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Religious Law

Can biometric hand screening amount to religious bias? Mark-of-the-devil worry leads to EEOC suit

Posted Oct 29, 2013 5:44 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Religious bias complaints are a small percentage of workplace discrimination claims made at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but the numbers are increasing.

Some conflicts involve working on the Sabbath, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports. Others protest workplace uniform requirements that don’t allow for religious dress such as hijabs worn by many Muslim women, long skirts worn by Pentecostal women, or turbans worn by Sikhs, the story says.

Some claims are more wide-ranging, the story says. One suit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission involved Muslim workers who didn't want to deliver alcohol and another involved an evangelical Christian who feared biometric hand screening was the mark of the devil.

The number of religious-bias complaints has doubled over the past decade, reaching a high of 4,151 in fiscal 2011, the story says. Last year, there were 3,811 complaints, the second-highest amount.

Two Muslim drivers say they were fired for refusing to deliver alcohol, according to the EEOC suit filed in May. The EEOC claimed that the defendant, Star Transport Inc., could have assigned the workers to deliver other products without creating an undue hardship for the company.

The EEOC filed another suit late last month on behalf of a Christian worker who opposed biometric hand screening at coal mines based on a Bible passage about the mark of the antichrist. The worker claimed he was pushed to retire because of his objections.

The company, Consol Energy Inc., used the screening to track workers’ time. The company told the Wall Street Journal it can’t comment on the suit, but that it makes reasonable accommodations when appropriate.

The Religion Clause blog links to a story on the suit by the Clarksburg Exponent Telegram. The suit says the worker was told in a letter from the scanner vendor that he should allow his left hand to be scanned, since Revelations refers to the mark of the beast on the right hand. The worker wanted to keep written track of his hours.

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