All employees, job applicants, and facility/service users have a right to be treated with respect and dignity based on their creed, and to freely hold and practice the creed beliefs of their choosing. Creed-based accommodation requests may arise when personal circumstances and/or workplace rules, changes, or conditions adversely impact creed-based beliefs or practices.
Policies, rules, practices and procedures that adversely affect an individual’s creed-based belief or practice may be discriminatory and in breach of the City's Accommodation Policy. Individuals requesting creed accommodation must tell a supervisor/manager that they require accommodation and communicate accommodation needs (functional limitations) as soon as reasonably possible. The accommodation request should be made in advance of the required accommodation and allow for a reasonable time for management to assess the request in accordance with the City’s Accommodation Policy.
Inclusive Design: Inclusive design allows for greater integration and participation by proactively removing existing barriers and ensuring that decisions do not result in creating new barriers. This approach enhances accessibility and inclusivity as well as minimizing the need for individuals to request accommodations. In some cases a creed accommodation request may not trigger the duty to accommodate, but management may consider implementing measures that enhance inclusivity.
Common creed accommodations
Time off for creed-based days of significance: Individuals may request time off to observe creed-based days of significance. Time-off requests may be accommodated by allowing the use of float days, lieu time, applicable leaves, or other scheduling options. Vacation days should be used only as a last resort. There is no requirement to pay individuals for time not worked. Individuals who observe creed-based days of significance should make the request for time-off as early as possible. Management can take proactive steps to manage and anticipate creed-based requests for time-off, for example by developing and referring staff to a calendar or resources that sets out common creed-based holy days/observances, however such lists should not be viewed as exhaustive/definitive. The HRO has resources such as the Multifaith information manual that can assist management in assessing accommodation requests. Employees/management may also add various creed days of significance calenders to their own outlook calendars.
Ritual/Prayer Observances: Individuals may also require time off for ritual observances such as rites of passage/mourning rituals (e.g. Shiva is a mourning period observed in Judaism for immediate family members where they mourn in the home of the deceased for seven days). Individuals may also require regular time-off in order to observe prayer times/meditation practices/Sabbath requirements which may require modifying breaks or work hours, making up time where reasonable, or other scheduling options up to the point of undue hardship.
Multi-faith prayer/reflection room: Individuals may request accommodation to pray during working hours (see above). If possible, a room may be dedicated for the use of persons of diverse creeds to observe their beliefs/practices. If a room is to be designated for this purpose, it should be designed to be as inclusive as possible in order to accommodate the diversity of people who may use the space. Employees using the space are expected to be respectful and mindful of the multiple users who have various creed-based beliefs/practices. If no dedicated prayer/reflection room is available, attempts should be made to find a private area that can be used regularly by the individual for prayer/reflection, such as an unused office or meeting room.
Fasting: Some individuals observe fasting, which can affect their health. For example it may be worth exploring if there are health and safety concerns that require temporary accommodation during the fasting period. Employees who are fasting may request modifications to their work schedule such as shortening breaks in order to arrive home to break their fast (e.g. during the month of Ramadan some employees may observe fasting between sunrise and sunset and participate in evening prayer).
Event Planning: It is useful to be proactive when scheduling events to ensure inclusive events for employees and service users (e.g. avoid having your annual workplace dinner during a day of significance or when individuals may be fasting) If employees are being accommodated to regularly leave early to partake in a religious observance, try to avoid scheduling important meetings or events during that time.
Diets: If food/drink is being provided, ask if invitees have food restrictions/require accommodation, or have alternatives planned in advance that could meet the needs of various creed beliefs/practices (e.g. vegan options and non-alcoholic drinks.)
Dress code: Dress codes that require a uniform or protective gear may need to be altered to accommodate creed-based requirements (e.g. wearing ceremonial attire, locks, a beard, or head covering.) There is a duty to accommodate up to the point of undue hardship; bona fide health and safety requirements are a factor taken into consideration when assessing an accommodation request. Style preferences are not considered creed requirements (e.g. a dress code that requires creed-related head coverings in the workplace to be neutral colours may be appropriate in certain circumstances.)
Ceremonial Items: Individuals may also request accommodation to wear ceremonial items. For example, an individual could request to wear a Kirpan, a ceremonial sword that is one of the five articles of faith worn by Khalsa Sikhs. When exploring a request to accommodate the presence of a Kirpan, management is required to weigh the creed-based rights of an individual with general health and safety considerations. With respect to health and safety concerns, the courts have found that reasonable conditions can be applied to the ways in which the Kirpan is worn to mitigate potential risks associated with its presence. For example:
- limits can be placed on the size of the Kirpan (usually 6-7 inches, with a blade less than 4 inches)
- a requirement that the Kirpan is worn under clothing to ensure it is not visible to others
- a requirement to carry the Kirpan in a scabbard made of wood, or other appropriate measures to prevent it from causing inadvertent injury to the wearer/others when there is the potential for close physical contact
- a requirement to sufficiently secure the Kirpan to render removal difficult.
Displaying Creed-based symbols: The City of Toronto is committed to providing inclusive workplaces, services, and facilities. As a government institution the City has an obligation to remain neutral with regards to creed and not impose or favour one creed to the exclusion of others. In order to remain inclusive and neutral, the display of creed-based symbols may not be appropriate in public-facing settings. Individuals may request accommodation to display creed-based symbols in the workplace, however, not every individual expression of creed is protected under the Code or triggers the duty to accommodate (e.g. the use of a religious symbol as your avatar for online communications.) The display of creed-based symbols/objects may be limited or prohibited in some circumstances where they may: create an unequal environment for employees/facility or service users; contravene the principals of neutrality, non-discrimination, and inclusive public service; create a poisoned environment for members of a Code-protected group, or exert pressure on persons to comply/agree with a particular creed. Imposing unwanted creed-based messages/pressure on others may violate the Code protected right to be free from unwelcome creed-based coercion or pressure.
Indigenous spiritual practices: Indigenous spiritual practices are diverse and refer to spiritual beliefs/practices which are identified as being traditional or customary among indigenous people and are protected as a creed under the Code (e.g. solstice celebration, full moon ceremony, smudging). A person does not need to view their own spiritual practice/belief as a religion or creed for it to be protected under the Code. This is particularly significant with respect to indigenous peoples for whom such terms/concepts may have negative connotations due to the history of colonialism in Canada. As such, the terminology used should not act as a barrier for individuals seeking accommodation of spiritual practices that would be protected under the Code. Some individuals may observe Indigenous traditional practices as well as another creed; the duty to accommodate would extend to both sets of beliefs and does not indicate insincerity of their creed beliefs.
Contact the HRO for additional information and assistance.