Giving less desirable shifts to single employees

Avoiding giving evening, weekend and holiday shifts to employees with families
By Brian Johnston
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 08/24/2011

Question: If an employer has a practice of giving less desirable shifts (evenings, weekends and holidays) to single employees and avoids giving them to employees with families, is there a risk of discrimination against single employees?

Answer: Yes, the implementation of a practice distinguishing married from single employees presents a clear risk of discrimination. Marital status is a protected characteristic by every human rights code in Canada. Many provincial human rights codes — including Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador — explicitly define marital status to include single employees.

In Geiger v. London Monenco Consultants Ltd., the court struck down an employer policy that provided an allowance to married employees to travel home to their families every three weeks on the grounds that it denied this benefit to single employees and, as a result, was discriminatory on the basis of marital status.