Law School Case Brief
Kumar v. Gate Gourmet, Inc. - 180 Wash. 2d 481, 325 P.3d 193 (2014)
The Washington Law Against Discrimination, Wash. Rev. Code ch. 49.60, creates a cause of action for failure to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious practices.
Several employees brought a class action lawsuit seeking relief on claims against their employer for violations of Washington's Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), battery, and negligent infliction of emotional distress, alleging that the employer's meal policy, which barred employees from bringing their own food to the workplace for lunch (for security reasons), leaving only employer-provided food for the employees to eat, forced them to work without food or to eat food that violated their religious beliefs. The employees claimed that the meal policy constituted a failure to reasonably accommodate their religious practices and had a disparate impact on employees who adhered to certain religious beliefs. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit in its entirety, finding that the WLAD contains no requirement that employers make reasonable accommodations for their employees' religious practices.
Did the employees state a claim under the WLAD?
The Washington Supreme Court reversed the dismissal order and remanded the case for further proceedings. The employees could pursue their claim for failure to reasonably accommodate their religious practices because such a claim is recognized under the WLAD and because their complaint alleged sufficient facts to state a prima facie claim. The employees' allegations that the employer maintained a facially neutral employee meal policy that fell more harshly on them was sufficient to state a claim for disparate impact employment discrimination. The employees also stated claims for battery and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
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