What is Family Status Discrimination

Family status discrimination is when an employer puts you to a disadvantage or withholds you from a benefit or opportunity due to your familial status. One’s familial status in an employment setting is usually evaluated according to their caregiving needs of elders and children.

Due to workplace demands increasing in Canadian society, including increased work hours, individuals find it difficult to balance their work and household obligations. Further, insufficient social support such as childcare, eldercare and disability support makes it even more challenging.

The Ontario Human Rights Code clearly states that employers are not allowed to mistreat their employees on several grounds as stated below:

5(1) Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to employment without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, a record of offences, marital status, family status or disability.

Therefore, a parent who has a child or an elderly in their home should not be at a disadvantage in comparison to their colleagues who don’t have similar obligations. Some areas in which employees may face mistreatment due to their family status are:

· Hiring

· Promotion

· Training

· Benefits

· Workplace conditions

· Termination of employment because of an individual’s caretaking responsibilities

Oftentimes, stereotypes associated with being a caregiver may affect an employee’s opportunities in their workplace. For example, they may be viewed as being less knowledgeable, dedicated or determined to their work.

The most common kind of stereotype is that of gender. Female employees suffer a loss of opportunity when they enter motherhood, due to preconceptions about a mother not being able to fulfil her role as an employee. Men may also experience negative treatment when catering towards their caregiving responsibilities, as they could be viewed as steering away from stereotypical gender roles.

In order to create a more inclusive environment in the workplace, employers should cater to the needs of the employees. This would include making changes that would reflect on a person’s family status. For example, an employer could:

· Allow some flexibility to their work schedules

· Allow employees to take leaves of absence to care for family members who are ill or have a disability

· Provide alternative work arrangements when necessary

Further inquiry by the Ontario Human Rights Commission established that the classification of “family status” is not inclusive to different familial relationships, such as relationships with one’s siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. Individuals may have caregiving responsibilities towards their extended family members.

Unfortunately, due to “family status” only applying to a parent-child relationship or an individual caring for their ageing parents, their caregiving responsibilities towards their extended family are not considered.

In order for family status discrimination to be eliminated in the employment setting, employees, employers and the government must work collaboratively to create a workplace environment that is equally inclusive to all employee’s household conditions. It is difficult to cater to everyone’s individual needs, however, an effort must be made by the government through enforced legislation to encourage minimum standards that support caregivers.

If you have faced discrimination at the workplace due to your family status, our lawyers at Tailor Law Professional Corporation may provide you with excellent legal advice and assistance. Please do not hesitate to contact us at 905-366-0202, or visit our website here.

Sources:

http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/employment-discrimination-based-family-status-fact-sheet

http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/family-status-and-ontario-human-rights-code-fact-sheet

https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90h1

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