Accommodating creed

When must an employee's beliefs be accommodated?
By Tim Mitchell
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 07/06/2016

Question: How does an employer determine whether an employee requesting accommodation for a belief system or creed is legitimate, particularly if the employer hasn’t heard of such beliefs before? Do any such requests deserve accommodation?

Answer: The scope for an employer to demand proof of an employee’s need for accommodation based on religion or creed is very narrow. Current case law suggests that where an employee seeks accommodation for a sincerely held belief, the employer must limit its inquiry to how and if it can accommodate the employee’s request without undue hardship. It has no right to establish the legitimacy of the employee’s belief based on recognized doctrinal principles or to reject a request for accommodation without some reasonable basis to believe that the employee’s belief is not sincere.

If the employer fails to consider a request for accommodation because it doubts the sincerity of the employee’s belief, it may be called upon to justify that position before an arbitrator or human rights tribunal. If it fails to consider a request for accommodation simply because it does not recognize novel beliefs as legitimate or deserving of accommodation, it will likely have no justification.