"Hopefully it will be a wakeup call as well for all levels of government to ensure that public policies on issues such as child care and elder care are a priority.” - James Clancy, National President
Ottawa (07 Feb. 2013) - A landmark decision by the federal court has sided with the needs of the employee in accommodating family related issues. The federal court upheld the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s ruling that found Fiona Johnstone, an employee of Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), had been discriminated against on the grounds of family status.
Johnstone and her husband, who also works for CBSA, worked rotating shifts until the birth of their first child. Because of the irregular hours involved in rotating shifts, Johnstone struggled to find child care. She asked CBSA for a more stable shift to accommodate her child care needs. The Agency refused and informed her that the only way to maintain a fixed schedule was to move from full-time to part-time hours.
In handing down the decision, Justice Leonard Mandamin noted that “The CBSA allowed individualized assessments of employees seeking accommodation on medical or religious grounds but responded to Ms. Johnstone on the basis of a blanket policy that required her to forfeit her status as a full-time employee.”
He further noted that the CBSA policy was based on the assumption that the need for accommodations based on family obligations is a lifestyle choice rather than a legitimate need.
“The lack of a universal child care program which would provide quality early learning and care to Canadian children is an issue Canadian families face every day. The struggle is made even worse for those who work irregular hours. Many Canadians, most often women, are forced to choose part-time hours to accommodate their care giving responsibilities. The result is lost seniority, benefits and pension for these employees,” states James Clancy, National President of the National Union of Public and General Employees.
“This week’s ruling by the federal court is a step forward in recognizing the employer's responsibility in assisting their employees who struggle to balance their family responsibilities with their work responsibilities. Hopefully it will be a wakeup call as well for all levels of government to ensure that public policies on issues such as child care and elder care are a priority.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE