$600,000 award for not accommodating employee’s “Mark of the Beast” beliefs

“A longtime employee of Consol Energy Inc. is entitled to over half a million dollars in damages because of the coal company’s failure to accommodate his religious concerns about a handprint scanner, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled….[Beverly Butcher Jr.’s] understanding of the biblical Book of Revelation is that the ‘Mark of the Beast’ brands followers of the Antichrist, allowing the Antichrist to manipulate them. The use of Consol’s hand-scanning system, Butcher feared, would result in him being so marked. Butcher believed that, even without any physical or visible sign, his willingness to undergo the scan could lead to his identification with the Antichrist.”

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission took Butcher’s side against the company. “At trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the EEOC. Butcher was awarded $150,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. The court also awarded Butcher $436,860 in front and back pay and lost benefits.” [Jeffrey Rhodes, SHRM; Dawn Solowey, Seyfarth Shaw; EEOC v. Consol Energy]


  • The undue burden analysis for Title VII religious accommodations has been turned on its head in a short 10 years – as has the 4th Circuit.

  • How does one convincingly argue that the employee here doesn’t have a right to an accommodation for their apparently sincere religious beliefs, while arguing that employees should be entitled to discriminate against gay couples because of their sincere religious beliefs?

    • Not sure who holds the particular combination of views held out as inconsistent here, but if anyone does, feel free to respond. My own view is that government should sometimes accommodate objections based on religious scruple, but should not force private employers and businesses to do so.

  • I read up on this case. The main thing here is that two other employes who couldn’t do the chip for medical reasons were allowed to use a keypad as an alternate option, but this employee was not.

    • An RFID chip? That makes more sense. From Walter’s blurb, I was thinking a palm print scan.

      • Court opinion has no mention of any chip or RFID. It reads: “In the summer of 2012, Consol implemented a biometric hand-scanner system at the mine, in order to better monitor the attendance and work hours of its employees. The scanner system required each employee checking in or out of a shift to scan his or her right hand; the shape of the right hand was then linked to the worker’s unique personnel number.” The medical exception the company had made, according to the opinion, was for two employees whose hand injuries prevented them from using the scanning device. Nothing about chips, again.

        • Then I’m back to total confusion.

          I just don’t get these bizarre claims regarding beliefs about “the mark of the beast”

          The mark of the beast is very explicitly described in Revelations. This doesn’t even come close.

          What really gets me is that a lot of this comes from people who claim to believe in a very literal interpretation of the Bible, but then they go off into left field with strange non-literal interpretations of Revelations trying to match it up to current events.

          • If you read the decision, the guy was not saying that the scanner would place the “mark of the beast” on his hand at this time, but rather the system itself was part of a path that would lead to it imprinting the “mark of the beast.”

            The man did not want to step onto the path and therefore declined to participate in the system due to religious reasons.

            It is also interesting to me that his union filed a complaint but then withdrew it after they discovered they had bargained away the right for religious accommodations.

          • @gitcarver,

            Sorry, that doesn’t make it any less bizarre/irrational in my opinion.

        • Biometric scanning involves scanning biological entities, NOT electronic ones ( RFID chips ).
          Think retina, fingerprint, palm print, foot print, facial recognition, etc.

  • Again, before offering what may be incorrect speculation as to the facts of the controversy, do check out the links provided at the end of the post.

  • The job requires you to work on Sunday, but you can’t for religious reasons–that’s the job, so your beliefs prevent you from carrying it out. You can’t do the job. Same thing.

  • One also has to understand that until recently, the accommodation framework for medical disability was much different from the framework for religious accommodation. That changed in the last 10 years, leaving employers to deal with myriad “religious” accommodation requests. Problem is, a medical disability is a bit more objective. The courts almost universally refuse to delve into the question of whether someone actually holds the religious belief they espouse. They instead simply require the employer to accommodate them – and those demands get more outlandish by the day.

    Under prior law (note that there was no change in Title VII so we are talking about court-made law) it was fine for the employer to accommodate those with medical issues while requiring others claiming a religious belief to participate in programs required of other employees (e.g. biometric scanning). But recently we’ve seen things like this.

    It gets really fun when employees amalgamate religions and claim they should receive time off for observance of religious festivals affiliated with religions not practiced for centuries – or observances that are anti-religious. To avoid liability, the employer is stuck with agreeing to the request.