When a company that operates a West Virginia mine adopted a new policy requiring its employees to track their time and attendance using a biometric hand scanner, a 35-year veteran at the mine had a serious problem. He is an Evangelical Christian, and he sincerely believes there is a strong connection between the technology and the Antichrist.
He told his boss and other mining officials about his religious objections. He even wrote a letter to the mine’s superintendent and HR manager explaining the biometric scanner’s relationship to the Mark of the Beast described in the Book of Revelations. Not unexpectedly, they did not share his beliefs, and refused to accommodate his sincere religious objections to the technology. He felt he had no choice but to retire.
“In religious accommodation cases,” however, explains a regional attorney for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “the standard is not whether company officials agree with or share the employee’s religious beliefs. Instead, the focus is on whether the employer can provide an accommodation without incurring an undue hardship.”
In this case, the EEOC found, two employees who were missing fingers had been granted exceptions to using the biometric scanner. The mine could easily have allowed him to continue using the old, manual system, or even required him to report to his supervisor every time he came to work or left. There were easy, straightforward ways the company could have accommodated his religious objection without incurring any real costs.
Nevertheless, the mine refused to work out a solution with this presumably valued employee — and it persisted in that refusal even when the EEOC stepped in. Because the EEOC was unable to negotiate a resolution through its pre-trial conciliation process, the agency was forced to file a lawsuit against the company.
“In this case, the mining companies not only lost the services of a long-tenured employee,” says the EEOC’s district director, “they also violated federal law when they obstinately refused to consider easy alternatives to their new hand-scanning time and attendance system.”
Source: EEOC press release, “EEOC Sues Consol Energy and Consolidation Coal Company for Religious Discrimination,” Sept. 25, 2013