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FAQ: Family status and child care difficulties #learnthelatest


At the June 2, 2016, Ontario Employment Law Conference, during the Q&A session, we received numerous questions on topics covered at the conference but could not address them all. From time to time, till the next conference, we will be posting and answering some of these questions on the blog.


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Accommodation of childcare


In the following case, a breach of human rights legislation was found where the employer refused to allow the employee to have the summer off in order to look after her autistic child.


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It’s in our DNA: Bill S-201 and genetic discrimination


When dealing with requests for accommodation, employee absenteeism and other medical circumstances, employers are routinely faced with the challenge of balancing employee privacy interests against the operational interests of the business when determining how much medical information and what kind of medical information employers can request. The analysis typically centres on the issue of what is reasonable in the circumstances, with diagnostic information being considered to be a clear delineation point as to what employers may request and not request. At the Canadian Senate in January, the question of the protection personal health information took on a new angle, centering around an individual’s right to privacy in respect of their personal genetic information.


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Pre-employment drug and alcohol testing

The law of drug and alcohol testing in Canada is in a state of evolution. While the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, Local 30 v Irving Pulp & Paper Ltd., provided important guidance on the strict standard that employers must meet in order to subject employees to random testing, it raised many questions regarding how those principles would be applied to other forms of testing.


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No obligation to let employee smoke marijuana at work as a form of accommodation

The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, in French v Selkin Logging, found that an employer did not discriminate based on the ground of physical disability by refusing to allow the employee from smoking marijuana at work. The company’s zero-tolerance policy for drugs constituted a bona fide occupational requirement (BFOR).


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The duty to accommodate: When is the point of undue hardship reached?

Under human rights legislation, employers have a duty to accommodate an employee’s needs related to a prohibited ground of discrimination to the point of undue hardship. It can often be difficult for employers and their legal counsel to assess when the point of undue hardship is reached.


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Termination was at least in part because of perceived communication difficulties in English

In Liu v Everlink Services Inc, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal decided that, when a Chinese Canadian employee, Liu, was terminated from his employment, he was discriminated against on the ground of place of origin.


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Is the appearance of “youth” a bona fide occupational qualification?

Image: Ambro |

Kimberly Ouwroulis filed a Human Rights complaint alleging discrimination based on her age. The complaint was filed after she was terminated from her job as an exotic dancer at a strip club, allegedly, for being too old. As a highly publicized case, experts quickly asked the question whether or not age, for an exotic dancer, is a BFOQ?


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New development in Christian Horizons discrimination case


When a support worker at an evangelical Christian organization that runs homes for persons with developmental disabilities entered a same-sex relationship, the organization found the worker had breached its “Lifestyle and Morality Statement,” which prohibited homosexual relationships. The organization, Christian Horizons, eventually terminated the employee on that ground, and the worker complained of discrimination to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.


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Religious accommodation and safety issues


As we can see by this article, employees requesting a religious accommodation can sometimes conflict with safety issues.


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Federal Court clarifies that the prohibited ground of “family status” includes “childcare obligations”


Do employers have to accommodate the “childcare responsibilities” of their employees to the point of undue hardship? The Federal Court has confirmed that in the federal jurisdiction the answer is yes subject to the requirement that the childcare responsibility be a “substantial parental obligation”.


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Can you require employees to speak English?


Can you require employees to speak English? As always, the answer to this question is “yes”, “no” and “it depends”.


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Expect application for leave to appeal to Supreme Court of Canada in Air Canada mandatory retirement case


Since the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the mandatory retirement practice for Air Canada pilots, some developments have taken place. First, in the primary Vilven and Kelly case, there will likely be an application filed to obtain leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada regarding the constitutionality of section 15(1)(c) of the Canadian Human Rights Act.


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Air Canada pilots’ mandatory retirement saga continues


As you may recall, Air Canada pilots launched human rights complaints on the ground of age discrimination because the company forced them to retire at age 60. In a history of decisions spanning back to 2007 challenging the Air Canada policy that requires pilots to retire at the age of 60, which section 15(1)(c) of the Canadian Human Rights Act purports to allow, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal recently made two more decisions. One involved…


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Older workers and declining performance


When mandatory retirement was eliminated, I noted that this change might create some interesting HR issues for employers of older workers. In the past, employers were often in a position to tolerate declining performance, comfortable in the knowledge that the employment relationship had a fixed “end date.” As a result, they could allow the employee to work out their last few years and retire with dignity.


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