CHRC welcomes court rulings on landmark family status cases

OTTAWA, May 2, 2014 /CNW/ - The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) welcomes today's Federal Court of Appeal decisions in Johnstone v. Canada Border Services Agency and Seeley v. Canadian National Railway Company as important reaffirmations of the rights of Canadian employees to be accommodated when family caregiving and work responsibilities come into conflict.

Fiona Johnstone and Denise Seeley each filed discrimination complaints against their respective employers, on the ground of family status, for failing to accommodate their parental caregiving responsibilities in a way that enabled them to remain in the workforce.  

Today's decisions by the Federal Court of Appeal uphold previous rulings by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, and affirm the rights of Canadians who need to balance work responsibilities with family caregiving obligations.

Quick Facts

  • In 2004, Fiona Johnstone filed a discrimination complaint with the CHRC against her then employer, the CBSA, on the ground of family status. Her employer had refused her request to work full-time hours over three fixed day shifts per week in order to balance work and parental caregiving responsibilities.
  • In 2010, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the CBSA had discriminated against Ms. Johnstone on the ground of family status.
  • In January 2013, the Federal Court dismissed the Attorney General's application for judicial review of the case, confirming that parental childcare obligations fall within the scope and meaning of the ground "family status" in the Canadian Human Rights Act.
  • In 2005, Denise Seeley, an employee of Canadian National Railway (CN) was called back after being laid off years prior. She was asked to report to work 1,000 kilometres away from her home. She asked to be excused from the assignment because she was unable to find childcare.
  • CN fired her for not reporting to work. Ms. Seeley filed a discrimination complaint with the CHRC, alleging CN had discriminated against her based on the ground of family status.
  • In 2010, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found that CN had discriminated against Ms. Seeley. 
  • In February 2013, the Federal Court dismissed CN's application for judicial review of the Tribunal's 2010 ruling. 

Quotes

"This is an issue that will touch millions of Canadians at some point in their lives and will become increasingly important with demographic change. The CHRC encourages employers, employees, and unions to seek collaborative approaches to enable people with family caregiving responsibilities to continue to participate fully and meaningfully in the workforce."

"These are important decisions because they clarify an emerging issue in human rights law affecting millions of Canadians."

—David Langtry, Acting Chief Commissioner, Canadian Human Rights Commission

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SOURCE: Canadian Human Rights Commission

For further information: Media Relations, 613-943-9118, www.chrc-ccdp.gc.ca

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