Biometric Scanning And The Mark Of The Beast: A Case Of Accommodation Of Religious Beliefs

Way back in October 2015 I did a post about 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.

There may be finality now that the court of appeals has issued a decision.

The Facts

The employee refused to submit to a newly-implemented 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, in spite of the fact that exemptions were given to employees with non-religious based requests, such as based on hand injuries.

The Jury Verdict And Award

The jury found for plaintiff and in August 2015, after a two day hearing, the federal judge awarded a total of $586,860 in lost wages and benefits and compensatory damages.

The Appeals Court’s Newly-Issued Decision

The federal court of appeals just affirmed this award.  It stated that plaintiff, “a devout evangelical Christian, informed his supervisors that his religious beliefs prevented him from using the system.  And although [the employer] was providing an alternative to employees who could not use the hand scanner for non-religious reasons, it refused to accommodate [his] religious objection.  Forced to choose between his religious commitments and his continued employment, [he] retired under protest.”

The Court held that: “The evidence presented at trial allowed the jury to conclude that [the employer] failed to make available to a sincere religious objector the same reasonable accommodation it offered other employees, in clear violation of Title VII.”

Takeaway:  As readers know, it’s all about “reasonable accommodation” of an employee’s religious beliefs or practices (or disabilities, for that matter).

As the EEOC District Director said at the time: “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]