Family Status discrimination is an emerging area of Human Rights
law and Alberta employers are seeing an increase in requests for
Family Status accommodation. Defined under the Alberta Human
Rights Act, Family Status is a protected ground for requesting
short term or long term accommodation to care for those related by
"blood, marriage or adoption" on the basis of:
Child care obligations
Elder care obligations
Spousal care obligations
In the leading decision of Johnstone v Canada (Border Services Agency)
("Johnstone"), considered the issue of
discrimination on the basis of Family Status and what an employee
was required to demonstrate to establish discrimination. Where
accommodation for Family Status is claimed, the employee must
The individual, such as a child, is under the care and
supervision of the employee.
The care obligation engages the employee's legal
responsibility to care for that family member as opposed to an
individual choice to care for them.
An employee must demonstrate they have made reasonable efforts
to meet their care obligations through alternatives to
accommodation. For example, placing the child in day care.
The workplace rule to which they are seeking accommodation must
interfere in a non-trivial manner with the employee's care
Family Status accommodation requests require a balancing act
between business interests and operational requirements on the one
hand, and the non-trivial interference with an employee's
obligations to care for family members on the other. In setting out
the test for Family Status accommodation, Johnstone established a
flexible test to advance the broad purpose and protections inherent
in human rights legislation, including the principle that
individuals should have equal opportunity in the workplace despite
family care obligations. While Johnstone has left the door
open for novel Family Status requests, the decision recognized that
employers must not accommodate every instance where work life and
family life intersect.
Understanding when an obligation to accommodate arises and how
to respond to a request can save employers significant time and
expense. To learn more about how to respond to requests for
accommodation that fall under Family Status please register for our
upcoming webinar "
Accommodation Due to Family Status- What Employers Need to
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