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Employers’ duty to accommodate employees’ child care obligations reaffirmed

LONDON – A recent arbitration decision in favour of a Fanshawe college professor could help employees trying to balance variable work schedules with their child care responsibilities, says the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).

Fanshawe professor Amanda Zavitz-Gocan filed a grievance against the college in 2011 alleging discrimination on the basis of family status, after the college scheduled her classes to start and end outside the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dr. Zavitz-Gocan struggled to find consistent and reliable child care for her two young children, aged seven and three at the time. A college committee denied the professor’s requests to reschedule her classes.

Arbitrator Deborah Leighton ruled that Fanshawe College discriminated against Dr. Zavitz-Gocan on the basis of family status and ordered the college to accommodate her unless to do so would cause undue hardship.

“This important decision obliges Fanshawe to consider and implement accommodation requests with respect to family status,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “They can’t just opt out of the law. We expect all colleges to take note of this decision and make the necessary changes to their scheduling processes to ensure they are in accordance with the law.”

The arbitrator said the college made no meaningful attempt to assess Dr. Zavitz-Gocan’s requests to reschedule her classes during times covered by child care. There was no discussion about accommodation for family status as required under the Ontario Human Rights Code. The college has since implemented a process to assess accommodation requests related to class scheduling.

“Not everyone who has to provide care to a child or an elderly parent requires accommodation,” said OPSEU Local 110 president Darryl Bedford. “But where reasonable efforts have been made by the employee to find an alternative solution and there is a legal responsibility to provide the care, such as the fact that the child is too young to be left on their own, the employer has to accommodate.”

OPSEU represents 12,000 college faculty in Ontario, including 750 faculty at Fanshawe.


For more information: Darryl Bedford, OPSEU Local 110, cell: 519-636-2537