By: Mark Gomsak
Employers are increasingly using biometric data such as facial characteristics, hand geometry, retina/iris scans, fingerprints and voiceprints in the workplace. Biometric data can be used to establish records of employee hours, to restrict access to specific areas, computer systems, data or devices, to provide security and to promote employee health, including through wellness programs.
Employers who use biometrics are rightfully worried about breaches of biometric data and complying with growing regulations that restrict their ability to collect, retain and use such data. The 4th Circuit, however, has recently reminded employers that they must not lose sight of their obligations under Title VII and similar anti-discrimination statutes when implementing such technologies.
In U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Consol Energy Inc., an evangelical Christian claimed he could not use an employer’s newly implemented biometric hand scanner because it violated his sincerely held religious beliefs.
A three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit unanimously held the evidence at trial supported the jury verdict in the employee’s favor on his Title VII religious accommodation claim.