The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against a Minnesota employer on behalf of a Twin Cities man who was fired for refusing the company's requirement to be fingerprinted, citing religious grounds.
AscensionPoint Recovery Services, a company with operations in Coon Rapids and St. Louis Park that manages debt recovery for creditors, was sued Thursday in U.S. District Court in Minnesota by the EEOC on behalf of Henry Harrington, of Mound.
AscensionPoint had requested that its employees be fingerprinted as a result of a background check requirement of one of its clients, according to the EEOC. Harrington, 37, informed AscensionPoint in July 2017 that having his fingerprints captured was contrary to his Christian practices, and he was fired that day from his job in St. Louis Park, the federal agency said.
AscensionPoint acted without asking the client whether an exemption was available as a religious accommodation, the suit alleges, and even though alternatives to fingerprinting were available.
Harrington declined Friday to be more specific about which faith he practices or field other questions about his suit. A message was left with AscensionPoint management seeking a response.
The suit seeks back pay for Harrington since the time he was fired and other financial compensation for "emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life and humiliation."
The EEOC also wants the court to order AscensionPoint to establish relevant policies and practices, and to no longer discriminate based on religion.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act bans discrimination based on religion and requires employers to reasonably accommodate an applicant's or employee's religious practice unless it would pose an undue hardship.
The EEOC said it sued after first attempting to reach a settlement through its conciliation process.
"An employee should not have to choose between his faith and his livelihood," Gregory Gochanour, the EEOC's regional attorney in the Chicago District Office, said in a statement. "The EEOC is committed to enforcing the rights of religious employees, and [federal law] requires that an employer attempt to find a workable solution when an employee's sincerely held religious observance or practice conflicts with a work requirement."
A similar case was filed in Pennsylvania, where a school bus driver refused to be fingerprinted for a background check, believing it would leave the "mark of the devil" on her. Bonnie Kaite, an evangelical Christian, sued Altoona Student Transportation Inc. in 2017.
Kaite worked for the company for 14 years before being told in 2015 that a new law meant she would need to undergo fingerprinting. She refused, saying the process could prevent her entry into heaven.
The two sides reached a settlement, terms undisclosed, in early 2018.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482