#religiousaccommodation

In its latest edition of the Digest of EEO Law, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission included an article entitled, “Religious Accommodation in the Workplace: An Overview of the Law and Recent Commission Decisions.” Although the article summarizes federal sector decisions, it provides guidance to private employers on the EEOC’s overall position on religious accommodations – and (just in time for Halloween) the conclusions are a little scary!

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Mark of the BeastBack around Halloween, we offered you a seasonally appropriate and cautionary tale about accommodating an employee’s religious concerns. As we discussed in that blog about the case of EEOC v. Consol Energy, Inc., the employee refused to use a biometric hand scanner because he was afraid it would reveal or imprint the mark of the beast. Because the mark of the beast is supposed to appear on the right hand, the company told him to use his left hand, but the employee believed that using either hand was a problem. The company refused to permit him to record his time manually or to report it to his supervisor, and the employee chose to retire under protest. The EEOC brought suit against the company on his behalf for failure to provide a reasonable accommodation for his religious beliefs and constructive discharge (i.e. the employee was forced to quit), and the employee was awarded over a half-million dollars in damages- a death knell to the employer’s arguments!

Like a zombie, the employer has returned from the grave to ask the court to throw out the judgment on various grounds. The court’s reaction to the employer’s arguments provide some additional lessons for employers generally.
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So as Halloween approaches, a recent religious accommodations case involving the “mark of the beast” seemed seasonally appropriate.

For those of you not so familiar with the Bible, the Book of Revelation tells the story of a satanic beast that comes out of the earth and forces all humans to worship another beast coming from the sea. The worshipers are marked on their right hands or their foreheads with the number “666” – i.e. the “mark of the beast.”Mark of the Beast

Several years ago, a client implemented a biometric timekeeping system, which used a hand scanning procedure. One of the employees objected to using the new system on religious grounds, based on his fear that the system would either imprint or reveal the mark of the beast (it wasn’t terribly clear exactly what the concern was). My partner, Mike McGuire, noted that the mark appears on the right hand, however, and the employee could simply use his left hand on the scanner. Well, that seemed to fix the problem – a pretty simple solution, wasn’t it?

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out so easily for another company – Consol Energy. In that case, an employee who was an Evangelical Christian objected to the biometric scanning system for the same reasons as our client’s employee. Consol actually provided a letter to the employee from the company that made the system, explaining that the Book of Revelation specifies that the mark will appear only on the right hand (or forehead), and therefore the left hand may be used for scanning purposes.


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