BY Sheryl Smolkin, lawyer and journalist | September 20, 2012
The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal recently ruled on the case of a senior architect who was fired because he frequently worked at home instead of at the office in order to care for his severely disabled mother.
The adjudicator found that the company should have accommodated his need for a flexible work arrangement and awarded him $15,000 for injury to his dignity, feelings and self-respect.
As increasing number of employees have to managing aging and ailing parents, employers need to figure out how the will deal with the need for flexible working arrangements.
Advisors should remind clients to develop a human rights policy and staff training that addresses the need to offer employees flexible working arrangements in certain circumstances where there are extenuating family circumstances.
Such accommodation does not have to be for an indefinite period. For example, after January 2009 when the architect’s mother went into long-term care, expecting him work regular hours in the office would not be unreasonable.
Employees have an obligation to work with their employers to come up with a reasonable plan that will not disrupt the workplace, but the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal does not look kindly on employer submissions that “accommodating one employee will open the floodgates.”
In difficult situations, consider putting your client in touch with an experienced employment lawyer.