All in the family: accommodating family status

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The applicant had a large number of absences in 2007 and 2008, which he testified were necessary in order to permit him to take his mother to medical appointments and to provide her with care.

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario conducted an extensive review of the jurisprudence and the various tests that have been applied to discrimination on the basis of family status. It found that the respondent had breached its procedural and its substantive duty to accommodate.

Lessons For Employers

Once an employer becomes aware that an employee has needs related to family status, it has a proactive duty to make inquiries in order to determine whether it has a duty to accommodate those needs.

Both decisions also emphasize that employers cannot rely on assumptions or impressions in determining whether or not an employee’s childcare or eldercare obligations can be accommodated.

Employers are not required to accommodate every request and are entitled to inquire into whether the employee has explored other options for meeting his/her family obligations.

“What is also clear is that, given the changing nature of the Canadian family and changing family obligations, employers are likely to receive an increased number of requests for accommodation of childcare and eldercare obligations,” Nassar said. “Employers should be aware of their obligations and carefully assess any request for accommodation on an individual basis.”

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