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Queen's University
 

Kurvits

Facts

Benno Kurvits, a member of the Baptist Marathon Church, became employed by the Treasury Board in 1982.  Soon after being hired, he requested that his union dues be transferred to a charitable organization because the tenets of his faith prohibited him from supporting employee organizations. Although the Collective Agreement between the Treasury Board and the Public Service Alliance of Canada provided for such a religious accommodation, the complainant's request was denied. This is because the Baptist Marathon Church did not meet the requirement of being registered pursuant to the Income Tax Act.  This requirement, which was a guard against employees who might create make-believe churches in order to avoid paying union dues, had not foreseen churches such as the Baptist Marathon Church whose religious doctrine prohibited it from becoming associated with, or answerable to, the state. The Employer and the Union refused to make an exception for complainant, on the grounds that such an accommodation would disrupt the collective agreement and cost a lot of money, especially if other employees in similar situations followed suit. (Kurvits v. Canada (The Treasury Board) (1991), 14 C.H.R.R. D/469 (C.H.R.T.)).

Questions.

  1. Was this a prima facie case of adverse effect discrimination ?
  2. Were the respondents obligated to prove that the occupational standard was bona fide?
  3. Would accommodation cause undue hardship ?

Rulings.

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. No.

Reasoning.

  1. The requirement that the employee's church be registered under the Income Tax Act was reasonable and neutral on its face. However, it had an adverse effect on Kurvits, whose church could not register under the Income Tax Act for bona fide religious reasons. The case was therefore a prima facie case of adverse effect discrimination on the prohibited ground of religion.
  2. In this case, there was no need to prove that the provision was rationally linked to successful employment performance. What mattered here was that the complainant was being discriminated against, and must therefore be accommodated to the point of undue hardship.
  3. Accommodating Kurvits would not likely have an adverse effect on cost (since the majority of churches are registered under the Income Tax Act) or on the collective agreement (because the provision itself did not have to be altered and very few employees were members of religious organizations with this type of prohibition.

Further information on religious-based conduct Policy on Creed and the Accommodation of Religious Observances, s.6 and 8.3

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000