Are California's Laws Prohibiting Workplace Religious Discrimination Enough?

Despite a 2012 California law prohibiting religious discrimination in the workplace, many Muslims described instances of a hostile work environment because of their faith. This photo appears in CAIR's report. | Photo: CAIR

A young Muslim woman applies for a position at a beauty supply store without wearing her hijab. Once she's hired, she starts her first day of work with the headscarf covering her hair.

"Take the hijab off or go home," the woman's supervisor says, in front customers and coworkers.

After explaining her religious beliefs and the significance of hijab to her manager -- an expression of devotion to God and symbol of modesty and privacy expressed through religious dress that is not unique to Islam -- she is still sent home. While she is allowed to keep her job and continue wearing her hijab, the young woman sees a cut in work hours, and is assigned to work in the back of the shop.

This is just one of the examples of workplace discrimination Muslims face, as listed in the Council on American-Islamic Relations' newest report on Muslim civil rights in California. CAIR's California offices received 933 complaints from the American Muslim community last year. The organization's Los Angeles branch received 444 complaints, the highest of all CAIR California offices.

Despite a 2012 California law prohibiting religious discrimination in the workplace, many Muslims described instances of a hostile work environment, alleging harassment about terrorism, politics or religion, retaliation and wrongful termination, and failure to accommodate religious practices, such as wearing hijab, growing facial hair or taking prayer breaks during the day. Employment discrimination composed the highest number of complaints in the report, at 15 percent.

What's Up With California's Early Warning System?

Growing concerns over last month's 6.0 earthquake in Napa has once again prompted a discussion about an early warning system in California and on the West Coast. While other countries like Mexico and Japan have implemented such systems, the U.S. has not. Here's an overview of a few efforts that would benefit California.

ShakeAlert
In 2007, a coalition of researchers and engineers created a prototype for a statewide earthquake early warning system called the California Integrated Seismic Network ShakeAlert. The system contains algorithms that are able to detect potential earthquakes, including the magnitude, and location seconds before it hits.

Thomas Heaton, a professor of Engineering Seismology and director of the Earthquake Engineering Research Laboratory at Caltech, is part of a team at ShakeAlert working to make a statewide early warning system a reality for Californians.

'Six Californias' Was Just One of Many Attempts to Break Up the State

Menlo Park billionaire Timothy Draper -- a venture capitalist with investments in Twitter and Skype among other companies -- was hoping to put a measure before the voters that would, if approved by Congress, dismember California into six mini-states. But it has failed. The proposition did not garner enough signatures for placement on the 2016 ballot, a spokesperson with the California Secretary of State told KCET.

Draper, the sponsor of the measure, presumably would've gotten his mini-state to be named Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley would have had to get in line, however. An existing state law -- the Pico Act of 1859 overwhelmingly approved by California voters -- already calls on Congress to divide California into a northern and southern state. (Conveniently, there is a ready-made line of division where the counties of San Bernardino, Kern, and San Luis Obispo begin.)

Enforcement to Service: Rebranding Negative Views of L.A. Parking Officers

Jennifer Sabih speaks with LADOT Officer Enrique De La Cruz for a segment of KCET's 'SoCal Connected' | Photo: Zach Behrens/KCET

A segment on our award-winning TV show "SoCal Connected" has been produced in tandem with this story. Watch it here now.

It's an age-old story: Drivers think parking enforcement officers spend their time waiting to nail someone with a ticket. Enforcement officers, on the other hand, are disgruntled because they have a host of responsibilities outside of writing you up for parking in a space too long.

A new mandate from the city's Parking Enforcement and Traffic Control Division may be the catalyst needed to start reconciling both sides. Special Order No. 168 -- sent out earlier this month -- instructs all officers in the division of steps they must take to seek compliance from drivers when issuing them citations.

L.A.'s Demand-Based Parking Program Moving in 'Exactly the Right Direction'

A segment on our award-winning TV show "SoCal Connected" has been produced in tandem with this story. Watch it here now.

Two years into downtown Los Angeles' demand-based parking program seeking to reduce traffic congestion, lower air pollution, and boost transit efficiency, parking officials say the project is improving parking availability while bolstering the city's revenue.

Launched in May 2012 as part of a $210 million demonstration initiative, the LA Express Park program tracks downtown street parking through wireless sensors in a 4.5-square-mile area. Parking meter rates are adjusted using data from the sensor -- rates increase when demand is highest, while rates are lowered in areas with less demand.

Express Park is currently expanding into Westwood Village, with plans to extend to Hollywood in 2015, according to the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.

"Everything is moving in exactly the right direction," said Peer Ghent, project manager of LA Express Park. "Parking occupancy in all areas has gone up, and that's reflected by the general improvement of the economy and the impact of development downtown."

But while more people are parking downtown, it's hard to tell if that's because of the burgeoning program or other factors, Ghent noted.

"It's difficult without a control group to say what would have been if we hadn't changed prices," he says. "What I do know is that our revenue has gone up by 2.5 percent and the average price has gone down at about 11 percent of spaces."

Bill to Correctly I.D. Same-Sex Parents on Birth Certificates Heads to Governor

California birth certificates might see a few modifications pending a bill that is on its way to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.
| Photo courtesy of the Office of Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez.

California birth certificates could be getting a makeover after a bill pushing for the accurate identification and self-designation of same-sex couples on birth certificates was sent to the Governor this week.

AB 1951 would eliminate the need for same-sex parents to inaccurately place a partner's name in the wrong "Father" or "Mother" field, according to the bill's language. Instead, same-sex couples would be able to fill out the following options on a child's birth certificate: Mother, Father, and a gender-neutral parent option.

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