Kumar v. Gate Gourmet, Inc. (Majority and Dissent)Annotate this Case
Appellants James Kumar, Ranveer Singh, Asegedew Gefe, and Abbas Kosymov brought a class action lawsuit against their employer, Gate Gourmet Inc., alleging two common law torts and two violations of Washington's Law Against Discrimination (WLAD). The lawsuit stemmed from Gate Gourmet's employee meal policy, which barred employees from bringing in their own food for lunch (for security reasons), leaving only employer-provided food for the employees to eat. According to plaintiffs, the policy forced them to work without food or eat food that violated their religious beliefs. The meals ostensibly consist of one vegetarian and one meat-based main dish. The employees alleged that Gate Gourmet used animal by-products in the "vegetarian" option, and despite switching to turkey for a meat-based option, the company reverted to using a beef/pork mixture in violation of others' religious dietary restrictions. The complaint, therefore, alleged that Gate Gourmet deceived "putative class members [to] unknowingly eat[ing] food forbidden by their beliefs," and that class members "have faced the choice of eating food forbidden by their sincerely held beliefs or not eating. Those that did consume meals, they argued, suffered offensive touching due to their contact with food prohibited by their beliefs, and suffered distress as a result." The trial court granted in full Gate Gourmet's CR 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, finding that the WLAD contained no requirement that employers make reasonable accommodations for their employees' religious practices. The Washington Supreme Court granted direct review and reversed. The Court held that the WLAD created a cause of action for failure to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious practices. With regard to plaintiffs' tort claims, the Court found the trial court dismissed them at the pleading stage, and the tort claims went without analysis. "In light of this fact and in light of Washington's relatively liberal standard for stating a cognizable claim," the Court remanded the case back to the superior court for further proceedings.