Guidelines for Accommodating Creed
This guideline must be read in conjunction with the City’s Accommodation Policy and corresponding Procedures.
The term ‘Management’ refers to Divisional supervisors and managers, as well as Human Resources staff.
The City’s Accommodation Policy outlines the City’s legal obligation to accommodate individuals in accordance with the City’s Human Rights and Anti-Harassment/Discrimination Policy and the Ontario Human Rights Code (Code). This guide has been prepared to raise awareness and fulfill our shared obligation to accommodate employees, job applicants and service recipients based on the ground of creed.
The Code requires that all employees, job applicants and service recipients receive equal treatment and opportunities regardless of their creed and have the right to be free from discrimination based on creed. Individuals also have the right to be free from unwelcome creed-based coercion or pressure.
The Code does not define creed, but courts and tribunals often refer to creed as religious beliefs and/or practices. Creed may also include non-religious belief systems. As creed is not clearly defined, the following characteristics have been relied on when considering whether a belief system is a creed under the Code:
- It is sincerely, freely, and deeply held
- Is integrally linked to a person’s identity, self-definition, and fulfilment
- Is a particular and comprehensive, overarching system of belief that governs one’s conduct and practices
- Addresses ultimate questions of human existence, including ideas about life, purpose, death, and the existence or non-existence of a creator and/or a higher or different order of existence
- Has some nexus/connection to an organization or community that professes a shared system of belief.
Not every belief, opinion, expression, practice, or matter of conscience is a creed under the Code. Further, practices/observances which are hateful, incite hatred or violence against other individuals/groups, or contravene criminal laws are not protected by the Code. Contact the Human Rights Office (HRO) if you have questions about whether a belief/practice would be protected under the Code.
Creed accommodation requests may result in a claim that a creed right is in conflict with another individual(s) legally protected right(s). Where there appears to be a conflict between two rights, management should attempt to find a solution that is satisfactory to both parties which minimizes the infringement and maximizes the fulfillment of each person’s rights. However, consideration should be given to whether there is an actual adverse impact. Assertions of creed-based accommodation have been found to breach the rights of others in some circumstances such as: refusing to print materials related to an LGBTQ2S organization due to one’s creed’s beliefs relating to sexual orientation, or denying a female service because of a creed belief in gender segregation.
The HRO can provide assistance in navigating whether a competing right situation has been triggered.
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 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.
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.
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).
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 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.
Assessing the Request
The City has a duty to accommodate individual’s sincerely held creed-based beliefs/practices to the point of undue hardship. Health and Safety issues may prevent the implementation of an accommodation where there is objective evidence of a bona fide health and safety issue that would be created by accommodating the request. The duty to accommodate does not extend to every adverse impact, such as practices or beliefs that are only marginally significant or peripherally connected to a person’s creed.
Exploring the Request
Determining whether a creed right has been engaged may require sensitive forms of inquiry into a person’s creed belief/practices when assessing accommodation needs. Management should approach requests in good faith, limit requests for information to only those reasonably related to establishing the existence of a creed-based right, assessing the functional limitations, and exploring accommodation options. Management must look at each creed accommodation request individually, and should not make judgements based on their perceptions of whether the belief/practice is correct/reasonable (e.g., assuming a person belongs to a “cult” so it is not a creed). If management is unfamiliar with the creed belief/practice or needs assistance understanding the functional limitation they should ask the individual to explain and/or contact the HRO.
Providing Creed Accommodation Information
In accordance with the Accommodation Policy and Procedures, individuals requesting accommodation are expected to do so in good faith and to cooperate with the accommodation process. Individuals seeking creed accommodation are expected to:
- Provide the functional limitations (needs/restrictions) associated with the creed belief/practice
- Provide information confirming whether they can perform the essential duties/requirements of the job, or use a service/facility, with or without accommodation
- Provide the type of accommodation(s) that may be needed to allow them to fulfill the essential duties/requirements of the job or use the service/facility.
- Communicate accommodation needs in a timely manner
Individuals requesting creed accommodation may need to provide more information where it is not evident or clear that a belief connects to a creed under the Code or a practice is substantially connected to a creed-based belief. For instance, expert opinions from creed organizations/groups/practitioners are not typically required, however, an individual seeking accommodation may choose to provide this information to support their request, particularly if the creed-based belief/practice is not commonly known or is unclear. Individuals may contact the HRO for additional assistance in requesting an accommodation.
Exploring the Request
In accordance with the Accommodation Policy and Procedures, management are expected to explore the request in good faith. In some cases, limited exploration is required. The following will trigger management to explore the request in further detail:
- Is there evidence the request is not being made in good faith?
- Is there evidence that the request is not genuine?
- Is the belief/practice (functional limitation) not connected to a creed?
- Is there a competing right that is triggered as a result of the request?
- Is the interference with the creed practice/belief marginally significant/trivial?
- Is the belief/practice peripherally connected to the person’s creed? (e.g., not. all activities related to a creed trigger the duty to accommodate, such as taking part in social/volunteering activities connected to the creed).
The consistency of a person’s current belief/practice with their asserted functional limitation may be considered in certain circumstances, contact the HRO for assistance. If it is unclear or not obvious how the person’s functional limitation connects to a creed, management may need to obtain additional information from the individual so that they may appropriately explore the accommodation request.
If it is unclear whether an individual belongs to a creed; if you are unsure that the belief/practice/functional limitation is connected to a creed; if there are concerns that the request is not sincere/made in good faith; or a competing right has been impacted, please contact the HRO for additional support.
The accommodation option should: respect the dignity of the individual, respond to their individualized needs, and allow for integration and full participation. Where there is no duty to accommodate, management may consider whether any inclusive measures may be implemented.
Management should only share information concerning an individual’s creed accommodation to the extent necessary with individuals who need to assess the request and provide the accommodation unless the individual requests otherwise. For example, if scheduling changes have been made due to a creed accommodation, it may be sufficient for staff to only know that there is a need to provide the individual with the accommodation.
The Human Rights Office can provide confidential advice and assistance to service recipients, employees and/or management on their rights and obligations regarding creed accommodation.
Human Rights Office: 416-392-8383, TTY 416-397-7332, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Understanding Functional Limitations
Human Rights and Anti-Harassment/Discrimination Policy
Human Rights and Anti-Harassment/Discrimination Policy Complaint Procedures
Ontario Human Rights Code
Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), Policy on Preventing Discrimination based on Creed
OHRC, Policy on Competing Human Rights
A non-exhaustive international interfaith calendar and definitions
A step by step guide to adding days of significance to your outlook calendar.
Director, Equity, Diversity and Human Rights Division
June 30, 2016