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The Ontario Human Rights Commission recently awarded an architect $15,000 for injury to his dignity, feelings and self-respect. They found he was the victim of “family status discrimination” when he was fired for frequently working at home instead oft the office in order to care for his severely disabled mother.
Francis Lyndon Devaney worked as an architect at Zeidler Partnership for 27 years and was a principal of the firm. In 2007 and 2008 he and his team were working primarily on the Trump International Hotel and Tower – business he brought into the company. He was fired in January 2009.
The Human Rights adjudicator made an important distinction between a situation where an employee would “prefer” to work at home and where there was a genuine “need” for him to do so. As a result, he ruled that company should have accommodated Devaney’s need for a flexible work.
Devaney asked for a second chance after he was fired. The company offered him contract work without benefits and only for days he actually worked in the office. He would also lose his senior architect’s title. He rejected this offer and went to the tribunal.
The adjudicator found that Devaney had been discriminated against because of his family status because he was fired primarily because of absences arising out of his eldercare responsibilities which the company knew about.
He also said the company had a duty to accommodate Devaney “to the point of undue hardship.” They did not meet this standard by insisting he be in the office from 8:30-5:00 when there was no evidence that his schedule created problems for either his clients or his co-workers.
Zeidler gave Devaney 34 weeks of pay in lieu of notice. He asked for an additional 36 weeks of salary and benefits, plus compensation for the impact on his dignity, feelings and self-respect.
The adjudicator turned down his request for lost salary and benefits as he started working on contract for a higher salary for his former client Trump soon after he was fired.
Zeidler was also ordered to develop a human rights policy addressing the need to accommodate under the Human Rights Code and offer mandatory training to partners and staff with supervisory and/or human rights functions within 120 days.