The Alberta Human Rights Tribunal (the “Court”) Recently dismissed a complaint from an individual claiming that wearing a mask was against his or her religious beliefs, offering employers insight into how the Tribunal determines whether religious beliefs require accommodation.
The complainant alleged that a store’s policy that required him to wear a mask discriminated against him because of his religious beliefs, stating that “God created me in his image and if he cannot see this image because it is covered with a face mask, so I have committed sacrilege.
To benefit from the protections of Alberta Human Rights Act (the “Act”), The complainant must first establish that he possesses a characteristic which falls within a protected ground provided for by the Act. In this case, the complainant claimed that his religious beliefs should be protected, but did not specify which religion or religious tradition he followed. Although he referred to passages in the scriptures, those passages did not relate to a principle or practice of the face covering. The complainant also failed to demonstrate how his belief was linked to a religion or was of a religious nature.
The Tribunal noted that to qualify on the protected ground of religious belief, a complainant must do more than “identify a particular belief, claim it is sincere, and claim it is religious in nature.” The complainant must establish that sincere belief is a principle of a religious or denominational tradition, and that belief is a fundamental aspect of the expression of that faith.
Remember for employers
Many employers who have COVID-19 vaccination policies in place have received requests from employees requesting exemptions on religious grounds.
The Tribunal’s decision in this case is important to employers because it describes the analysis the Tribunal is likely to follow in determining whether a person has a sincere religious belief that requires accommodation. The decision also confirms that requests for accommodation on the basis of religion must be supported by objective information and evidence.
Our Labor and Employment team is available to help employers review their workplace policies and approach to managing their workforce in light of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. Contact us to find out how we can help you.
Note: This article is general in nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should only be interpreted in the context of special circumstances such that these documents are not intended to be relied upon or considered to be legal opinions or opinions. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.