The Consolidation Coal Company in West Virginia installed an attendance monitoring system for payroll purposes at the company’s Robinson Run Mine. The system requires employees to sign-in using a biometric hand scanner, which then creates and stores electronic data about each employee’s hand geometry to be used for future identification.
It’s a fairly straightforward request, or so the folks at Consolidation Coal thought. Beverly Butcher, an employee of 35 years at the Robinson Run Mine location – and an evangelical Christian – revealed that his religious beliefs would not permit him to participate in the biometric hand scanning. Butcher later issued a letter to his manager explaining the relationship between hand scanning technology and the “Mark of the Beast” and the antichrist discussed in the Bible, ultimately requesting an exemption from biometric program, according to a report in the Opelika-Auburn News
Butcher’s superiors subsequently responded in an astonishing, albeit detail-oriented manner.
In a letter, written by the scanner vendor, Recognition Systems, Inc., the biometric provider’s revealed its interpretation of the Bible excerpt in question – Revelation 13:16-17 – specifying that the verse references the Mark of the Beast as only appearing on the right hand and forehead. More puzzling, the letter prescribes that employees with concerns about taking the Mark of the Beast should be enrolled with their left hand, palm facing up.
Just to further drive home the point, the letter sent back to Butcher assured its addressee that the Recognition Systems’ scanner does not assign the Mark of the Beast. Butcher’s proposed compromise was that he continue to submit his time and attendance manually as he has traditionally done, or alternatively, he could check in and out with his supervisor.
Butcher’s superiors sided with the scanner vendor’s proposal and suggested that Butcher submit a biometric scan of his left hand, turned palm up in lieu of his right hand – an offer that Butcher promptly rejected. Butcher’s superiors also dictated that he would be subject to disciplinary action if he refused to use the biometric hand scanning system. Following the debacle, Butcher retired “involuntarily,” telling his long-time employer that he made the decision under protest and felt that he had been left with no choice.
To further thicken the plot, it has been revealed that at least two other employees of the Robinson Run Mine had, at the time that Butcher requested religious exemption, been given exemptions from the biometric hand scanning themselves due to missing fingers. These exempted employees were allowed to submit their time and attendance by other means.
Butcher has since filed an EEOC charge against his former employer claiming religious discrimination. An official lawsuit has been filed in West Virginia’s U.S. District Court on the grounds of religious discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.