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When Worlds Collide: Religion & Technology in the Workplace


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Upcoming Events


Pete & Repeat (Not!)


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HR & the Law in the News
September 2015, Volume 14, Issue 9
Hello again and welcome to the latest edition of FiveL Company's monthly e-newsletter, bringing you some of the latest news related to employment policies, practices and programs. 

Check out the upcoming events including this month's webcast, "FMLA in the News: What's Hot & What's Not" pre-approved by HRCI and SHRM for 1.25 credits! Click here for more info. 
When Worlds Collide
In my years of HR administration, employment law practice and consulting I've learned a lot. This includes religions of which I had never heard such as the Church of Body Modification and the Kemetic Religion as well as practices with which I was not familiar.

When religious observance clashes with workplace policies it sometimes comes from sources and needs we did not anticipate.  For employers this ranges from dietary needs to dress codes to flu shots to now workplace technologies. 

On August 21st a federal court awarded a total of $586,860 in lost wages (front and back pay), benefits and compensatory damages to one former employee of the defendant employer and its parent corporation finding the companies forced the former employee to retire in violation of Title VII. The included the initial award of $150,000 awarded by a jury in this case on January 15, 2015.

What happened? The employer required employees to use a newly installed biometric hand scanner to track time and attendance.  The employee repeatedly inform company that submitting to biometric hand scanning violated his sincerely held religious beliefs as an Evangelical Christian. He also wrote a letter to company officials explaining his beliefs about the relationship between hand-scanning technology and the "Mark of the Beast" and the Antichrist discussed in the New Testament's Book of Revelation, and requesting an exemption from the hand scanning based on his religious beliefs. The employee offered to continue to submit his time sheets manually or to use a time clock.

In response, the employer offered only that he could have his left hand scanned face up rather than his right hand palm down.  Otherwise, the employee would be disciplined up to and including discharge if he refused to scan his hand, according to the lawsuit. EEOC charged that Butcher was forced to retire because the companies refused to provide a reasonable accommodation for his religious beliefs.

Lessons learned? If you are an employer with 15 or more employees you are covered not only under Title VII but also under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  As such, you are likely (or should be) familiar with the ADA's requirement to engage in an interactive dialogue with an individual with a disability to determine what reasonable accommodations, if any can be provided.  That's a proactive practice when it comes to reasonable accommodation under Title VII.  Notice the EEOC's description that the employer, "refused to consider alternate means of tracking."  

Let business needs drive your employment decisions.  Be able to explain what options are available, if any.  And if none of those options are viable, why not? How will those options adversely impact your business operations?  

Tip #1:  The employer had its own devil to deal with in this case; it was in the detail.  The evidence revealed that the employer had accommodated two other employees who were missing fingers and excused them from the scanning protocol. Remember to follow not only your own policy but your past practice as well or, see the above and be able to explain the exception.

Tip #2: It appears the employer may have relied on advice from its vendor that installed the biometric scanner. The vendor advised the employer that the Mark of the Beast could only occur if the right hand was scanned.  Perhaps not the best advice here. Be sure to conduct your own research into such matters.

Tip #3: Want some more guidance? The EEOC's website provides lots of information and resources here.
Next Webcast
This month's webcast, 
"FMLA in the News: What's Hot & What's Not
September 23, 2015 10:00 - 11:15 a.m. EST
Pre-approved by HRCI and SHRM for 1.25 credits.

Click here for a program description or to register.


$49 per person. Live and archived webcasts are pre-approved by HRCI and SHRM for 1.25 credits. 
Discounted group rates available. Click here for more information. 

Upcoming Events: Click here for a full listing of public and private speaking engagements, seminars and conferences.

Upcoming Public Speaking Events
Tuesday, September 1st, "HR Metrics" a webcast hosted by NAMIC 2:00 - 3:00 EST HRCI pre-approved for credit.

Friday, October 9th - "Employment Law Update for Shaping Public Policy" part of the 3rd Annual conference hosted by CC SHRM, Westminster, MD

Friday, October 16th - "Employee Handbooks: Read 'Em & Weep?" part of the Annual Legal & Legislative Conference hosted by CV SHRM, Hagerstown, MD.

Friday, October 23rd - "Employment Law Update: Shaping Public Policy" part of the 4th Annual HR Summit hosted by SHRA, Bel Air, MD.  

Click here for a full listing of upcoming events.
Pete & Repeat (Not!)
If you have been reading this newsletter for a number of years you may recall that the September edition generally included an article about the annual EEO-1 and VETS reporting requirements.  Historically the article began:
Q: Pete and Repeat were sitting on a wall. Pete fell down.      Who was left?
A: Repeat.
OK, Pete and Repeat were sitting on a wall... You get how this goes from here.

Well, this year it's different.  We have significant changes to the VETS reporting requirements. So let's quickly recap.

EEO-1 Filing - Who must file? Generally, employers with 100 or more employees or those with covered government contracts. The report provides a snapshot of your workforce by gender and race. It may be filed electronically and must be submitted by September 30th.  Click here for more information. 

VETS-4212 - Covered employers are familiar with filing the VETS-100 and/or 100A reports.  This year they have been abolished and replaced with one report: the VETS-4212. Who must file? Generally covered contractors are those employers with a federal (sub)contract(s) of $100,000 or more and not otherwise exempt.  The report provides a snapshot of your workforce with regard to employees' status as a member of one of four categories of protected veterans. This report must also be filed by September 30th. Click here for more information. 

This newsletter does not constitute the rendering of legal advice.  You should consult your company's legal counsel for guidance on employment matters. 


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