Supreme Court rules on responsibility of employers to accommodate parents

A ruling from Canada's Supreme Court about the responsibility of employers to accommodate their workers

Canada's Supreme Court (file photo)
Photo: CTV News

Another victory for parents who work outside the home and have child-care obligations but the battle may not be over yet.

You may recall the initial case 4 years ago, when a Federal human rights tribunal ruled employers in Canada must try to accommodate parents who are juggling work with child-care.

Ottawa appealed and now the Federal Court of Appeal has upheld the original decision.

This is the story of Fiona Johnstone and her husband who, 10 years ago, were working full-time for the Canada Border Services Agency at Pearson Airport.  

A full-time position meant rotating shifts with irregular hours and that made it impossible for the Johnstone's to get regular child-care.

Mrs. Johnstone went to her employer and even offered to work part-time because they were the only predictable shifts.  

She took the part-time job and filed a human rights complaint.

Johnstone is thrilled the Court of Appeal has sided with her but says "the ruling is important to other families who will be increasingly faced by this int he workplace."

Meanwhile Ottawa is now mulling over whether to try to take this to the Supreme Court of Canada on the basis that child-care responsibilities are the result of personal choice and should not impose a "duty to accomodate."

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  1. Sandy Stock posted on 05/08/2014 07:50 AM
    In regards to the Child Care Ruling: I worked as a nurse for many years and my husband was working afternoon shifts, when our children were small. I approached my Head Nurse and asked if I could work only days and nights, instead of all 3 shifts, for that reason. There were other nurses who hated night shifts, so I proposed that if I worked nights, they could have the evening shifts instead. After talking to several on staff, the Head Nurse accommodated my request, whcih was satifactory to the other nurses who found the night shifts hard to do. I feel that many times employers can work with employees to a satisfactory conclusion of working hours, to the benefit of all, which enhances moral and loyality
  2. Jim posted on 05/08/2014 08:08 AM
    If there wasn't already enough reason to change our judicial system needed an overhaul this decision adds to it. When did it become the employers obligation to accommodate the personal choices of its staff? If they choose to do so that's fine, but to order them to do so is just disturbing.
    1. Sonny posted on 05/08/2014 09:06 AM
      @Jim The Courts made their decision. It is the Con Gov't that probably wants women to stay home to take care of the kids when the cost of a nuclear family is going up for the average Canadian.
  3. Karl Burgin posted on 05/08/2014 10:05 AM
    While I recognize it is a difficult line to tread for employers in making room for employees with family responsibilities, ultimately it is in their best interest to make SOME accommodation.
    As for the ruling in this case, it is one of the few times the Human Rights Tribunal actually performed a viable service.
    Raising kids isn't easy. Yeah, some may say its a personal choice and its not their concern. I would have to disagree due to these various ripple effects:

    *Employers who don't at least help employees with their kids will start to have employees who will end up resenting and hating their bosses. You may also start to see a reduction in productivity here as well. Whether come in the form of a depressed or anxious attitude, 'fake' sick days to take care of their kids, or other factors along those lines
    *Sure you can say 'hire a nanny'. The last time I check though, child care ridiculously expense. When I was looking around, it was literally around the same price as a $1100-$1500 mortgage. This is why you have people running to unlicensed daycare. People cannot afford that. To hire a nanny cost a lot more than that. Unless one is making close to $100K per yer, that is not a viable choice
    *People seem to forget that Canadians are a declining population. So it is in the benefit of all the people have kids to either maintain the native population as is, or to see any sort of growth in the future. This means people has to have kids.
    *To the argument that employers just have to not hire employees with families. Then what would the alternative be? Have them all on welfare? I think it would be in the best interest for all, that employees with families be a contributing member to society versus sucking on it's teat for support
    *And to the argument that employees with kids should just find another job if they can't accept the current rules. That is A LOT easier said than done- especially when you have kids in tow. If you're single or are a couple without kids, it may be a piece of cake. But for one with kids to change jobs would be uprooting lives, schedules, and in some cases housing. So as much as many would like that pipe dream to come true, in most cases, it is not an option.
    1. Mark7 posted on 05/08/2014 10:14 AM
      @Karl Burgin What about employees that steal employers time and resources by posting stupid stuff from work on the company's equipment when they're being paid to work? Should the SC rule that it's OK to steal?

      Should employees be honest and return the money they make while surfing the web? As all employers monitor web use, should they fire all dishonest employees? I think that would be the right thing to do...stop this gravy train where people are paid to post private stuff at work. Just like the parasites on welfare and in public housing, getting real benefits and money for doing nothing.

