Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Thinking of using biometric identifiers in the hospitality industry? Tread cautiously.

Thumbprint and retinal scans are no longer the stuff of science fiction thrillers, and a growing number of employers are turning to biometric identification as a way to track employees' time and attendance.   For employers considering implementing this type of technology, tread cautiously.  Last month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit against a company that uses a biometric hand scanner to track its employees' time and attendance.  See EEOC v. Consol Energy, Inc. and Consolidation Coal Co., No. 1:13-CV-215, In the United States District Court, for the Northern District of West Virginia.

So what's the issue?

The answer may surprise you.  The employee on whose behalf the EEOC filed suit, an Evangelical Christian, contends there is a relationship between the hand-scanning technology and the Mark of the Beast (associated with the right hand and the forehead, for those of you who are curious and want to refer to Chapter 13, Verse 16 of the Book of Revelations), and claims his employer refused to grant him a religious exemption from the biometric hand scanning of either hand.  

What does this mean for hospitality employers?

For those of you that use, or may want to implement, biometric scanning for your workforce, or at some point, for your guests, be mindful of requests for exceptions based on religious beliefs, and be prepared to consider alternate methods for employees and guests to identify themselves if necessary.