Mark of the Beast v. Biometric Scanning

Well, I guess a little timely research now and then can’t hurt. Mea culpa.

I wrote last week about religious discrimination and accommodations, and highlighted two “Mark of the Beast” cases.  One was denied review by the Supreme Court, and I said about the other that “as far as I know the case is still pending.”

Not so!  It ended in judgment for the EEOC a couple months ago.

Demon, Face, Head, Abstract, Background

The US Supreme Court declined to review a case in which plaintiff is “a Fundamentalist Christian who disavowed his social security number when he turned 18 years old. … believ[ing] that his identification by any number — including a social security account number — causes him to have the ‘Mark of the Beast,’ which his religion prohibits.”

The case was dismissed because it was held that an employer does not violate Title VII by failing to accommodate an employee’s religious belief which would require the employer to violate a federal statute – in this the Internal Revenue Code, which requires a social security number.  “This conclusion is consistent with Title VII’s text, which says nothing that might license an employer to disregard other federal statutes in the name of reasonably accommodating an employee’s religious practices,” noted the Court.

The second case was where I slipped up.

This was a religious discrimination suit brought by the EEOC against a Pennsylvania coal company for refusing to accommodate (and forcing to retire) an Evangelical Christian who had been an employee for 35 years. The employee refused to submit to a biometric hand scanner which tracks employee time and attendance (a device which is becoming more commonly used and seen in FLSA cases) claiming that there was a “relationship between hand-scanning technology and the Mark of the Beast and antichrist discussed in the Book of Revelation of the New Testament.”  He asked for an exemption from this hand scanning based on his religious beliefs but this was denied.

The “new” old news: The EEOC was awarded a unanimous jury verdict on behalf of the plaintiff in January, and in August, after a two day hearing, the federal judge awarded a total of $586,860 in lost wages and benefits and compensatory damages.

The EEOC District Director said (and this is today’s “takeaway”):  “Many times when there is a conflict between an employee’s religious beliefs and a work rule, there are easy modifications to company permitting an employee to continue to work without violating his religious beliefs.”




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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]