      Just sayin'.
    2. Karl Burgin posted on 05/08/2014 10:19 AM
      @Mark7 Stealing is a good thing when I do it. Crime doesn't pay unless you do it every day. Are all brown people thieves? You bet we are!
    3. Karl Burgin posted on 05/08/2014 10:21 AM
      @Mark7 Or idiots like yourself posting as someone else. And then 'liking' your own comment for good measure. Highest form of narcissism I suppose.
      Just so you know, everytime you do, I am taking the time to email the web admin here about it. Keep it up. At some point when his inbox is flooded with the complaints/reports on your silly spamming tirade, he might actually decide to take action
    4. john posted on 05/08/2014 11:05 AM
      @Karl Burgin i did not know we had KKK members in the forums . must be that comment was raciest thing i read . brown people dont always steal stuff from employers . i seen white people doing it more then brown people as u call them .
    5. Karl Burgin posted on 05/08/2014 12:46 PM
      @john The funny thing, is that he is under the impression that I'm brown.

      It seems he knows me better than I know myself
    6. Mark7 posted on 05/08/2014 04:34 PM
      @Karl Burgin The good thing is that every time we see your posts, they're proof that you're a thief. The time you take to read, reply, compose, and post your comments must easily rip your employer of for 20% of your wages.

      I'm willing to wager that between this site and others, you steal at least 50% of the money you're paid to do your job for the benefit of your company.

      So e-mail're nothing but a thief and should let the admin and the world know that all brown people from Brampton will rip off their employers., then post about the "gravy train" in Toronto.

      Are you really that stupid to post and tell the world you're a thief? I think you are.
    7. CFRB Moderator posted on 05/08/2014 04:36 PM
      @Karl Burgin Sorry Karl, we don't listen to thieves and crooks, that's why we booted the Fords off the air.

      Better luck next time when you become an honest poster.
    8. Donny P. posted on 05/08/2014 04:41 PM
      @CFRB Moderator At some point, I've got to get myself a girlfriend.

      Pretending to be so many people- it sure takes a lot out of me.
  4. john posted on 05/08/2014 10:56 AM
    yet another reason why we need to vote for our judges business will not hire people who are parents cause it will get expensive to do this . so dont be surprised if people start bitching about not getting a job . and the government trying to find out why the unemployment rate is high .
    1. Sonny posted on 05/08/2014 11:05 AM
      @john The Con Gov't brought forth the appeal looking out for the interests of Corporations...
    2. john posted on 05/08/2014 11:09 AM
      @Sonny sounds like u dont run a company because if u did u would know that if theirs is no profit no company on this plaint is going to stick around . that means less jobs for people who have tones of bills to pay .
  5. arthur posted on 05/08/2014 11:07 AM
    the Harper government seems to be on the outside looking in on a lot of judicial decisions lately. tells me this government is more wrong than right on a lot of things the people of this country find important and want
    1. john posted on 05/08/2014 12:16 PM
      @arthur here u go again . must be old age i don't know and i dont care but u keep confusing the liberals for the cons . there called conservative for a reason.
  6. Ronald Pocklington posted on 05/08/2014 11:15 AM
    We adopted 2 children, I was self employed and my wife a teacher. We were in a position to hire a nanny the only benefit we received was a tax deduction for a portion of our direct costs. We were obligated to pay the nanny with payroll deduction and all other obligations any employer would have. This situation was expensive but it worked out for us.
    If this decision is not brought before the Supreme Court we will all be able to thank Fiona Johnstone for the creation more part time jobs than we have now.
    Employers will look for ways to reduce costs or possibly unexpected costs.
    We all know what part time jobs offer, lower wages, less benefits and our Government will have to look at costs (all of them) one of these days.
    Congratulations Fiona you have successfully caused less full-time jobs all on your own.
    Every employer will look at this and start figuring out how much it could cost them and then watch.
    1. Bob posted on 05/08/2014 12:10 PM
      @Ronald Pocklington you might be overreacting. I would like to think employers will work with their employees to find a suitable solution in most cases.
      i sit beside someone at work where it was more of a benefit to him to work nights instead of days because of his kids and the company was ok with that. it was a suitable solution for both.
      we also have to look at the bigger picture of family life in the country and how it impacts our society and social make-up. i think that's what the courts are doing here
    2. Bob posted on 05/08/2014 12:25 PM
      @Ronald Pocklington i also wanted to say that the trend in employment is all ready part time/
      6 month/ 1 yr working contracts. no benefits for people no way to plan for the future, housing/family and so on.
      Companies are all ready working the system to their favour. just look what happened to defined pensions plans
      I'm in my fifties mostly worked in full time situations all my life. to be in my 20's 30's and trying to save for the future, buying a house. i don't see it.
      when these people get in their fifties and are still renting.
      we haven't begun to see the social impact in this country yet
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