The Accommodation of Family Status- Elder Care- Employers Take Note. October 18, 2012: The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal concluded that the employer failed “in its procedural and substantive obligations under the duty to accommodate.” Lyndon Devaney began working as an architect at ZRV Holdings, a holding company for Zeidler Partnership Architects, in 1982. In the 1990s, his mother’s health became an issue as she had osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. As her primary caregiver, Devaney was often out of the office but said he could be reached 24-7 by phone, email or in-person.
Working on a major project in 2007 and 2008, Devaney put in about 1,500 hours of overtime, he said, though he did not receive compensation for it. However, the senior partner felt the overtime claims were overstated and was unhappy with Devaney’s frequent absences.

Donna Seale in her blog identifies that “accommodation of these types of family responsibilities are a live issue for employers”. So what does this mean? Ms. Seale reviewed that
“The Tribunal concluded that the applicant needed only to show that his employer’s attendance requirements had an adverse impact on him because his absences from the office were required due to his responsibilities as his mother’s primary caregiver. The Tribunal did, however, note that if the complainant was merely choosing to care for his mother rather than it being a “family responsibility” he would not be able to claim family status discrimination.” Mr. Devaney was awarded $15,000 in general damages for injury to his dignity, feelings and self-respect.

While there may be some similarities between child care and elder care; both remain unpredictable at best. We all wear many different hats- adult child, spouse, parent, employee etc. but what happens when we leave our home and enter our work place? What happens to these other roles? Time constraints and stress overload can result in both professional and personal turmoil. Many caregivers feel that no one can provide the same level/type of care as they can provide. This touches both the emotional and physical challenge that many caregivers experience. What if there is a financial restriction that limits the care that can be paid for by the care recipient and as such the family member feels that it is their family responsibility to provide the necessary level of care themselves?

As we grow older and are working later in life, the need for employers to examine their human resource policies in terms of accommodating all of their employees as well as accommodating the needs of their older employees will require greater attention. Is your company prepared? To discuss further, please call.- Audrey Miller

Leave a reply