says the wrong people — his accusers — conducted the appeal process. But his biggest objection (at least the longest) is to paragraph 19 of the proposed order, which says:
Of the conduct alleged to be retaliatory by Coppedge, considered individually or collectively, only one constitutes an adverse employment action for purposes of his retaliation claim: his layoff. [Then it cites a case that says:] the determination of whether a particular action or course of conduct rises to the level of actionable conduct should take into account the unique circumstances of the affected employee as well as the workplace context of the claim.
Coppedge objects to that for about ten pages. He says it’s an incomplete statement of the facts and the law. He suffered multiple adverse employment actions. Oh, how he suffered! We’ll summarize: They threatened his job security, they took away his team lead position, they gave him negative job evaluations (but only after he had challenged his demotion), they solicited negative comments about him, they tolerated harassment by other employees, they wrote a false reprimand for his file, they ordered him to stop discussing religion during working hours, they laid him off, they didn’t investigate his complaints properly, they created a hostile work environment, etc., etc. It seems that those Big Science bullies did everything but whip him and urinate on him. Can’t the judge see what really happened?
We’re skipping to page 22, where we come to paragraph 20 of the proposed order, which begins by saying:
Thus, to establish a causal link for purposes of his retaliation claim, Coppedge must show, at minimum, that he engaged in protected conduct that was a motivating factor in his layoff.
Coppedge objects to that for five pages. He was engaged in protected conduct (religious activity) and he was a member of a protected class. He was reprimanded for his perceived religious interest in intelligent design. He was harassed for sharing his intelligent design DVDs with co-workers. He was ordered to keep those views to himself unless invited by others to discuss them. He was told to stop pushing his religious views on others. It must have been a nightmare!
This pleading goes on for a few more pages, but we’ve had enough so this is where we’ll stop. We can’t imagine how the judge will react to this. He sat through the trial and heard all the witnesses. Then he sat through the closing arguments when it was all summarized. Then he waded through the post-trial briefs. And now this stuff, which goes through it all over again. We don’t think he’ll be impressed.
Maybe we’ll get to the last of these pleadings in another post; maybe we won’t. For the moment, we’re all Coppedged out.
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