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Queen's University
 

Jones

When does religious accommodation become undue hardship?

Facts

Raymond Jones worked for Shoppers Drug Mart as a merchandiser from 1982 to 1998, and as a customer service representative from October to November 1998, when he was dismissed for refusing to set out poinsettas in preparation for the Christmas season. As one of Jehovah's Witness, Jones did not observe Christmas, which his religious community considered to be a pagan ritual. Jones' faith allowed him to stock shelves with Christmas merchandise but forbade him from decorating the store for Christmas. For sixteen years, his employer accommodated his religious beliefs.  On November 10 1988, his supervisor asked him to hang a garland. Jones complied, but felt sick inside. A few days later, the manager asked him to hang a Santa Claus decoration. He refused, claiming that his religious beliefs prohibited him from doing so. Five days later, he refused the same supervisor's request to set out poinsettas. That same day, he was called into a meeting with the owner of the store who told him to set out poinsettas or face immediate dismissal. Jones left the office, cleaned out his locker, and filed a human rights complaint. In the hearing, the employer claimed that the requirement to set out poinsettas was not discriminatory, since the flowers were merchandize, which Jones was allowed to stock, and not decorations. [Jones v. C.H.E.Pharmacy Inc. (2001) B.C.H.R.T. 1]

Questions

  1. Did the respondents discriminate against Mr. Jones with respect to a term or condition of employment because of his religion?
  2. Would it have incurred undue hardship to accommodate Mr. Jone's?

Rulings

  1. Yes
  2. No

Reasoning:

  1. The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal found that displaying Christmas decorations was contrary to Jones' faith whereas stocking Christmas merchandize was not. Setting out poinsettias at the front of the store was both displaying Christmas decorations, because poinsettias are festive,  and stocking merchandize, because the poinsettias were for sale. Although the store was selling the flowers, they served to decorate the store and to entice customers to shop there. Mr. Jone's, whose faith prohibits him from displaying decorations, was therefore discriminated against with respect to a term or condition of employment because of his religion when he was fired for refusing to set out poinsettias.
  2. It would not have incurred hardship to accommodate Mr. Jone's. The supervisor who had asked Mr. Jone's to set out poinsettias admitted that he did the job himself in a few minutes.
 

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