Country Herbs fired a 16-year old woman scheduled to work on one particular Thursday – an important religious holiday for her. Her 14-year old brother, who was not scheduled to work that shift, was also fired. The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario found, in H.T. v ES Holdings Inc. o/a Country Herbs that the “expectation that H.T. would work on the holiday in accordance with the attendance policy or be fired was discriminatory.”

“The employer’s position was completely indefensible. Notice was provided and the owner had one fewer employee for one day – out of 23 workers packing herbs. A reasonable approach to religious accommodation is to weigh the impact and err on the side of respect,” said Zahra Binbrek, the young people’s lawyer in Windsor from the Human Rights Legal Support Centre.

In the decision, the Tribunal found the employer “did not give any serious thought to alternatives” to accommodate the young woman’s religion. “The only alternative offered was for H.T. to work at midnight,” the decision read, even though the employer had previously agreed neither H.T. nor her brother would work past 10:00 p.m. Her brother, the Tribunal found, was “fired because of his association with his sister who had asserted her right not to work on the holiday.”

The Tribunal ordered the company to prepare an internal human rights policy that specifically includes a section on discrimination on the basis of religion. In addition, H.T. was awarded $10,000 for the discrimination and $1,927 for lost wages. Her brother was awarded $7,500 and $6690 for lost wages.