Best Ohio Religious Discrimination Attorney Answer: Can I get a religious accommodation in the workplace? What protects me from religious discrimination as employee in Ohio? How do I get a religious accommodation in the workplace? What are my religious rights at work?
Pop culture has always had a certain overlap with science fiction when it comes to speculating about what the distant future will look like. Take for instance, the smash success of the Back to the Future movies. Back to the Future debuted in 1985, followed up four years later by Back to the Future Part II (“BTF II”). The movies are centered on young teen Marty McFly who travels back in time to 1955 with the help of his friend, Doc Brown, and a time machine made out of an DeLorean. In BTF II, Marty travels forward in time to October 21, 2015. The future as envisioned by the filmmakers in the late 1980’s is somewhat comical to view now, especially in light of the fact that we recently rang in the New Year on January 1, 2015. Some of the iconic imagery from BTF II included, Hoverboards, self tying shoes, clothes that automatically adjust to the perfect size and instantly dry after becoming wet, and of course, the Mr. Fusion. Mr. Fusion was supposed to be able to take one’s garbage and convert it into inexpensive and clean energy.
Pop culture also has a fascination with the supernatural. Lots of supernatural films deal with religious themes, like, “the power of Christ compels you” from the Exorcist, and thwarting vampires or demons with wooden crosses.
At this point, it’s okay if you are asking, “where was the transition between a fascination with the future and supernatural” or “what do those two themes have to do with Employment law.” The easy answer is, Religious Discrimination.
Although all of the fantasies imagined by BTF II creators have so far ended up unrealized, some futuristic imagery seems to be coming to life for mainstream employers in the form of biometric scanners. Biometric scanners use unique human traits, like fingerprints, to track or give exclusive access to certain individuals. Picture a top secret area of the CIA where one must place a hand on a digital screen that completes a laser scan in order to open the heavy metal door to the restricted files….
When Consol Energy implemented a hand scanner for to track time and attendance for miners in West Virginia, Consol employee, Beverly Butcher, objected because of a sincerely held belief that the scanner would give him, “the Mark of the Beast.” That’s right, Butcher’s case comes squarely to the intersection of the electronic devices of the future and its impact on closely held faith based ideals.
Here’s a little background information regarding the mark of the beast. The language is derived from the Christian bible, in Revelations Chapter 13, verses 16-18:
(16) And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, (17) and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. (18) Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.
According to a quick review of Wikipedia, there are many interpretations of this Christian scripture, but no matter what meaning one may assign to this passage, Butcher believed that using the hand scanner could result in somehow giving him the mark of the beast. I bet Consol didn’t realize that failing to take Butcher seriously could lead to a jury verdict obligating Consol to pay out $150,000. Let’s see how the events unfolded, leading up to the verdict.
Instead of using the scanner, Butcher requested to be able to use a regular time clock or manually track his time, and Consol denied this request. Consol consulted with the scanner manufacturer and came up with a compromise whereby Butcher could use his left hand, palm up, instead of his right hand, palm down. With this proposal, according to the complaint, the manufacture and employer made the following effort to dissuade Butcher of his religious beliefs:
[The Employer] discussed the vendor’s interpretation of Chapter 13, Verse 16 of the Book of Revelation contained in the Bible; pointed out that the text of that verse references the Mark of the Beast only on the right hand and forehead; and suggests that persons with concerns about taking the Mark of the Beast “be enrolled” (meaning, use the hand scanner) with their left hand and palm facing up. The letter concludes by assuring the reader that the vendor’s scanner product does not, in-fact, assign the Mark of the Beast.
This is simply the employer rejecting an employee’s religious beliefs by saying, “no, you are not practicing your religion the right way.” Employers don’t get to dictate how an employee practices his or her religion.
Butcher still objected to using the scanning system itself on religious grounds.
Now, keep in mind that an employer does not have to accommodate every requested religious accommodation. An employer can say no if the requested accommodation based on religion if it would impose a material burden on the employer.
Did that apply here? Nope. The employer was already set up with for a second option of using a key punch that was utilized by two other Consol employees who were missing limbs or digits. So, the only thing the employer needed to do was approve this already available alternative method.
In the analysis on whether Butcher could proceed to a jury, the United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia set forth the requirements for a religious discrimination or failure to claim to be met:
Title VII makes it “an unlawful employment practice for an employer . . . to discharge any individual . . . because of such individual’s religion.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2. In a Title VII action for employment discrimination based upon the charging party’s religion, the plaintiff must show either that the charging party suffered disparate treatment as a result of his religion or that the employer failed to accommodate his religious practices. Chalmers v. Tulon Co. of Richmond, 101 F.3d 1012, 1017 (4th Cir. 1996).
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has set forth a burden shifting scheme wherein the plaintiff must first establish a prima facie religious accommodation claim. EEOC v. Firestone Fibers & Textiles Co., 515 F.3d 307, 312 (4th Cir. 2008). To establish a prima facie religious accommodation claim, a plaintiff must establish that: (1) he has a bona fide religious belief that conflicts with an employment requirement; (2) he informed the employer of this belief and requested an accommodation thereof; and (3) he was disciplined for failure to comply with the conflicting employment requirement. Id. at 1019. With respect to the third prong, the plaintiff may prove that the charging party was disciplined if he was not hired or promoted, fired, or otherwise discriminated against for failure to comply with the conflicting employment requirement. See e.g. Henegar v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 965 F. Supp. 833, 834 (N.D. W. Va. 1997).
Ultimately, because there was material disagreement over the facts that would establish the essential elements of the claim, the court allowed the case to be heard by a jury. In finding for Butcher, the jury awarded him $150,000 in compensatory damages for religious discrimination. Apparently for Butcher, this money is not the same as the theological currency that is demonized in Revelations.
Even though Butcher is a resident of West Virginia, as our employment discrimination lawyers have blogged about before, Federal and State laws as codified in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Ohio Revised Code § 4112.02(B) are in place to protect employees in Ohio from being treated differently based on religious beliefs.
If you feel that you are being discriminated or harassed based on your religion or religious beliefs or that you were wrongfully terminated because of you are Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, Hindu or any other religion, the best course of action you can take is to call the right attorney at 866-797-6040 to schedule a free and confidential consultation. At The Spitz Law Firm, you will meet with a religious discrimination attorney, who will be able to tell you what your legal rights are and the best way to protect them.
The materials available at the top of this religious discrimination blog and at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “How do I …”, “What should I do …,” “Can my boss discriminate against me because I’m (Jewish/Muslim/Mormon/Hindu)?” or “I was fired for my religious beliefs. The answer to “What can I do?”, is to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular religious discrimination or other employment law issue or problem. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.