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THE QUESTION

After 10 years working as a specialized repairman for the same company, I must come in late two mornings a week to take my mother to medical appointments. I asked to change my start time to one hour later. My employer responded by saying that if I am unable to meet the requirements of my job, my employment could be terminated without a severance payment. What do you think?

THE FIRST ANSWER

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Daniel Lublin

Partner at Whitten & Lublin employment lawyers, Toronto

Your employer's refusal to consider accommodating you is a form of discrimination. Human-rights legislation protects employees from adverse treatment at work on the basis of being in a parent-and-child relationship.

For example, an employer could not discipline or dismiss an employee for having to care for a child or take him or her to a necessary medical appointment. The same principle applies to caring for parents.

In addition to prohibiting any form of direct discrimination, Canadian employers are required to accommodate employees caring for a parent. Accommodation could include providing flexible scheduling and considering alternative work arrangements, as long as this does not cause an employer undue hardship.

Tell your employer that you require accommodation and that it's the law. If they refuse or if you are fired for asking, you should file a human-rights complaint.

THE SECOND ANSWER

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Zuleika Sgro

Director of People, Saje Natural Wellness, Vancouver

You clearly have unanswered questions around your options for accommodation and it seems your employer isn't well aware of its obligations to work with you.

Addressing this situation by taking the following approach will help you now and others in the future:

  • Make your request in writing. Explain that you are caring for an ill parent and that you are requesting a start time of one hour later for X number of days a week, over an estimated period of time.
  • Provide documentation from an authority such as a doctor to support the idea that you are integral to care giving.
  • Explain why you need this accommodation – for example, you are the only family member able to provide such support, you have explored other alternatives for scheduling or transportation, etc.
  • Ask how your request would cause hardship to your employer, in order to work together on a solution.

It is important to document any discussions you have with your employer on this topic. If the employer ends up denying your request, you will need the documentation to file a human-rights claim.

Got a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com

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