Many employers have introduced mandatory COVID vaccine policies that will take effect this month. I am being asked two main questions in relation to the implementation of this kind of policy. The first issue is whether to grant exemptions to the policy for religious or medical reasons. An employer has an obligation to consider the request but can request additional information in connection with the request. The onus is on the employee to show the reason for not getting vaccinated is a sincerely, freely and deeply held belief that is integrally linked to a person’s identity, self-definition and fulfilment.
Much attention has recently been given to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice decision in Coutinho v. Ocular Health Centre Ltd., 2021 ONSC 3076 (“Coutinho”). The reason for this is simple; Coutinho is the first court judgment in Ontario to address how Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (“IDEL”), introduced by the Ford government in May 2020, affects traditional employee rights.
In the employment context, family status discrimination cases often arise when an employee requests a change in their schedule or their regular working hours in order to permit them the opportunity to care for a child or a parent.