Alberta employers should keep this decision in mind when responding to an employee’s last minute request or demand for time off work to deal with childcare obligations, and even other family needs. Arguably, and if the right facts exist, employees could be protected under the Alberta Human Rights Act even if they have made no efforts to seek out alternate child care. The result is that they could be entitled to the short period of time off, in most cases despite the negative impact that their absence will have on the employer’s operations.
A recent Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario decision confirms that family status protection may require employers to accommodate employees’ sporadic or unexpected absences to fulfill childcare obligations.
The Federal Court of Appeal has released two companion decisions in Attorney General of Canada v Fiona Johnston and the Canadian Human Rights Commission 2014 FCA 110 (“Johnston”) and Canadian National Railway v. Denise Seeley and the Canadian Human Rights Commission 2014 FCA 111 (“Seeley”) that confirm that discrimination on the prohibited ground of “family status” includes child care obligations and in elaborating on the appropriate test to be used in order to determine when an employee can establish a prima facie case of discrimination on the basis of family status contrary to the Canadian Human Rights Act.