A federal jury Thursday ruled in favor of a general laborer at the Consol Energy/Consolidation Coal Co.’s Mannington mining operations who said he was forced to retire because of his religious beliefs.
The jury returned $150,000 in compensatory damages for Beverly R. Butcher Jr.
At a later hearing, Senior Judge Frederick P. Stamp Jr. will decide back pay and front pay owed to Butcher.
Consol Energy Inc. will appeal to the Fourth Circuit, according to one of its attorneys, Jeff Grove of Grove & Delk PLLC in Wheeling.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had sued Consol Energy on behalf of Butcher. The federal agency’s filing asserted Butcher, an evangelical Christian, was told he must submit to biometric hand scanning for time and attendance tracking, even though that is against his religious beliefs.
Ron Phillips, supervisory trial attorney for the federal agency, declined comment, as did Butcher. An attempt to contact the EEOC’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., was unsuccessful.
The jury found that Butcher “had a sincere religious belief that conflicted with an employment requirement” and that Butcher informed his employer of that belief.
The jury also found that Consol Energy failed to provide a reasonable accommodation for Butcher’s beliefs and that it wouldn’t have been an “undue hardship” to do so.
Phillips indicated to the court that the EEOC will seek a permanent injunction preventing Consol Energy Inc. from engaging in religious discrimination such as was allegedly involved in this case.
Prior to the filing of the lawsuit, Butcher allegedly wrote his employers. The letter discussed “his genuinely held religious beliefs about the relationship between hand scanning technology and the Mark of the Beast and Antichrist discussed in the Bible,” the lawsuit asserted.
“Butcher’s request was to be exempted from all hand scanning and was not limited to the scanning of his right hand,” the lawsuit contended.
Butcher’s employers handed him a letter written by the scanner’s vendor, Recognition Systems Inc., according to the lawsuit.
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SOURCE: The Exponent Telegram