Earlier this week, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a discrimination lawsuit brought by an individual who claimed that FirstEnergy Generation Corp. had illegally failed to accommodate his sincerely-held religious beliefs. And what were those beliefs? That having a social security number (or any identification number, for that matter) would cause him to have the “Mark of the Beast,” which his religion prohibits. Plaintiff Donald Yeager is a Fundamentalist Christian who disavowed his social security number when he turned 18 years old. He applied for an internship position with FirstEnergy, but the company refused to hire him after he refused to provide a social security number. US federal tax law requires employers to collect and provide the social security numbers of their employees.
The Sixth Circuit’s decision reaffirms the well-established rule that while state and federal law generally requires an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee’s sincerely-held religious beliefs, the employer need not provide an accommodation that violates federal statute.