November 01, 2012

We all face challenges in balancing work life and family life. When will child care or elder care obligations attract the protection of human rights law prohibiting family status discrimination? When is an employer required to accommodate an employee’s family care responsibility through leaves, shift changes or other strategies? Join Lancaster’s panel of experts as they provide insight on these and the following issues:

    • Family status protections in human rights law: What is “family status?” Who is included in the definition of “family?” What protections exist in human rights law to prevent discrimination on the basis of family status? Should family-related leaves receive the same legal protections as maternity leaves? What are the two competing tests used to determine whether a prima facie case of family status discrimination has been established? What do the competing approaches mean from a practical perspective? Is it discrimination or harassment if a supervisor asks an employee questions about his or her family life? Are employers required to accommodate employees’ “routine” childcare obligations? Does it make a difference if a child has special needs? What if an employee is a single parent? Will the care of adult relatives be considered outside of “ordinary” family care obligations? Is an employee entitled to work fewer hours in order to accommodate his or her childcare obligations? Is there an obligation on employees to explore the availability of childcare before seeking accommodation? Can an employer choose not to promote an employee because of conflicting family obligations?
    • Workplace policies relating to family care: What policies can employers implement to help employees achieve work-life balance? What can be done to minimize the adverse effect shiftwork can have on family life and personal health? Can workplaces realistically offer flexible work schedules to all employees with family obligations? How can the union assist employees in harmonizing work and family obligations? When will unions be held liable for workplace rules or standards that are discriminatory on the basis of family status?
    • Structuring employment to balance work and family: What kinds of accommodation can employees request? Leaves of absence? What statutory leaves of absence are available to employees to assist them in meeting obligations to their families? Modified work schedule? Particular shifts or hours? To what extent is an employee required to make reasonable efforts to meet family care obligations before seeking accommodations? How should the parties revisit a family care accommodation plan when it is not working? Can an employee be required to take part in an attendance management program due to family-related absences? What is the union’s role in protecting or accommodating employees with family responsibilities?
    • Undue hardship: What will amount to undue hardship to the employer? What factors do adjudicators consider to determine whether an employer has accommodated an employee to the point of undue hardship? Can the employer argue that the number of employees who may seek a similar accommodation amounts to undue hardship?