Mark of the Beast at Work

October 11, 2017, 02:17 PM

The use of biometric data is becoming more prevalent and integral to many employers operations and can increase security and accuracy. However, these new technologies are not without legal risks. Recently, Virginias federal Court of Appeals held in E.E.O.C. v. Consol. Energy, Inc. that an employer unlawfully discriminated against a coal miner who refused to submit to the employers hand scanner on religious grounds. In this case a hand scanner was used to track coal miners shifts. One employee, Mr. Butcher, claimed that using the biometric scanner conflicted with his Christian beliefs because it would impose the Mark of the Beast and could lead to his identification with the Antichrist. Instead of accommodating Mr. Butcher, the employer tried to dissuade Mr. Butcher from his beliefs, explaining that because the Mark of the Beast is associated only with the right hand or the forehead, use of the left hand in the scanner would be sufficient to obviate any religious concerns regarding the system. Mr. Butcher declined to accept the employers biblical interpretation and retired instead of violating his religious beliefs. Interestingly, the employer refused to give Mr. Butcher an accommodation even though it had already permitted employees with hand injuries, who were unable to use the scanner, to just enter their employee numbers on a keypad attached to the scanner. Mr. Butcher won at trial and was awarded $586,860. On appeal, the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the jurys verdict, holding that it was not the Courts place nor the employers place to question the correctness of Mr. Butchers religious beliefs. Presented with the employers complete failure to accommodate Mr. Butchers sincere belief despite repeated requests, combined with the availability of a costless accommodation that the employer refused to provide to Mr. Butcher, the Court held that the jury had sufficient evidence to find that the employer unlawfully discriminated against Mr. Butcher.