Discrimination based on family status
January 18, 2015 1:51 PM   Subscribe

If someone comments on a family member and denies you something based on that, is that likely to be discrimination on the basis of family status?

My friend's child needed accommodation of a disability from a service provider that provides a service available to the public in my province in Canada.

At one point, a service provider declined to respond to a request for assistance, stating (speculating) that the parent had health problems that were affecting the child. On another occasion, when a request for accommodation of disability was requested, the service provider speculated that the child's real problem was being caused by a sibling's health condition. In both cases, there is substantial documentation to prove that the child had a disability and also that something negative happened as a result of these comments/inactivity.

Don't worry about whether or not discrimination on the basis of a disability has occurred. That is already covered.

What my friend wants to know is whether these two occurrences above might constitute discrimination on the basis of family status. In both cases, the service provider, who provides services available to the public, declined to do something because they attributed aspects of the child's disability to other family members, in spite of substantial documentation.

You are not their lawyer, this is not legal advice, etc. My friend has some partial support from a lawyer, but there are limited funds and my friend want to bring in as much information to substantiate the claim (or make an amendment to an existing claim) as possible ahead of time. Here is the local human rights' coalition's info about family status: http://www.bchrcoalition.org/files/GroundsProtection.html#Family

Most of the info about family status seems to apply to employment and housing. Granted, perhaps it's kind of rare to have people make weird speculative statements about the health of other family members and to decline to make an accommodation based on that.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats to Law & Government (17 answers total)
Having a bit of trouble understanding the question. To clarify, the friend was denied service because she has children? Or because she has a child with a disability? If either of these is the case, lawyer.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 2:03 PM on January 18, 2015

No. The child was denied certain accommodation of the child's disability when the service provider speculated that family members' conditions were affecting the child and not the child's disability. The service provider is not a medical practitioner or psychologist or anything like that - no one who would be in a position to make that judgement and they certainly didn't have any info at all about one family member, for sure. But they declined to do something, in two situations, because they speculated that other things going on with the child's family were instead affecting the child.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 2:06 PM on January 18, 2015

This sure doesn't even begin to sound like family status discrimination to me. I read your link and I Googled briefly to make sure my understanding was correct.

Could you clarify a bit where you think you see family status discrimination coming in? Even if the service provider in question agrees that they acted the way you say they have, it doesn't seem like they did any discriminating based on the fact that your friend has a kid.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 2:18 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

This is so vague that I don't know how anyone can give you a useful answer but a lawyer who has access to the actual facts.
posted by empath at 2:18 PM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

Myserious stranger, I'm talking about discrimination against the child. Not against the parent. The child did not receive services because the service provider said that they felt the child's medical condition was probably caused by family members' medical conditions (one of which was completely speculative and not true).
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 2:24 PM on January 18, 2015

Maybe check out a different service provider?
posted by oceanjesse at 2:27 PM on January 18, 2015

I'm not a lawyer, but I think 'family status' applies to cases such as if your friend were to try to rent an apartment and was denied because she has children. Again, not a lawyer, just guessing.

I don't think you'll get satisfying answers to this question because it's very vague, as empath says.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 2:31 PM on January 18, 2015

From the link:
Family status protection also applies in instances where discrimination is experienced as a result of being the parent or child of a particular person , or in instances where discrimination is experienced as a result of your membership to a particular group of persons (i.e. all children of the current workforce).

It seems like the discrimination of the kid is based on who their parents are. Presumably if the provider didn't have that knowledge, they wouldn't have discriminated.
posted by bleep at 2:32 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

IANAL, but the link you shared seems to pretty clearly not cover your (admittedly vague and confusing) situation. It's meant to handle things like denying services because someone has kids, or nepotism.
posted by mkultra at 2:33 PM on January 18, 2015

It sounds like they are essentially and maybe wrongfully disputing the legitimacy of the child's disability requiring them to make accommodations? Let's say hypothetically they think the child is only manifesting a disability due to what they think is the parent's anxiety disorder. In that case, I'm not sure what the recourse is but a lawyer may.
posted by waterandrock at 2:39 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

That doesn't sound like family discrimination, it sounds like malpractice.

For whatever spurious reason, this child was denied services when it was clearly indicted that they were needed.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:43 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

You're now around a dozen answers in and you have at least one firm answer for each "yes" and "no", both from people whose credentials you know nothing about, and I'm sure more will be coming in as time goes by. On both sides.

That should be sufficient to convince you that this sort of question is best posed to a lawyer than an internet Q&A forum.
posted by toomuchpete at 2:45 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

Hi I'm a lawyer who has worked to represent people in disputes with service providers in Ontario (disability & welfare, cpp, community housing, things like that). I AM NOT YOUR LAWYER AND THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Which won't be surprising because I'm not giving you any real advice other than who to talk to.

Family status, as a bunch of people have mentioned above, is generally considered to "has/doesn't have kids", with a few other minor possibilities.

If there's a failure by the service provider to act properly, most likely it would be a form of maladministration. You should drop the Ombudsman's office a line. This is their wheelhouse. They will (presumably) try to resolve it informally and escalate as needed. They should be the first place to go, I think.
posted by Lemurrhea at 3:14 PM on January 18, 2015 [7 favorites]

Oh hey follow-up: you didn't specify whether the service provider is federal or provincial. If it's federal, the BC ombudsman won't have jurisdiction to help you. There are a bunch of different federal ombudsman's offices, each for their specific area. If you're not sure, feel free to ask me, but again the BC ombudsman will obviously know what they cover, and unlike me will know where to go in case it is federal.
posted by Lemurrhea at 3:42 PM on January 18, 2015

My non-expert understanding is that here in Canada the cause of a disability is irrelevant, only the needs related are.

You need to consult competent legal counsel in your jurisdiction for help. We cannot.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:16 PM on January 18, 2015

No, it is not. There are limited resources in helping the needy and they must be spent in a way that they will do the most good. If there is a suspension that a child is in an environment where the resources would not be put to the best use, then the child will be denied help. If the situation is considered dangerous, the child will sometimes even be removed from the environment in order to get the proper help.
posted by myselfasme at 6:14 PM on January 18, 2015

Thanks, everyone. It appears that this continues to be discrimination and lack of accommodation of a disability. The lawyer is reviewing whether this might actually still count as a family status issue. My friend wasn't trying to side step the layer - it's a very long set of challenges and she just wanted to know if she should pull together documentation about family status in the meantime. When you have a set amount of funding, you can't just pay to get more - it's finite. She was curious about family status becaue the focus has almost always been about housing and employment and not all the provinces prohibit it (though this one does), so it is still emerging.

Myselfasme, I'm not sure where you live, but the Moore case in Canada set a Supreme Court benchmark that says that services must be based on the needs of the individual, not the greater good.

Lemurrhea, I had never heard of the Ombuds' Office till you mentioned it. I'm going to actually send this info out to not just my friend, but share it with many groups of which I am a member. I can imagine that many, many people need help with accessing medical and educational services and have no idea there is any process available other than the human rights tribunal. So your advice isn't just going to help my friend and her family, but also me and others.

Oh, and the point about the anxiety disorder is really very analogous to what happened and helps! Thanks!
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 1:12 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

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