Great discrimination lawsuit out of the U.S. about whether it is unlawful discrimination to insist that a Christian employee wear a sticker with “666” on it. “666” is the sign of the Beast (I recall this from my Iron Maiden daze from High School. Rock on, dude). We’re doing human rights law in my class now, so this is a fun one for my students to play with.
Here is the Complaint pleading, which has been filed in a Georgia court under the American Civil Rights Act, alleging discrimination on the basis of religion. When the employee refused to wear the stupid sticker, the employer fired him.
The employer required employees to wear stickers each day with a number reflecting the number of days in which there had not been a workplace accident. The employee refused to wear the sticker on the fateful “666” day. He asked for religious accommodation, since “666” is the number of the beast in Christianity, and he held a sincere belief that wearing it could condemn him to hell. Here is a summary of the argument from the law professor blog called The Volokh Conspiracy.
Would firing an employee for refusing to wear a “666” sticker violate the Ontario Human Rights Code?
Well, discrimination in employment on the basis of religion (“creed”) is prohibited. See Section 5. Is aversion to “666” caught by creed? What do you think? The test appears to be “honesty held belief” in the Ontario Tribunal’s case law. If the employee has an honestly held belief that wearing the sign of the beast on his body for the day would condemn him to hell, then does that bring the issue under the Code?
Assuming that firing a practicing Christian for refusing to wear a “666” sticker is caught by creed, then the employer would need to find its defence in Section 11 of the Code, which allows indirect discrimination if the discriminating rule is “reasonable and bona fide in the circumstances” and there is no way to accommodate the employee’s aversion to the stupid sticker.
So you tell me:
Is a workplace requirement to wear a sticker with “666” on it “reasonable and bona fide” in the circumstances?
If so, do you think allowing the employee to not wear the ‘666’ sticker on that one day would cause the employer undue hardship?
I have to say that what amazes me most about this case is that there is a boss somewhere out there that thought it was a better idea to provoke litigation over this dumb sticker than to just allow the employee a single day off from acting as a bulletin board for the employer. Anyone think the boss was right to refuse the employee’s request to take off the ‘666’ sticker?
To be honest, I’m getting worried myself given how many times I’ve just typed ‘666’… damn, did it again.
Hat-tip: American Workplace Prof Blog