Family Status Discrimination

You cannot be treated differently, harassed, or punished based on your family status

Learn what you need to know about family status discrimination.


What is family status discrimination?

The Ontario Human Rights code states that every person has the right to be treated equally without discrimination regardless of their personal characteristics. One of those characteristics is your family status. This refers to the relationship of a parent and child. For instance, you cannot be passed up for a promotion, learning opportunities or recognition because you are a mother.

How does family status discrimination impact childcare?

Childcare obligations are an area that falls under family status discrimination. Your employer has the responsibility of offering reasonable accommodation of childcare. That means that if a policy or working arrangement in the workplace has an unintended effect of discrimination upon your childcare obligation, then your employer has a responsibility to accommodate you.

Accommodating your family status essentially entails making special arrangements for you to address the disadvantage you suffer as result of the unequal treatment.

However, there are standards that must be met prior to your employer having to accommodate your childcare needs. In general terms, those standards are:

  • First, you must first prove that the workplace policy in question adversely affects your childcare responsibilities.
  • Second, you must establish that the child is under your legal care, and you are responsible for their childcare. Being a parent or legal guardian undoubtedly meets this criterion.
  • Third, you must make a reasonable effort to make alternative childcare arrangements, such as arranging for daycare, or a relative or spouse to care for your child during the required work hours.
  • Finally, if such arrangements are not possible, your employer has a duty to make a meaningful effort to accommodate your childcare needs, without hurting their business. For example, this could mean a flexible scheduling arrangement that would allow you to fulfill your work obligations and still meet your childcare duties.
  • However, the determination of when the “business is hurting” is an elusive standard that most often requires the advice of an experienced employment lawyer.
What are your options?

If you believe you have been discriminated against at work due to your family status, you have the right to file a complaint with your employer without fear of reprisal. Your employer is obligated to protect you and legally required to investigate any allegations of workplace discrimination.

You can also file a complaint with the appropriate human rights tribunal or commission or advance your case in court as part of a wrongful dismissal lawsuit. Wrongful dismissal claims involving discrimination can include additional compensation for injury to dignity, feelings, and self-respect.

Regardless of the option you choose, it is best to speak with an experienced employment lawyer to obtain the appropriate advice and strategy for resolution.

How can Whitten & Lublin assist you in your family status discrimination matter?

Whitten & Lublin employment lawyers have helped thousands of people who have faced various forms of discrimination, including family status discrimination, both in and out of the courtroom. Our lawyers have pursued claims of discrimination before Human Rights Tribunals and all levels of Court in Ontario and other provinces.

Our skills, experience and reputation are widely recognized in the industry, leading to our being named one of Canada’s top Employment and Labour Law Firms by Canadian Lawyer Magazine for 4 years, most recently in 2024.

We have your back. Protect yourself against family status discrimination with Whitten & Lublin in your corner.

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