No special employment exemption for religious organization

Residential care provider doesn’t restrict its services so it can’t discriminate against employees, says human rights tribunal
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today

Worker pushed out after coming out

Christian Horizons promotes its evangelical Christian values in its residential care programs and Connie Heintz agreed to uphold those values by signing a code of conduct statement when she was hired. However, Heintz discovered she was gay, contrary to the code of conduct, and when her employer found out, things became difficult at work.

A human rights tribunal found the organization discriminated against Heintz on the basis of her sexual orientation and did not agree with its claim that it was exempted from the Human Rights Code when it came to employing people who violated its religious values.

Though certain organizations can be allowed to discriminate if it pertains to their religious values, it’s clear human rights tribunals will give little leeway in granting this exemption.