A decision by an independent Nova Scotia human rights board of inquiry has found that a Halifax firefighter was discriminated against based on his family status.
Board chair Donald Murray’s decision was published online today, March 24, in the case of Raymond Adekayode v.
Halifax Regional Municipality Firefighters and International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), Local 268.
Mr. Adekayode claimed he was discriminated against when he was denied employment insurance top-up benefits after the birth of his child, and this was because of discriminatory provisions contained within the collective agreement.
According to evidence presented during the inquiry, the terms of the collective agreement provide employment insurance top-up benefits for parents of adoptive children but no top-up for parents whose children are born to them biologically.
Family status is a protected characteristic under the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act.
“Imposing disadvantages on biological parents, or denying access by biological parents to benefits because of the method by which they became parents of their children, is an obvious effect of the distinction that has been made by the collective agreement provisions,” wrote Mr. Murray in his decision. “In my view, that is a violation of the Human Rights Act.”
Given the lack of such a top-up, Mr. Adekavode was unable to take parental leave because of the financial hardship it would have had on his family. On this, Mr. Murray notes:
“In my view, the choice that Mr Adekayode and his wife made about who would stay home to provide the constant initial nurture for their third child was a purely economic one. That economic choice was forced upon them by the lack of access to a top-up wage benefit that would have been available had Ray and Angela adopted their third child instead of birthing him biologically.”
Mr. Murray determined that an award of the financial value of the top-up benefit would not be truly restorative because it does not make up for the time Mr. Adekayode lost with his son. Instead, Halifax Regional Municipality and the IAFF have been ordered to provide Mr. Adekavode with 12 weeks parental leave with top-up to allow quality time with his family.
The full decision in this case can be found online at http://humanrights.gov.ns.ca .