Was JPL worker a victim of discrimination or was he unprofessional?

Computer specialist contends his views cost him his JPL job – latimes.com.

A computer specialist rankled some of his JPL co-workers by pressing intelligent design and other issues at work. Now a judge must decide if that is why he was laid off.

David Coppedge’s co-workers at one of the nation’s most prominent scientific institutions didn’t have to guess his theory as to how the universe was created. He offered to lend them DVDs advocating intelligent design.

An evangelical Christian, he also asked that the holiday potluck at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory be renamed the Christmas potluck and sparred with at least one colleague over their divergent views on Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California.

Coppedge’s zest for hot-button topics rankled some co-workers at the facility in La Cañada Flintridge, who complained about him to management. But did it eventually cost him his job?

That’s the question a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge presiding over Coppedge’s wrongful termination lawsuit is expected to decide in the coming months. JPL, which Caltech manages for NASA, contends Coppedge was laid off in 2011 as part of massive cutbacks because his skill set was outdated and his attitude obstinate.

Tip: @skepticmedic on Twitter

Thinking about this… would we find this same person annoying if he was bugging everyone about his favorite sports team or being “rational” or perhaps being a Scientologist? Yes. Pushing your beliefs incessantly on others is rude behavior and people end up not liking you. Also, it’s not part of your job. Therefore, no sympathy here that this guy was let go. He was possibly a distraction and bad worker. Rarely is pushing your personal agenda on other people a welcome quality. As noted, Coppedge received a written warning for “unwelcome and unprofessional” behavior.

Was he targeted? I find that very hard to believe. People are far more tolerant about such views in the workplace as a whole in order to keep peace and to avoid such allegations of discrimination. He had been warned. Instead, he is acting like some martyr to truth and free speech and that’s weak.

  6 comments for “Was JPL worker a victim of discrimination or was he unprofessional?

  1. Massachusetts
    April 30, 2012 at 8:53 PM

    I strongly suspect this guy was really annoying. I’ve worked with people who pushed their views and ignored the social cues which should have warned them off, and at a certain point it becomes distracting and unpleasant. I’m actually more tolerant than most of such behavior, I’ve found, but there are limits. This guy got a written warning and he still pushed, so clearly, as a very intelligent adult (working at JPL as a specialist after all) he was fairly warned, assuming the facts we have are correct.

  2. F89
    April 30, 2012 at 9:31 PM

    To be honest, what manager in their right mind would want to keep somone around that is making everyone else uncomfortable?

  3. April 30, 2012 at 9:53 PM

    You’re not union are you? This happens ALL. THE. TIME.

  4. April 30, 2012 at 9:55 PM

    So he’s a radical in your face Christian, but he works at the place Jack Parsons helped build? I wonder that went over. I’ve heard they celebrate Parsons on Halloween in part because of a rocket test he did on that date in 1936, though I can’t find a solid source for that.


  5. F89
    April 30, 2012 at 10:41 PM

    I know it happens all the time. Even in my old line of work where there were VERY specific rules about unprofessional behavior, people would still get around it.

  6. Massachusetts
    May 1, 2012 at 5:50 PM

    That’s interesting about Parsons. I didn’t know that. Yes, there is a certain irony there.

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