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Coal mining company fails to accommodate employee’s objection to using biometric hand scanner: EEOC

 

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) told a West Virginia federal court last week that Consolidation Coal Co. violated anti-discrimination laws by not accommodating an employee’s religious objections to using a biometric time attendance system, according to a report by Law 360.

The EEOC filed a reply brief in support of its bid for summary judgment in a lawsuit against the coal company and its parent Consol Energy.

The brief explains how laborer and evangelical Christian Beverly Butcher felt that Consol’s hand scanning requirements directly conflicted with his religion, and that the company threatened to terminate his employment if he did not use the biometric scanner.

“Defendants did not reasonably accommodate Butcher’s religious beliefs,” the EEOC said in the brief. “In response to Butcher’s request, defendants told Butcher he must scan his left hand or be fired; and … defendants took this action based on their scanner vendor’s reading of the Book of Revelation rather than Butcher’s beliefs, and an inflexible company protocol.”

According to the EEOC’s complaint filed in September 2013, Butcher worked in Consol Energy and Consolidation Coal’s mine in Mannington, West Virginia. In June 2012, the companies installed the biometric technology and began using it to track employee attendance two months later.

Butcher voiced his objections in using the technology to a mining superintendent and human resources manager in June 2012, explaining that the technology has a connection to the “mark of the Beast” and the Antichrist as mentioned in the Book of Revelation, said the discrimination suit.

The companies then sent Butcher a letter from the manufacturer that explained that the hand scanner is not related to the “mark of the Beast”, adding that the Bible only refers to the mark being on the right hand and forehead, said the suit.

They also offered an alternate solution for Butcher to scan his left hand with his palm up, to which the EEOC concluded was not a reasonable option.

Butcher subsequently resigned in August 2012, which he said was an involuntary decision on his part. After his resignation he filed a complaint to the EEOC, which initially tried to settle with Consol through its conciliation process before it formally filed a lawsuit on Butcher’s behalf.

Last month, Consol filed a response to the EEOC’s bid for summary judgment that argued that it handled Butcher’s religious objections in a manner that complied with religious accommodation requirements under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“EEOC is totally without evidence to establish the facts necessary to present a prima facie case against Consol for failing to provide a reasonable accommodation to Butcher,” said Consol. “Moreover, the accommodation which Consol offered to Butcher and the manner in which Consol handled the religious objection of Butcher to the hand scanner system completely satisfied federal law.”

In addition, Consol said that Butcher voluntarily retired after being given the option to scan his left hand palm-up and that it did in no way force him to leave the company.

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