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IBEW Local 2228 seeks leave to Appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada

Jan 12, 2016

Local 2228 is seeking leave to appeal a grievance to the Supreme Court of Canada on discrimination case involving a member in the Federal public service.

The case raises important issues regarding a working mother’s right to equal treatment in the workplace, without discrimination, because of breastfeeding.  By filing this request, the Local hopes to clarify whether, and in what circumstances, discrimination on the basis of breastfeeding is discrimination on the basis of sex, or family status, or both.  Moreover, it’s also important to understand what criteria a working mother must meet to establish a prima facie case of discrimination on the basis of breastfeeding.

The adjudicator in the initial grievance dismissed the existing jurisprudence, each case of which had held that breastfeeding was a protected ground within the meaning of sex.  In their decision, the Federal Court of Appeal, concurred with the adjudicator’s conclusion that the grievor was breastfeeding her child out of a personal choice and that discrimination on that basis, if it was discrimination, was discrimination on the basis of family status.  Going further, the Court also said that to make a case of discrimination on the basis of sex or family status related to breastfeeding, an individual would have to provide “proper” evidence such as the “the particular needs of a child or particular medical condition requiring breastfeeding”.

This case has significant consequences for working mothers across Canada.  The Federal Court of Appeal decision means that, contrary to the established human rights jurisprudence decided to date, a working mother will be required to meet certain criteria, including medical evidence of her need to breastfeed, in order to be accommodated by her employer.

The Local believes that the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision is not only one of national importance, but marks a dramatic departure from existing legal principles. It’s important to clarify the law on the subject and the Local is proud to be advancing this case on our member’s behalf.

In Solidarity,

Daniel J Boulet