In May, the Federal Court of Appeal issued decisions in Canadian National Railway Company v Seeley, 2014 FCA 111 and Canada (Attorney General) v Johnstone, 2014 FCA 110, upholding findings of discrimination on the basis of family status made initially by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and upheld by the Trial Division of the Federal Court. In Seeley, an employee who lived in Alberta had ultimately been terminated when she failed to report after being recalled for work in Vancouver. Johnstone involved an employee forced into part-time status when her employer refused to consider her request for extended hours and a static shift schedule.
In both cases, the Tribunal had concluded that the respondent employers had failed to accommodate the childcare needs of their employees and, in so doing, had breached federal human rights legislation. The Court of Appeal refused to adopt a controversial BC Court of Appeal requirement for serious interference with a parental obligation. However, it did adopt a slightly more onerous test for proof of a prima facie case of family status discrimination than the test applied by the Tribunal and Trial Division. It recognized that an employee must make reasonable efforts to balance work and childcare and that an employer must investigate accommodation options only if no alternative solution is reasonably accessible.