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Washington Supreme Court Hears Airplane Meal Workers Case

File photo of the Temple of Justice at the Washington State Capitol in Olympia, Washington.

Washington’s Supreme Court will decide whether employers must accommodate the religious practices of their employees.

The high court heard oral arguments Tuesday in a case involving four employees of an airline catering company. The four men who brought the lawsuit worked for Gate Gourmet making in-flight meals.

No outside food was allowed on the premises, so the employees were provided lunch by the company. The lawsuit alleges the options did not accommodate the religious-based dietary restrictions of the employees.

Attorney Aaron Rocke represents the four men who brought the suit. He told the high court that Washington’s anti-discrimination law should obligate employers to make reasonable religious accommodations. In this case, Rocke says, Gate Gourmet was already making meals to accommodate airline passengers.

“They make halal, vegetarian, gluten-free meals, they respect the dietary preferences of airline passengers in a way they don’t afford to their own employees,” he says.

The attorney for Gate Gourmet countered that -- as currently written -- Washington’s anti-discrimination does not require employers to make religious accommodations.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."