Family Status Discrimination: Recognizing and Addressing Workplace Challenges

Family Status Discrimination: Recognizing and Addressing Workplace Challenges

In today’s fast-paced world, individuals often find themselves juggling the demands of their careers alongside the responsibilities of caring for their families. The intersection of work and family obligations can be particularly challenging for those caring for children or elderly parents. Unfortunately, this can lead to friction in the workplace, where an employee’s work capabilities and priorities can be questioned. This can lead to cases of family status discrimination. 

This article will explore what family status discrimination is, how family status discrimination can occur, the duty employers have when it comes to family status accommodation in Ontario, and how a lawyer can help.

What Is Family Status Discrimination?

Family status discrimination occurs when an individual is treated unfairly due to their caregiving responsibilities outside the workplace. Ontario’s Human Rights Code (Code) defines ‘family status’ as being in a parent-child relationship.

This can encompass parents caring for their children and adult children looking after elderly and aging parents. It can also include close bonds between non-biological parents and children which have a certain level of care, responsibility and commitment. Examples include stepchildren, adoption, or an extended family member.

Types Of Family Status Discrimination

Family status discrimination can be displayed in different ways within the workplace, including:

  • Negative Attitudes, Stereotypes, and Bias: Discrimination can be overt, stemming from stereotypes and biases about caregivers. Individuals or organizations might treat caregivers differently due to preconceived notions, undermining their professional capabilities.
  • Subtle Discrimination: Discrimination is not always glaring. For instance, women returning from maternity leave might encounter subtle discrimination when seeking a higher position, where their commitment and ability to work overtime are questioned.
  • Harassment: Harassment, whether from an employer or colleague, violates an employee’s right to a harassment-free environment. An example of harassment related to family status could be derogatory comments about the efficiency of pregnant women.

The Code protects individuals in a parent-child relationship, granting them the right to equal treatment in the workplace. Employers cannot discriminate against these individuals at work, including during hiring, promotions, training, workplace conditions, or termination simply because of their role as a caretaker. 

Employer’s Duty To Accommodate In Relation To Family Status

Employers are bound by a duty to accommodate employees’ family status needs to the point of undue hardship. When workplace policies or practices create disadvantages for caregivers, employers are mandated to make suitable family status accommodations. 

These accommodations can include:

  • Providing flexible work hours; 
  • Granting leave for family caregiving; and/or 
  • Enabling alternative work arrangements.

By implementing these accommodations, employers create a workplace where caregivers can contribute effectively while also fulfilling their family responsibilities.

If an employee in Ontario believes their family status rights have been violated, it is best to document the incidents, discuss concerns with supervisors or managers, review workplace policies and file a formal complaint within the workplace if necessary. However, it is recommended that you speak to a lawyer who can assist you in assessing your rights and options.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our Experienced Human Rights Lawyers

Contact us by phone toll-free at 1-866-561-2176 or email us at [email protected], and we will be happy to assist.

How Our Lawyers At Achkar Law Can Help Employers and Employees

Navigating the complex landscape of family status discrimination and accommodation can be challenging for both employers and employees. An experienced human rights lawyer and employment lawyer from Achkar Law can provide valuable assistance in addressing these issues effectively.

For Employers

  • Policy Review and Development: Our human rights lawyers and employment lawyers can review your existing workplace policies to ensure they align with the Code and provide guidance on creating inclusive policies that accommodate family status needs.
  • Legal Compliance: Our experienced lawyers can help employers understand their legal obligations when it comes to family status accommodation and discrimination, ensuring they adhere to the law and avoid potential legal disputes.
  • Risk Management: Our litigation lawyers can assess potential areas of risk within your organization related to family status discrimination and provide strategies to mitigate those risks to reduce the likelihood of legal claims and complaints.
  • Accommodation Strategies: Our human rights lawyers can assist in developing effective accommodation strategies tailored to your workplace, considering the unique circumstances of each situation while promoting a fair and inclusive work environment.
  • Dispute Resolution: If disputes arise, our lawyers can represent your organization in negotiations, mediation, or litigation, working to resolve issues in a timely and cost-effective manner.

For Employees

  • Legal Advice: Our team of experienced employment and human rights lawyers can provide personalized legal advice to employees who believe they are experiencing family status discrimination. They can help individuals understand their rights, assess the validity of their claims, and guide them through the legal process.
  • Accommodation Requests: Our lawyers can assist employees in formulating effective accommodation requests based on their specific family status circumstances, ensuring they present a strong case to their employers.
  • Negotiations: If conflicts arise, our experienced lawyers can represent employees in negotiations with their employers to seek reasonable accommodations and resolve issues without resorting to litigation.
  • Legal Representation: In cases where resolution cannot be achieved through negotiation, our human rights and employment lawyers can provide strong legal representation to protect employees’ rights and interests, including at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.


Understanding and addressing family status discrimination in the workplace is crucial for creating a fair and inclusive environment. Balancing work responsibilities with family caregiving can be tough, but everyone deserves equal treatment regardless of their family obligations. 

Discrimination can take different forms, from stereotypes to subtle biases and even harassment. Laws like the Code protect those in parent-child relationships from unfair treatment. 

It is important for employers to understand they have a duty to accommodate family status needs to the point of undue hardship.

Seeking advice from experienced employment and human rights lawyers at Achkar Law can provide valuable guidance and help ensure a workplace where everyone can thrive, both in their careers and as caregivers, creating a comfortable work-life balance.

Contact Us

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

Contact us by phone toll-free at +1 (866) 471-5098 or email us at [email protected], and we will be happy to assist.

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