Religious Accommodation – Will Your Need be Accommodated?

by | Sep 29, 2014 | For Employees

In August, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced that she will not grant an exemption to permit Sikh motorcycle riders to wear turbans instead of helmets. The reason for this – safety.

This decision is an example of the conflict between religious accommodation and safety. This conflict can occur in the workplace forcing employees to choose between their religion and their employment.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides Canadians with the right to freedom of religion while the Ontario Human Rights Code protects against discrimination in employment on the basis of creed (a system of faith including belief and observance). To comply with the Code employers must accommodate an employee’s religious needs to the point of ‘undue hardship’. In some situations, undue hardship could include safety concerns.

For example, the issue of safety and Sikh turbans was previously raised before the Supreme Court of Canada. In Bhinder v. CN, [1985] 2 SCR 561, the employer (CN) had introduced a new policy that employees were required to wear a hard hat at a particular worksite. Bhinder refused because his religion required him to wear the turban. The Supreme Court held that wearing a hard-hat was a bona fide occupational requirement – that it was a true necessity of the job – for safety reasons. Therefore, Bhinder’s religious needs were not accommodated.

However, that in many cases it will be difficult for an employer to meet the undue hardship test and most employees will be entitled to religious accommodation. Where a workplace rule discriminates against an employee on the basis of religion, directly or indirectly, it will only be upheld if it is a true occupational requirement. Even where this is the case, employers still must consider whether the employee affected can be accommodated. We encourage employees who are required to perform duties or meet schedules which conflict with their religious obligations, to speak to a human rights lawyer.

For more information about human rights, see here.

If you have experienced discrimination at work because of religious requirements or have been denied accommodation that you require for religious reasons, please contact us at [email protected] or 1-888-640-1728 (toll free) or 647-633-9894 (within the GTA).

The material and information in this blog and this website are for general information only. They should not be relied on as legal advice or opinion. The authors make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of any information referred to in this blog or its links. No person should act or refrain from acting in reliance on any information found on this website or blog. Readers should obtain appropriate professional advice from a lawyer duly licensed in the relevant jurisdiction. These materials do not create a lawyer-client relationship between you and any of the authors or the MacLeod Law Firm.



Recent Posts

Laid Off and No Recall in Sight?

The Employment Standards Act the (“ESA”) contains a provision which allows for temporary lay-off. Pre Covid-19, the ESA told employers that they could lay off an employee for 13 out of 20 weeks, or 35 out of 52 weeks if the employer continues the employee’s benefits, for example.

read more

Paid Sick Leave? Sort of

With the numbers of COVID-19 cases rising again, especially in the GTA, many employees are asking me as a Toronto employment lawyer what happens if they become sick and they are forced to stay home for 14 days. Following the end of the Canada Emergency Response...

read more

Toronto Office

702 - 2 Bloor Street West,
Toronto, ON M4W 3E2

Barrie Office

277 - 92 Caplan Avenue,
Barrie, ON L4N 9J2

Collingwood Office

220 - 1 First Street
Collingwood, ON
L9Y 1A1



+1 (888) 640-1728


(866) 883-8445


[email protected]

Toronto Office

702 - 2 Bloor Street West, Toronto ON M4W 3E2

Barrie Office

277 - 92 Caplan Avenue, Barrie ON L4N 9J2

Collingwood Office

220 - 1 First Street, Collingwood, ON L9Y 1A1


Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!