FCA rules employers are obligated to accommodate family obligations

The Federal Court of Appeal unanimously upheld the decision of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal which found that Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) discriminated against Fiona Johnstone by failing to accommodate her family obligations. Ms Johnstone worked as a Border Services Officer at CBSA, requiring a fixed-shift schedule to arrange for child care. The employer refused to consider her request, given its view that it had no obligation under the Canadian Human Rights Act to accommodate her personal choices around childcare.

Ms Johnstone’s union, Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) supported her throughout this lengthy human rights and Federal Court process battle.

In upholding the decision of the Tribunal, the Court of Appeal rejected the narrow approach to family status accommodation argued by the government. The Court confirmed that human rights legislation is to be interpreted in a broad and liberal manner and that family status includes child care and other legal family obligations.

The Court emphasized that there should be no hierarchy of rights, such that the test for family status accommodation was more difficult to meet than the other grounds of discrimination. Instead, employers are required to conduct a case-by-case analysis with a view to accommodating the particular needs of individual employees.

Ms Johnstone and her union, PSAC, were represented by Andrew Raven and Andrew Astritis of our firm. A copy of the decision can be found here.