This is a case about religious discrimination you will find hard to forget.  Like most everything else about workplaces these days automation is driving lots of change. One particular area involves time clocks ad similar methods of verifying when employees arrived and left for work.  It is hardly news that they are steadily being replaced by hand, eye, and other body part scanners. But who knew that these scanners would trigger a discussion of Satan at the mid-term bargaining table?

A new decision just came out of a courtroom involving an employee who refused to use a new hand-scanning time clock his employer installed because the Bible tells him not to. It seems that in his evangelical Christian faith there is a perceived relationship between hand scanning technology and the AntiChrist Mark of the Beast being imprinted on one’s body if a scanner is used. When he asked for an accommodation to avoid the scanner his employer’s first reaction was to have the system manufacture write the employee a letter explaining that his interpretation of Chapter 13, Verse 6 of the Book of Revelations was wrong. The manufacturer’s reading suggests that the Satanic sign will only be imposed if the employee used his right hand, not his left as their equipment permitted. We are not making this up.  Check for yourself.

Unmoved in his faith and denied any alternative method of checking in an out the employee no had choice but to retire early—at which point he sued the company for religious discrimination. The case went to a jury which found the agency guilty and awarded the employee $150,000 in damages. Back pay amounts will be decided by the judge.

As we pointed out in a couple of recent posts the law broadly defends an employee’s right to be free of religious discrimination as well as her right to reasonable accommodations for religious practices. Check out RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION COVERAGE EXPANDING, CHURCH LADY SMITS DOD, AND CHRISTIANS 1, CBP MANAGEMENT -$28,600.

If your local gets involved with an employee who is treated disparately because of his/her religion, you have a good case to pursue if–

1) the employee is a member of a protected class (a recognized religion),

(2) the employee suffered an adverse employment action; and

(3) non-members of the protected class (religion) received more favorable treatment than the employee

In contrast, when the case involves an employee denied a reasonable accommodation in order to practice his/her faith, you have a good case to pursue if—

(1) the employee has a bona fide religious belief that conflicts with an employer’s general requirements,

(2) the employee informed the employer of the religious belief and the employment related conflict created by the religious belief, and

(3) the employee’s religious belief was not accommodated by the employer even though the employer could have reasonably accommodated the request without undue hardship.

The employer can raise some legitimate defenses, but as the employee’s advocate, not judge, the union’s role is to pursue the matter until the employer shows it can prove it has a legitimate defense.



About AdminUN

FEDSMILL staff has over 40 years of federal sector labor relations experience on the union as well as management side of the table and even some time as a neutral.
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