# 2015-310 - Discrimination


Case Summary

F&R Date: 2016–02–29

Shortly after her return to work following a maternity leave, the grievor was notified that she was to take part in an exercise. She asked the base medical staff to obtain employment limitations that would allow her to be deployed to an environment favourable to her decision to breastfeed her child. The medical staff informed her that her request was administrative in nature and should be addressed through the chain of command.

The grievor sent her chain of command a list of her needs, including access to a private room, electricity, running water, a freezer and the approval of regular break periods. The chain of command indicated that it would support the grievor's requests when possible and in accordance with the operational needs of the exercise, adding however that it would take place in austere conditions and that the high operational tempo would not guarantee that her needs would always be met. The chain of command cautioned the grievor that she should be resourceful in finding solutions to her specific needs.

When she returned from the exercise, dissatisfied with the treatment she had received, the grievor submitted a grievance asking that the CAF adopt a policy in support of breastfeeding and reimburse her the costs of renting a breast pump for the duration of the exercise. She submitted that despite the support from her chain of command and its efforts to put in place favorable conditions, the exercise was incompatible with breastfeeding and represented a risk to her health due to hygiene reasons, the schedule and lack of privacy.

The initial authority (IA) denied the grievance, indicating that breastfeeding is a personal choice and that medical limitations should not be issued to allow a mother to breastfeed her child. He explained that it was up to the chain of command to accommodate the needs of a breastfeeding mother, which seemed to have been done for the grievor, to the extent possible. As for reimbursement of the breast pump, the IA concluded that this was not included in the range of CAF health services, so an exception to accommodate the grievor was not justified.

The Committee found that the grievor had not established a prima facie case of discrimination against her, based on sex or family situation. Although she had a legal obligation to feed her child, she did not demonstrate that the child had a medical condition necessitating breast milk or that there was no other accessible or available alternative in providing care for her child.

Moreover, the Committee found that the chain of command's efforts to accommodate the grievor during the exercise, although it was not obligated to do so, were reasonable.

As for reimbursement of the breast pump, the Committee agreed that this was not included in the range of CAF health care services that are comparable to health care services provided for Canadians under provincial health care plans, which do not include this either. Given the absence of a specific medical condition, the Committee determined that the grievor's situation did not justify that an exception be made and recommended that the breast pump not be reimbursed.

Lastly, although the grievor required that the CAF adopt a clear policy on breastfeeding, the Committee determined that the Canadian legislation to which the CAF are subject already very clearly frames the needs in the grievor's request.

The Committee recommended that the grievance be denied.

FA Decision Summary

The FA agreed with the Committee's findings and recommendation to deny the grievance. The FA found that the grievor did not provide prima facia evidence of discrimination based on gender or family status. Given the circumstances, breast feeding did not constitute a medical necessity but a personal choice, as was the use of a breast pump. The chain of command had put in place reasonable accommodation measures that provide adequately provided for continued employment.

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