Here's what's not interesting about this case brought by the EEOC: An employee was forced to retire because of his religious beliefs. A West Virginia jury found in favor of the employee, Beverly R. Butcher Jr., and awarded him $150,000.
Here's what is interesting about this case: Butcher's employer, Consol Energy, wanted to implement biometric hand scanning for time and attendance tracking. Butcher, an evangelical Christian, said such hand scanning would assign "the Mark of the Beast" referenced in the Bible.
The Biometrics of the Apocalypse
In case you're a little rusty on your Bible, here's what Butcher's talking about:
It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.
In the Book of Revelation, a beast comes out of the ground and enslaves humanity, forcing it to worship another beast that came from the sea. If you don't worship that beast, you'll be killed. Everyone else has to have the mark of the beast -- the famous "666" -- stamped on their right hands or foreheads.
Butcher was concerned that the act of scanning the right hand was akin to the events described in Revelation: Basically, the hand scanner would imprint him with the Mark of the Beast (even though a hand scanner is passive and doesn't "imprint" anything). So, you know, the standard concerns.
His employers, to their credit, actually went to the scanner manufacturers, who in turn gave Butcher a letter assuring him that if he's concerned about the Mark of the Beast, he could scan his left hand. Butcher, though, wouldn't scan any hand, fearing that the device is "leading up to that time when it will come to fruition," which is to say, the events of the Book of Revelation.
What About Those Other Guys?
Before he sued, Butcher offered an accommodation in the form of continuing to write down his hours as he had been. The company refused. Butcher retired early in protest.
And that might have been it -- if Butcher hadn't found out that employees who lost fingers and couldn't use the scanner were given the option to enter their employee numbers on a keypad.
Are there lessons for employers in this case? Actually, yes. Religious beliefs don't have to make sense; they just have to be genuine. Also, it was kind of capricious for Consol Energy to offer a way out for employees missing fingers but not for employees who objected to hand-scanning on religious grounds. That fact showed that alternatives did exist that would have satisfied both Butcher and his employer.
As of yet, Consol Energy's use of biometrics to track time has not resulted in the enslavement of humanity.