Federal Court ruling on family status accommodation: what this means for you

The Federal Court last week upheld a decision by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that employers cannot discriminate against employees with family obligations.

The ruling means that the employer has the obligation to find workable solutions on a case-by-case basis so that workers like Fiona Johnstone can balance work and family, to the point of undue hardship.

Fiona Johnstone, a Canadian Border Services Officer and a member of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, first filed a human rights complaint against the Canadian Border Services Agency on April 23, 2004 because they refused to accommodate her request for fixed shifts so she could arrange childcare. At the time both Johnstone and her husband were working rotating and irregular shifts.

Although the Johnstone decision applies to the federal sector, other jurisdictions will undoubtedly consider it when making their own rulings on family status discrimination.

We recommend that you speak to your local union reps and your employer if you require any accommodation with your work schedule due to family responsibilities. We also recommend you become familiar with your collective agreement, as it pertains to family leave.

Do not hesitate to speak to a union representative in your workplace, should you require further information.

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