Washington Supreme Court: Employers Must ‘Reasonably’ Accommodate Religious Practices

By Austin Jenkins

Washington employers must “reasonably” accommodate the religious practices of their employees. That’s the ruling of the Washington Supreme Court Thursday in a case that split the justices five to four. The case involves four men employed by a company that makes meals for airline passengers at Sea-Tac.

For security reasons, the employees aren’t allowed to bring their own lunches to work. So the company provides lunch. But the plaintiff’s maintain the meals didn’t conform to their religious-based dietary restrictions. They sued. But their case was thrown out. So they appealed to the state Supreme Court. The justices ruled Washington’s anti-discrimination law – like federal law - does extend to employee religious practices. Seth Rosenberg is a lawyer for the men who brought the suit. He thinks this ruling should spark a conversation between employers and their employees about religious accommodations.

Seth Rosenberg: “Now that dialogue needs to occur and obviously we think that’s incredibly important given how diverse Seattle is and Washington state as a whole.”

The dissenting justices say there’s no evidence the intent of the anti-discrimination law was to create a religious protection in the workplace.

Kumar v. Gate Gourmet, Inc.: http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/index.cfm?fa=opinions.showOpinion&filename=880620MAJ

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