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Employment Law Update: Washington Law Against Discrimination Requires Employers to Reasonably Accommodate Religious Beliefs

By Richard Lentini

On May 22nd, 2014, the Washington State Supreme Court confirmed that the Washington Law Against Discrimination requires employers to reasonably accommodate their employees’ religious beliefs. InKumar v. Gate Gourmet, the employees of a SeaTac airport caterer were not permitted to bring their own food to work for security reasons. The employees claimed the employer failed to accommodate their religious beliefs because the food it provided for employees’ meals violated their religious beliefs and practices. The Supreme Court held that state law, like federal law under Title VII, requires employers to reasonably accommodate employees’ sincere religious beliefs when the employer knows of the beliefs and the conflict and an accommodation would not impose an undue hardship on the employer. For example, an employer need not provide an accommodation that would cause a financial burden or that would be unduly burdensome because of conflict with other legal obligations, the interests of clients, or the interests of other employees. The case was remanded to the trial court for a determination of whether the employer failed to reasonably accommodate its employees’ religious beliefs, and other related issues.

For more information on religious accommodation, please contact any member of the Employment Rights, Benefits & Labor Group at Ryan Swanson.

Richard Lentini is an attorney in Ryan, Swanson & Cleveland, PLLC’s Employment Rights, Benefits & Labor Group. Rick can be reached at 206.654.2231 or lentini@ryanlaw.com.


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