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Crime, Law and Justice
Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Washington Supreme Court: Employers Must 'Reasonably' Accommodate Religious Practices

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The Washington Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Washington employers must “reasonably” accommodate the religious practices of their employees.

The case, involving four men employed by a company that makes meals for airline passengers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, split the justices five to four.

For security reasons, the employees aren’t allowed to bring their own lunches to work. The company provides lunch, but the plaintiffs 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 that like federal law, Washington’s anti-discrimination law does extend to employee religious practices.

Seth Rosenberg, a lawyer for the men who brought the suit, thinks this ruling should spark a conversation between employers and their employees about religious accommodations. “Now that dialogue needs to occur," he said. "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.