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Religious discrimination suits aren't just for popular religions

Your religious beliefs do not have to be conventional -- or even widely accepted -- when it comes to employment discrimination laws.

That's essentially what a United States District Court judge is reinforcing by refusing to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a school bus driver who declined fingerprinting as part of her routine background check.

Her reason for the refusal? A sincerely held religious belief that fingerprinting is alluded to in the Bible as "the mark" of Satan or "the beast."

There are relatively few people in the United States that take such a specific stance about things like fingerprinting being part of a Satanic conspiracy. Those who do, however, may also avoid being assigned a Social Security Number or -- at least in the case of a miner who was asked to use a chip in his hand as a scanning device -- any electronic implants under the skin.

For those who do hold the beliefs, however, there's a sincere fear that they will be denied admittance to Heaven if they willingly submit to such markings.

In this case, it seems like the school may have been counting on the unusual nature of the bus driver's beliefs -- not her sincerity -- to win their verdict. They acknowledge that they have another driver whose fingerprints are unusable (for some unstated reasons). Accordingly, the school was willing to do an alternate method for his background check -- but they refused to do so for the other driver based on the religious doctrine with which they were presented.

She was ultimately fired. While her lawsuit is still pending, the higher court's refusal to dismiss it highlights what is most important to remember about cases like these:

The religion doesn't matter when you're asking for religious accommodations. The reasonableness of the accommodations and their feasibility does.Even small, seemingly-strange, unusual, unpopular or eclectic religions are still protected (including those who believe in the Mark of the Beast, Satanists, Wiccans, Asatru, Vodun, Muslims, Baha'i and dozens of small Christian sects) if the beliefs are sincerely held.

If you've been victimized by religious discrimination in the workplace when your request for accommodation could have been easily and fairly met, talk to an attorney today. Our firm has attorneys experienced in workplace discrimination law that may be able to help you.

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