In light of the 2008 changes to the Human Rights Code (Code), it is possible for an employee to file a wrongful dismissal lawsuit and receive Human Rights damages without first appealing to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. In Lee Partridge v. Botany Dental Corporation, the employee sued her former employer for wrongful dismissal and also requested compensation for family status discrimination under the Human Rights Code.
Ms. Partridge was an employee of Botany Dental Corporation for over 7 years. Her initial job title as a Dental Hygienist meant that her work hours were from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Once promoted to office manager she received the benefit of having flexible work hours. Soon after, Ms. Partridge went on maternity leave. Before her return, she was told that her position as office manager was not available to her and neither were the flexible work hours. The employer placed Ms. Partridge back into her initial title with extended hours and reduced pay. Ms. Partridge’s concern was her inability to set up child care arrangements where her work hours did not make it feasible. The Court agreed that she had been discriminated against on the basis of family status and was awarded human rights damages of $20,000.
Since the changes to the Code came into effect, Lee Partridge v. Botany Dental Corporation is of a select few of cases where the Courts have awarded damages of this kind. The Courts have made an example of the employer’s obligation to accommodate legitimate child care needs not child care preferences. On the other hand, employees must prove that they have met their obligation of seeking reasonable child care arrangements but have found no feasible solution available.