Religious beliefs have won a West Virginia miner $150,000 in punitive damages after his employer tried to make him use technology he associated with the Devil.
Beverly R. Butcher Jr. said he was forced to prematurely retire because of his religious beliefs about biometric scanners used to track employee attendance at a Mannington coal mine.
Butcher feared the technology would imprint him with “the mark of the Beast”, The Exponent Telegram reported.
Scanner manufacturer Recognition Systems wrote in a letter that their scanners “do not in any way have the ability to detect … or place the ‘mark of the Beast’ or any other mark on a person’s hand.”
Butcher, an evangelical Christian, said he was told by employer Consol Energy to use the scanner despite his insistence that it violated his religious beliefs, and that his offers to keep written records of his hours, checked by his supervisor, were rejected.
The letter also discussed the vendor’s interpretation of the Book of Revelation, Chapter 13, verse 16, which pointed out that the reference only said the “Mark of the Beast” could be on the right hand or forehead, and that anyone with religious concerns could use their left hand.
Butcher was represented by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which will seek a permanent injunction against Consol Energy to prevent them from engaging in further religious discrimination as was involved in this case.
A Clarksburg jury found that Butcher had a sincere religious belief which conflicted with the employer requirement, and that Consol Energy had failed to provide a reasonable accommodation for those beliefs, despite that it would not have been an undue hardship for the company to have done so.
A judge will now consider whether butcher is entitled to backpay and other compensation for future pay, however Consol Energy will appeal the ruling.
The original jury verdict awarded $150,000 for “salary, pension and court costs”, however the judge had to remind the jury that they could only award compensatory damages, and not include back or forward pay.
The jury returned the same figure, and said it was only for compensatory damages.