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Employee rights: Employees with disabled family members

When an employee has a family member who is disabled, there may be times when his or her work life is affected because they're taking care of that person. It may be that an employer in Ontario may have to accommodate those employees as part of their employee rights. In fact, a Human Rights Adjudication Panel in the Northwest Territories set a precedent by siding with a mother in the case of her disabled son.

The woman's employer knew the woman had a son with special needs and made allowances for her to care for her child by giving the woman a leave during the child's breaks at school one year. The woman asked for the same consideration the next year. This time, her employer wasn't so accommodating, even though she brought in letters from doctors regarding her son's special needs.

Because the notes weren't for her own need, the employer rejected them. The woman also told her employer that she couldn't work on weekends or evenings because her son needed her care. Since the woman and her employee couldn't come to a consensus, the woman resigned and launched a complaint of discrimination against the employer based on her family status. The panel found the employer in the wrong for a few reasons.

The woman was the main caregiver for her son who had what they termed significant childcare needs, so she was legally obliged to care for her son's needs. The panel also found that the employer didn't care to have an understanding of the woman's situation and failed to accept her reasons for being away from work as legitimate. The panel also concluded that the employer could have trained another employee to do the woman's job for the summer without causing any hardship.

Residents of Ontario who believe their employee rights have been violated would do well to speak with a lawyer about the possibility of pursuing compensation. A lawyer will go over the case and advise his or her client on what procedures need to be followed to launch a suit. All employees have the right to consult with legal counsel to make sure their case has merit.

Source:, "Does an employee have to be accommodated if a family member has a disability?", Miriam Yosowich, Accessed on Nov. 20, 2017

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