Family status accommodation has its limits

Employee’s desire to help spouse with health issues care for special-needs children doesn’t invoke legal obligation for employer: Board
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 05/24/2017

A federal government employee’s request to get home 30 minutes earlier to help his spouse care for special-needs children did not invoke a legal obligation to accommodate based on family status, the Canada Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board has ruled.

Pascal Guilbault was a lawyer who was hired by the Department of National Defence (DND) in October 2011 to be a claims officer. The first few years of his tenure with DND went smoothly and he had a good relationship with his manager, who made it clear she was open to requests for flexibility to foster a positive work-life balance.

In January 2013, Guilbault emailed his manager with a “request for accommodation based on the Canadian Human Rights Act.” The request related to Guilbault’s family — his spouse had health problems and two of his four children had development difficulties. Guilbault asked for accommodation of his need to help take care of his family at the end of the day, by being allowed to take his two paid 15-minute breaks — allotted by the collective agreement — together at the end of the workday so he could leave 30 minutes earlier. He also invited the manager to contact the labour relations adviser to “explain to you the ins and outs of an employer’s duty to accommodate.”