Working mother wins discrimination case

Canada Border Services Agency must pay $35,000 in damages

A Canada Border Services Agency employee who had to give up her full-time position after the birth of her first child was discriminated against on the basis of family status, found the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

Fiona Johnstone had been working several different shifts as a full-time border officer at Toronto's Pearson Airport when she had her first child in 2004.

Because of the job's unpredictable shifts, public or private child-care options weren't available, said Johsnstone, but she had found three days when family members could care for her child.

She asked the agency if she could work three static 13-hour shifts a week, with no preferred start time, so she could care for her child on the days she couldn't find child care while still working enough hours to maintain her status as a full-time employee and retain her maximum pension.

She also suggested a three-day, 12-hour-shift schedule, which would have dropped her to part-time status but would only have had a minimal effect on her pension.

The Canada Border Services Agency denied her requests, saying it had an unwritten policy not to provide full-time hours to those requesting accommodation on the basis of child-rearing responsibilities. Instead, the agency offered her part-time hours.

The tribunal found the agency failed to show accommodating Johnstone would have constituted an undue hardship and it had discriminated against her on the basis of her family status.

The tribunal ordered the Canada Border Services Agency to pay Johnstone $35,000 in general and special damages for pain and suffering as well as lost wages and benefits from 2004, plus interest.

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