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Sep 17, 2012

What to Expect

By: Barbara Green

Even the most well-intentioned employers are often unaware of the extent of their duties towards pregnant employees under the Ontario Human Rights Code (HRC). The issues become more complicated when an employee’s work performance was consistently weak, and then she announces her pregnancy.

As a starting point, the HRC provides that "Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to employment without discrimination because of … sex." Discrimination based on "sex" includes discrimination based on pregnancy.

The protections afforded by the HRC effectively impose a duty upon employers to accommodate pregnant employees’ needs up to the point of undue hardship.

If an employer does not provide appropriate accommodations, or if pregnancy is even one of several factors in the employer’s decision to terminate the pregnant employee’s employment, this may constitute the employer’s violation of the HRC. Under the HRC, employers cannot:

a) make inquiries during the application or hiring process as to whether a woman is or intends to become pregnant, unless that inquiry relates to a bona fide occupational requirement;

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