The BC Human Rights Tribunal has held that an employer is not obligated to accommodate a single parent’s child care responsibilities when there is no evidence that the parent’s obligations are more “substantial” than those of ordinary working parents. The Tribunal acknowledged that all parents have to juggle the demands of their employment and childcare responsibilities, and unless there is a “serious interference with a substantial parental or other family duty or obligation”, there is no discrimination on the basis of family status. This reasoning was adopted from a 2004 decision of the BC Court of Appeal.
The Complainant in this case was a single father who had primary responsibility for caring for his 10 year old son. He worked for a moving company, which often required him to work overtime past 4:00 p.m. The Complainant had made flexible daycare arrangements for his son, but was terminated when he advised his employer that he would not start new jobs past 4:00 p.m. because he needed to be home with his son. The employer acknowledged that the Complainant was terminated partly because of his refusal to work overtime.
While employers do have a duty to accommodate employees who have substantial parental or other family duties, this case demonstrates that it will take more than the regular juggling that many employees do between their job and childcare duties to establish a case of discrimination based on family status.