Duty to Accommodate Based on Family Status in Ontario

Family Status Accommodation in Ontario

In the fast-pace of today’s world, the balance between work responsibilities and family obligations poses a significant challenge for many individuals. To achieve balance sometimes necessitates a clear understanding of the concepts of “duty to accommodate” and of “family status.”

In this article, we delve into the concept of an employer’s “duty to accommodate” when it comes to addressing family status-related needs. Moreover, we equip employees with insights and knowledge to address instances of discrimination and navigate the area of family status accommodation requests.

What Is Family Status?

Family status, as defined by Section 10(1) of the Ontario Human Rights Code (Code), refers to being in a parent-child relationship. This can extend beyond biological ties to include diverse caregiving relationships, such as stepchildren, adopted children, or an extended elderly or disabled family member. This protected ground and distinction ensures that caregivers are shielded from unfair treatment and discrimination.

Under the Code, employers are legally obligated to accommodate employees based on their family status to the point of undue hardship. Just as accommodations are made for other protected categories, such as disability or religion, employers must also make reasonable adjustments to address the needs of employees who are caregivers. These accommodations aim to ensure that caregivers can effectively contribute to the workplace while fulfilling their caregiving responsibilities.

Examples of accommodations can include:

  • Providing flexible work hours; 
  • Granting leave for family caregiving; or 
  • Allowing alternative work arrangements.

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What Employees and Employers Should Know

In today’s society, balancing work and family responsibilities can become challenging for many employees. Juggling the demands of a career while caring for children or elderly parents can present unique obstacles. This situation can lead to family status discrimination – the unfair or less favourable treatment of an employee due to their caregiving role.  

Employers have a responsibility to understand these forms of discrimination and proactively cultivate a work environment that is equitable, inclusive, and free from such biases. Employers should investigate any discrimination complaints they receive.

Discrimination based on an individual’s family status can manifest in various ways, including:

Negative Attitudes, Stereotypes, and Bias

In certain situations, discrimination may be overt and deliberate, where an individual or an organization treats someone unfairly due to their family status. This unjust treatment often stems from existing stereotypes and biases. For instance, assumptions that caregivers might be less committed or capable due to their family responsibilities can lead to discriminatory behaviour.

Subtle Discrimination and Microaggression

Discrimination is not always overt; it can also be subtle and harder to identify. An illustration of subtle discrimination is when a woman returns from maternity leave and applies for a higher position for which she is qualified. However, her employer discourages her, implying that the position requires exceptional commitment and willingness to work overtime, effectively undermining her capabilities based on her family status.


Every employee is entitled to a workplace free from harassment, whether it’s from their employer or fellow employees. 

Employees need to understand their rights and the steps to take if they believe their family status rights have been violated. Documenting incidents, discussing concerns with supervisors, and reviewing workplace policies are essential initial steps. If internal resolution is not achievable, employees can escalate the matter. It is best to consult with an experienced human rights lawyer to know your potential options and next steps.

How Achkar Law Can Help

At Achkar Law, we understand the complexities surrounding family status discrimination and accommodation. Whether you are an employer striving for an equitable workplace or an employee seeking to protect your rights, our dedicated legal team is here to provide guidance, support, and effective solutions.

For Employers

  • Policy Review and Development: Our experienced human rights and employment lawyers can meticulously review your existing workplace policies to ensure alignment with the Code. We can provide guidance on crafting inclusive policies that cater to family status needs.
  • Legal Compliance: Understanding legal obligations surrounding family status accommodation and discrimination is crucial for employers. Our adept human rights and employment lawyers can offer clarity on your obligations to minimize the potential for legal disputes.
  • Accommodation Strategies: Our lawyers can collaborate with you to formulate accommodation strategies tailored to your unique workplace circumstances. 
  • Dispute Resolution: In the event of disputes, our legal team at Achkar Law can professionally represent your organization in negotiations, mediation, or litigation. Our goal is to resolve issues efficiently, ensuring minimal disruption and cost-effectiveness.

For Employees

  • Legal Advice: If you believe you are experiencing family status discrimination, our team of experienced employment and human rights lawyers can provide personalized legal advice. We guide you in understanding your rights, the strength of your claims, and navigating the legal process.
  • Accommodation Requests: Our experienced lawyers assist you in developing accommodation requests tailored to your unique circumstances and needs. 
  • Negotiations: Should conflicts arise, our experienced lawyers can represent you in negotiations with your employer.
  • Legal Representation: In cases where negotiation falls short, our human rights and employment lawyers can assist you bring human rights or constructive dismissal claims.


Employers have a duty to accommodate their employees on the basis of their family status to the point of undue hardship. Employers must be proactive in creating an environment where employees are not only valued for their professional contributions but also respected for their roles as caregivers. 

The duty to accommodate based on family status reflects a commitment to building a diverse and harmonious workforce. As we progress in our efforts to achieve equality, it’s crucial for both employers and employees to be well-informed about family status rights and responsibilities. 

At Achkar Law, we stand ready to support employers and employees alike, striving to uphold these principles and foster workplaces that thrive on inclusivity and fairness. 

Related Articles

The Ontario Human Rights Code: A Primer

What If My Accommodation Request Has Been Denied By My Employer?

Can I Sue For Discrimination In The Workplace?

What Makes A Strong Human Rights Complaint?

Can Working Parents Be Dismissed for Staying at Home?

Contact Achkar Law

Whether you are an employer or an employee needing assistance with family status accommodations in the workplace, our team of experienced employment and human rights lawyers at Achkar Law can help.

Contact us by phone toll-free at 1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at [email protected] and we will be happy to assist.