EEOC Recovers Money for Employee Denied Religious Accommodation Over Hand Scanning

A dispute between a West Virginia coal mining company and an employee over biometric hand scanning, which an employee objected to submitting to on religious grounds, has cost the company big in a Title VII lawsuit brought on the employee’s behalf by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The lawsuit charged that Coal Company and its parent company CONSOL Energy, Inc., operators of West Virginia coal mines, requires its employees to submit to biometric hand scanning to track their time and attendance. An employee objected to this practice, citing his religious beliefs. But rather than accommodate the employee, the companies fired him.

That was a Title VII violation, a federal jury found last January. And now the judge overseeing the trial has awarded $586,860 in back pay, benefits and damages to the worker.

The EEOC said that the employee–who worked 35 years for the companies–repeatedly informed company officials that submitting to biometric hand scanning violated his sincerely held religious beliefs as an Evangelical Christian. He also wrote a letter to company officials explaining his beliefs about the relationship between hand-scanning technology and the “Mark of the Beast” and the Antichrist discussed in the New Testament’s Book of Revelation, and requesting an exemption from the hand scanning based on his religious beliefs.

In response, the mining companies refused to consider alternate means of tracking Butcher’s time and attendance and informed him he would be disciplined up to and including discharge if he refused to scan his hand, according to the lawsuit. EEOC charged that Butcher was forced to retire because the companies refused to provide a reasonable accommodation for his religious beliefs.

Here’s the EEOC’s announcement of the court’s award.


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