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Suit Claims Worker was Fired for Refusing to Wear '666' Sticker

November 22, 2011
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A devout Christian worker claims he was fired from his job in a plastics manufacturing plant for refusing to wear a sticker bearing the number "666."

In a lawsuit filed in federal district court in Rome, Georgia, William E. Hyatt accused his former employers at the Evansville, Indiana-based Berry Plastics Corp. of retaliation and religious discrimination.

According to the lawsuit, the company had been keeping track of the number of days that had passed without an accident in northern Georgia plant where Hyatt worked by requiring workers to wear stickers displaying the latest count.

In March 2010, as the tally approached the number 666—identified in the "Revelations" book of the Bible as "the number of the beast" and a representation of Satan—Hyatt informed his supervisors that his religious beliefs wouldn't allow him to wear that number.

Hyatt's "sincere religious belief is that to wear the number 666 would be to accept the mark of the beast and to be condemned to hell," the lawsuit claims.

The company allegedly told Hyatt that his beliefs would be accommodated. However, on the day the calendar reached 666 days without an accident, Hyatt was told by a supervisor that his beliefs were "ridiculous" and that he would face a three-day suspension for refusing to wear the sticker, his lawsuit said. Hyatt accepted the suspension, and claims he was told to go home for the rest of the day.

At the end of his suspension, Hyatt claims he was informed not to return to work until a scheduled meeting with his supervisors a few days later, during which he was fired for "refusing to work" on the day workers wore the 666 sticker, according to the suit.

A spokesman for Berry Plastics Corp. declined to comment.

Hyatt claims he was dealt a harsher punishment because of his strict Christian beliefs. He was issued a notice of right-to-sue from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Aug. 10, 2011. Hyatt seeks compensatory damages and front and back pay, and has specifically indicated he desires a trial by jury. The lawsuit does not indicate whether he is seeking reinstatement with the company.

Matt Dunning writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

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