Decision supports freedom of Canadians to be parents
OTTAWA, Aug. 6 /CNW Telbec/ - In a groundbreaking decision today, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found that employers cannot discriminate against their employees should they choose to become parents. Fiona Johnstone, a Canadian Border Services Officer and a member of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, convinced the Tribunal that she was a victim of discrimination based on family status.
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) refused to accommodate her request for more regular hours so she could arrange for proper child care. The CBSA told her that the only way that she could care for her kids was to work part time. Fiona Johnstone was unable to obtain child care because she and her husband both worked rotating shift schedules at Pearson International Airport.
The Tribunal found that the conduct of the CBSA was willful and reckless in depriving Mrs. Johnstone of her employment opportunities. The Tribunal ordered the CBSA to pay Mrs. Johnstone for lost wages and pension benefits, as well as damages totaling $35,000.
"This is a victory for all working Canadian parents who want to give their children the care they need and at the same time progress in their careers," said John Gordon, President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. "Employers have the obligation to find workable solutions on a case-by-case basis so that workers like Fiona Johnstone can balance work and family."
The Tribunal criticised the CBSA for maintaining systemic policies and practices that deprived Mrs. Johnstone and other similar individuals of employment opportunities due to their family status. As a result, the Tribunal ordered the CBSA to develop a plan to prevent further incidents of discrimination based on family status and develop policies to address family status accommodation requests.
"I am happy and relieved by the decision of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal," said Fiona Johnstone. "I can now move on with my career and with raising my family."
In 2004, Fiona Johnstone filed a complaint against the CBSA arguing that its policy violates the Canadian Human Rights Act by discriminating against her based on her family status. While not every childcare need gives rise to an employer obligation to accommodate, Johnstone argued that her complicated and unpredictable schedule made it impossible to care for her children. She said that the employer had not proven that accommodating her with a more suitable shift would amount to undue hardship.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada represents 9000 workers at the Canadian Border Services Agency. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision can be read at: http://chrt-tcdp.gc.ca/aspinc/search/vhtml-eng.asp?doid=1021&lg=_e&isruling=0
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