In August 2015, the EEOC prevailed in a religious discrimination lawsuit against Consol Energy and was awarded in excess of $500,000.00. Former Consol mine worker Beverly Butcher, who had been with the company for over 35 years, refused to use Consol’s new biometric hand scanners that were installed to track employee time and attendance. He explained that he believed that scanners would leave the “mark of the beast” and would be a sign for the antichrist. Consol required Butcher to use the scanners and refused to consider alternate means of tracking Butcher’s time, and Butcher believed he had no choice other than to retire.
Consol recently moved for judgment as a matter of law or for a new trial, arguing that Butcher had admitted that he did not actually believe the scanner would give him the mark of the beast (or any mark at all), but instead believed that future versions of the device would be capable of doing so. Butcher further admitted that his pastor did not agree with him that the hand scanners had any relationship to the mark of the beast.
The EEOC has responded to Consol’s motion and stated that although Butcher admitted that the current version hand scanner left no mark, he testified that these scanners “are being used as part of a system of identification being put into place that will be used to serve the antichrist as foretold in the New Testament Book of Revelation and which creates an identifier for followers of the antichrist known as ‘The Mark of the Beast,’” and that “[t]he fact that a believer draws a line at the first step in what he sincerely believes to be an immoral process rather than the last step of that process does not alter the employer’s accommodation duty.”
The EEOC responded to Consol’s efforts to poke holes in the logic of Butcher’s beliefs, stating that it is unconstitutional for Consol to demand theological accuracy or consistency. “[A]s EEOC has previously pointed out, and as the Court instructed the jury, religious beliefs need not be seen as rational, doctrinally consistent, or accurate in order to be protected under Title VII.”
The takeaway of this is that if an employee seeks an accommodation based on religion, an employer should not subjectively evaluate the logic or wisdom of the employee’s beliefs, but instead should only consider whether the employee sincerely believes.
The case is EEOC v. Consol Energy, Inc., 1:13-cv-00215 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.