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Queen's University


How do you determine if a standard constitutes a bona fide occupational requirement?


After three years of satisfactory service with the provincial government, a female firefighter (Meiorin) was dismissed when she failed to meet a newly imposed aerobic standard. In arbitration, Meiorin complained that the aerobic standard discriminated unfairly against women. The Government denied that the standard was discriminatory. It claimed that some women could meet the aerobic standard, which was reasonably necessary for maintaining safety. The Supreme court of Canada ruled in favor of Meiorin, who was reinstated to her former position and compensated for her lost wages and benefits. British Columbia (Public Service Employee Relations Comm.) v B.C.G.E.U. (1999), 35 C.H.R.R. d/257 (S.C.C.).


  1. Was the aerobic standard discriminatory?
  2. Did it constitute a bona fide occupational requirement ?


  1. Yes
  2. No


  1. In making its ruling in favor of the complainant, the Supreme Court of Canada established  the Meiorin three-step test for bona fide occupational requirements. 
  2. According to the Court, once the complainant establishes that a standard constitutes discrimination, the respondent must justify the standard by establishing:1) That is adopted the standard for a purpose rationally connected to the performance of the job; 2) That is adopted the standard in an honest and good faith belief that it was necessary to the fulfillment of that legitimate work-related purpose; and 3) That the standard is reasonably necessary to the accomplishment of that legitimate purpose. To show that the standard is reasonably necessary, it must be demonstrated that it is impossible to accommodate individual employees sharing the characteristics of the claimant without imposing undue hardship upon the employer (p 298). In the Meiorin case, the aerobic standard passed the first two parts of the test, but failed the third one. The Court ruled that the respondent relied on impressionistic evidence and therefore failed to establish that the standard was reasonably necessary to the accomplishment of safe firefighting.

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000