Before you begin reading, check the calendar, and confirm that we’re nowhere near April Fools’ Day. Everything you are about to read is true.
Like all companies with hourly employees, Consolidation Coal Company needs to keep accurate records of when they are working, so it can pay them correctly. It used to have its miners check in and out with foremen who would make written notations but experience showed that this produced endless inaccuracies and disputes, costing the company millions of dollars. So in 2012 the company began using a hand scanner system, in which employees check in and out by inserting their right hand inside a machine which can recognize it. There were some kinks at the beginning, but now it’s operating pretty well.
Except for one guy, Beverly Butcher, who has a problem with the system. His problem stems from the Bible, which states at Revelation 13 “And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. … And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”
Citing this passage, Butcher flatly refused to use the scanner system. When the company asked him whether he thought that the system was placing any kind of mark on his right hand, he agreed that it wasn’t. But he suspected that it might someday, so he wasn’t going to take any chances.
The folks who sold Consolidated the scanner system had been through this before and proposed an ingenious solution. Butcher could scan his left hand rather than his right; with a little tweaking and turning the palm side up, this could be made to work, and there would be no more danger because the Bible specifically refers only to the right hand. But theologian Butcher was ready for that ploy. Even though God says “right hand,” he actually means either hand, just like God means to include “woman” sometimes when he just says “man.” Voila!
Another interesting tidbit in the court documents is that the company already had Butcher wearing something a lot closer to the Mark of the Beast than anything involving a hand scanner. Every time he goes into the mine, he wears a hard hat with a specially coded GPS chip – right on his forehead, like it says in the Bible. The purpose is to help locate him within the mine in case there is an accident. Butcher likes that purpose, so he is willing to wear a mark on his forehead. But a system to prevent him from cheating on his time entries is different, from a Biblical standpoint.
The human resources person at the company dealing with Butcher thought he could see where all this was headed. A grievance would be filed through Butcher’s union, the United Mine Workers, and ultimately some sort of arrangement would be hashed out. So to move the ball forward, when Butcher refused the left hand offer, he gave Butcher a copy of the company’s disciplinary policy for failing to use the scanner system. Butcher then stunned him by announcing his retirement at age 58, on the spot, ending all possibility of working out a deal. “I didn’t feel I had any other choice” is the only explanation he offers, without explaining why the union’s grievance system (which he had used before) was not a choice.
A few days after retiring, of course, he lodged a legal complaint. The case went to a jury, which just awarded Butcher $150,000 of “compensatory” damages. Apparently the “compensation” is for the spiritual angst Butcher suffered just worrying about the Mark of the Beast that might someday have been put on his right hand by sticking his left hand in a scanner, because the judge is still pondering how much back pay to award him on top of that.
So there are nutty people out there, and creative lawyers, and gullible juries, and every now and then a bizarre case comes along like McDonald’s being sued for serving coffee that’s too hot. Unfortunate, but that’s life in the modern world. What makes this situation a jaw-dropper beyond belief is that Butcher’s case was not brought by some slick plaintiff’s lawyer, but by the United States government. That’s right: it was the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that sued the company on Butcher’s behalf, because it didn’t bend over backwards fast enough to accommodate this insanity.
So the administration that most of you voted for is taking the position that employers must be forced to waste millions of dollars whenever employees claim to have religious qualms, no matter how absurd or even opposite to the scriptures they cite those claims may be. And we wonder why businesses choose to outsource overseas.
Here’s what bugs me the most. All my life, I’ve racked my brains trying to come up with some (legal) way of getting a lot of money without working for it—with no success whatsoever. Now this West Virginia coal miner comes along and schools me, chuckling all the way to the bank. I would try a primal scream, but I don’t think it would help.