Mining Companies Forced Evangelical Christian to Retire Over Hand Scanning, Federal Agency Charges
PITTSBURGH - Canonsburg, Pa.-based CONSOL Energy and Consolidation Coal Company violated federal law when they forced a long-time employee to retire because they refused to accommodate his religious beliefs, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Beverly R. Butcher, Jr. had worked as a general inside laborer at the companies' mine in Mannington, W.V., for over 35 years when the mining companies required employees to use a newly installed biometric hand scanner to track employee time and attendance. Butcher repeatedly told mining officials that submitting to a biometric hand scanner violated his sincerely held religious beliefs as an Evangelical Christian. He also wrote the mining superintendent and human resources manager a letter explaining the relationship between hand-scanning technology and the Mark of the Beast and antichrist discussed in the Book of Revelation of the New Testament and requesting an exemption from the hand scanning based on his religious beliefs.
The mining companies refused to consider alternate means of tracking Butcher's time and attendance, such as allowing him to submit manual time records as he had done previously or reporting to his supervisor, even though the mining company had made similar exceptions to the hand scanning for two employees with missing fingers. The EEOC charges that Butcher was forced to retire because the companies refused to provide an accommodation to his religious beliefs.
Religious discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. CONSOL Energy, Inc. and Consolidation Coal Company, Civil Action No. 1:13-cv-00215-IMK) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
"In religious accommodation cases, the standard is not whether company officials agree with or share the employee's religious beliefs," said Philadelphia regional attorney Debra M. Lawrence. "Instead, the focus is on whether the employer can provide an accommodation without incurring an undue hardship."
EEOC District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. added, "In this case, the mining companies not only lost the services of a long-tenured employee, they also violated federal law when they obstinately refused to consider easy alternatives to their new hand-scanning time and attendance system to accommodate Mr. Butcher's religious beliefs."
The Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov.