Legal News

Refusal To Accept "Mark of the Beast" Must Be Accommodated

Prompted by security concerns, a Toronto employer introduced a biometric hand scanner identification system to control access to buildings at the workplace. The grievors, who belonged to the Pentecostal faith, refused to participate in the system. They claimed it could impose on them the “Mark of the Beast”, thereby demonstrating allegiance to the Anti-Christ. The employer terminated the employees for insubordination. The union grieved, arguing that the employer failed to take reasonable steps to accommodate the employees’ religious beliefs.

At arbitration, there was evidence that the Pentecostal church does not place a universal prohibition on biometric scanning, but deems it a matter of individual conscience. The arbitrator found that the test for religious discrimination, as established by the Supreme Court of Canada in Syndicat Northcrest v. Amselem, is whether the religious beliefs in issue are asserted in good faith, are not fictitious or capricious, and are not an artifice.

The arbitrator concluded that the grievors’ beliefs about the Mark were sincerely held and did not, therefore, have to conform to the precepts of the Pentecostal church in order to be protected. Therefore, the employer should have attempted to accommodate the employees’ religious beliefs to the point of undue hardship rather than terminating the grievors’ employment.

407 ETR Concession Company v. National Automobile, Aerospace, Transportation and General Workers Union of Canada, CAW-Canada, Local 414, [2007] O.L.A.A. No. 34