Family Status Discrimination



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Family status and marital status are protected grounds under the Ontario Human Rights Code


Discrimination Or Harassment In The Workplace

Individuals are protected from family status and marital status discrimination in each aspect of the workplace environment and the employment relationship. This includes job applications, recruitment, training, transfers, promotions, dismissals and layoffs. It also covers rate of pay, overtime, hours of work, holidays, benefits, discipline and performance evaluations, among others. Family status can include childcare and eldercare obligations. Many employees have experienced discrimination or harassment in the workplace, despite the fact that employers are required to maintain a safe work environment.

If you have been discriminated against or harassed, it is possible to file an applicant with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario or to include the claims as part of a civil lawsuit such as wrongful dismissal or constructive dismissal. Discrimination on the basis of family status can include childcare obligations or eldercare obligations. Although there has been some discrepancy among different tribunals across Canada, the courts in Ontario have ruled that the concept of family status and marital status includes not only the general status of having or not having a spouse or a family, but also the identity of a particular spouse. It may be discrimination if your employment is terminated because of a disagreement between your employer and your spouse, or if you are terminated because your spouse was terminated. See Monk v. C.D.E. Holdings Ltd. (1983), 4 C.H.R.R. D/1381 and Gipaya v. Anton’s Pasta Ltd. (1996), 27 C.H.r.R. D/326.

​Ontario Human Rights Code

With respect to childcare obligations, the test to determine if there is discrimination is whether an employment rule interferes with an employee’s ability to fulfil his or her substantial parental obligations in any realistic way. For example, a policy that required employees to accept reduced hours and fixed shifts if their childcare responsibilities conflicted with a rotating shift schedule was found to be discriminatory. See Johnstone v. Canada (Border Services Agency) 2013 FC 113. With respect to eldercare obligations, it was discriminatory when an employer’s attendance requirements had an adverse impact on the employee, who had to miss work to take care of their mother as the mother’s primary caregiver.

​If an employee is denied some benefit or right at work because of their eldercare obligations, or family care obligations generally, they may have been discriminated against contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code. Be sure to keep detailed records of any incidents of discrimination or harassment at work. Please note that the above information does not constitute legal advice. It is general information about the law. If you require legal advice with an employment issue, please contact the experts at Ball Professional Corporation.



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