Employment & Labour Law Alert - Accommodating Family Status - Case Law Update

By Greenburg Turner

Question: What is the definition of “family status” and when is accommodation in employment based on family status required?

Under human rights legislation, employers are prohibited from discriminating against an employee (either through direct action or policy/procedure) based upon his or her family status. Over the last several years, the concept of family status and what requires accommodation has been unsettled. One of the leading cases in this area, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal’s 2004 decision in Campbell River, stands for the proposition that something more than ordinary family obligations is required to warrant accommodation and something more was defined as ‘a serious interference with a substantial parental or other family duty or obligation’. However in recent years the Campbell River approach has been criticized as being too restrictive in comparison to other grounds of discrimination.

One such case that criticizes the Campbell River approach is the recent decision of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) in Johnstone v. Canada Border Services (2010). In this Alert we examine the Johnstone case and provide some useful commentary about approaching requests for accommodation on the basis of family status.

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