Family Status Human Rights Violations in the Workplace

In the recent case of Miraka v ACD Wholesale Meats Ltd., 2016 HRTO 41, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal confirmed that ‘family status’ is a protected ground under the Human Rights Code.

The applicant, Jolando Miraka, alleged that his employer terminated his employment because of his family status- and disability-related absences from work. Mr. Miraka had to stay home from work to take care of his young children. Shortly thereafter he became ill, and not long after that his employment was terminated.

The Human Rights Tribunal found in favour of Mr. Miraka, who alleged that his absences from work were factors in the decision to terminate his employment and that the employer discriminated against Mr. Miraka because of his family status and disability, in violation of the Code.

‘Family status’ is one of the protected grounds under the Code and the types of parental obligations which fall under this ground were clarified by the Federal Court of Appeal in Canada (Attorney General) v Johnstone, 2014 FCA 110. These types of obligations are substantive obligations that engage a parent’s legal responsibility to a child.

In this case, Mr. Miraka’s evidence was that his wife, who normally looked after the children, was ill and could not look after the children. He testified that he did not feel it was safe to live his very young children at home alone with his wife on the days in question as they would be basically unattended. The Tribunal found that Mr. Miraka had a Code-protected need to be absent from work and take care of his children on the dates in question. The Tribunal also found that given the unexpected and sporadic nature of the need to miss work to take care of his children, Mr. Miraka should not be required to prove that he first tried to find someone else to care for the children in order to fall within the Code’s protection.

To find out more about human rights violations in the workplace, contact employment lawyer Peter McSherry online or at 519-821-5465.

To read the full decision, click here.