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Gate Gourmet is an independent provider of catering and provisioning services for airlines and railroads and works at airports around the world. The plaintiffs are employees of Gate Gourmet at SeaTac Airport and based on their sincerely held religious beliefs, observe dietary restrictions. According to the pleadings, due to security provisions and a business rule, employees are prohibited from bringing outside food onto the workplace premises. Because they are given only 30 minutes for lunch and because of security processes and travel distance, it is not feasible for employees to leave Gate Gourmet’s premises to each lunch and return to their work stations within the allotted time. As a result, employees consume meals provided by Gate Gourmet. In spring 2011, Mr. Kumar asked Gate Gourmet to change the contents of the meals so that they did not contain foods that offend employee with dietary restrictions based on their religious beliefs. For a period, Gate Gourmet changed the meals so they accommodated employees’ dietary restrictions. A short time later, Gate Gourmet reverted to using offensive foods without informing employees, and when confronted by employees about the switch back, refused to alter the menu.
The plaintiffs filed a class action in state court on behalf of themselves and similarly situated employees of Gate Gourmet under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (“WLAD”), RCW 49.60, for Defendant’s failure to accommodate their religious and/or sincerely held beliefs regarding diet and food preparation. The superior court dismissed the complaint based on Short v. Battleground School District, 169 Wash. App. 188 (2012), which held that there is no duty of an employer to accommodate an employee’s religion under the WLAD.
The plaintiffs filed a direct appeal to the Washington Supreme Court.