Labour & Employment Law Blog

Can Demoting an Employee after Maternity or Paternal Leave Amount to Discrimination?

Zeilikman Law

Zeilikman Law

Case Summary

The Ontario Court of Appeal’s Decision in Partridge v. Botony Dental Corporation, 2015 ONCA 836


The respondent, Ms. Lee Partridge (hereinafter “Ms. Partridge”) worked for the appellant, Botony Dental Corporation (hereinafter “Botony”) for seven (7) years. Ms. Partridge was initially employed as a hygienist, but was promoted thereafter as Botony’s office manager.  Ms. Partridge went on maternity leave and upon her return she was demoted to her original position of hygienist. This also included a reduction in her hours and pay. The office manager position was left unfilled during this time. Ms. Partridge was terminated from her position within a week of returning to work. Botony terminated Ms. Partridge for cause, alleging that she breached her employment obligations by removing patients’ sheets from the Botony premises.

Ms. Partridge brought an action for wrongful dismissal. The trial judge agreed with Ms. Partridge, finding that Botony had no just cause for dismissal and as such awarded her twelve (12) months pay in lieu of notice. The trial judge also awarded Ms. Partridge damages after finding that Botony discriminated against Mr. Partridge on the basis of her family status.

For a more in depth summary of the facts and the Ontario Superior Court decision please see our pervious case summary: http://www.zeilikmanlaw.com/parental-leave-maternity-leave-and-the-human-rights-code-partridge-v-botany-dental-corporation


Botony brought an appeal arguing that the trial judge had erred in her finding of:

  1. wrongful dismissal rather than just cause termination; and
  2. discrimination based on family status.


Issue 1

The Court upheld the trial judge’s discussion with respect to the wrongful dismissal. The Court did not agree with Bontony that Ms. Partridge’s removal of the patients’ sheets constituted just cause termination, despite it being a breach of her employment obligations. The trial judge made a contextual consideration of the surrounding circumstances of Ms. Partridge’s employment and rightfully concluded that her dismissal was not warranted as a proportional response to her breach. Ms. Partridge’s removal of the patients sheets were not disclosed to a third party, there was no evidence she was using them to set up a competitive business and no solicitation of Botony patients, employees or suppliers. The Court held that based on the evidence, the trial judge was entitled to her finding and as such damages for a reasonable notice period were justified.

Issue 2

Similarly, the Court found that the trial judge did not err in her award of compensatory damages under s. 46.1(1) of the Ontario Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c.H.19. The Court noted that there was ample evidence available to support a finding of wilful misconduct on the part of Botony. Further, the Court found that the case law, the trial judge relied on, supported the upper range of damages being awarded. The Court also found abundant evidence to support the finding that Botony committed multiple and deliberate breaches to the Human Rights Code, which amounted to discrimination of Ms. Partridge’s family status. This discrimination caused injury to Ms. Partridge’s dignity, feelings and self-respect as well as materially affecting her and her family’s economic security.  These injuries were also well supported by the evidence.


The Court of Appeal’s affirmation of Superior Court’s decision highlights the courts’ position on fair treatment of employees, particularly with regard to reinstatement after maternity or parental leave. Employers who fail to accommodate an employee’s childcare needs or obligations under the Human Rights Code without legitimate and justifiable grounds will be vulnerable to actions brought against them.

The above article is for general information purposes only, does not constitute legal advice or create a solicitor-client relationship. Because each case is unique and factually driven, if you have concerns with regard to the foregoing issues, please make an appointment with one of our lawyers or a qualified legal practitioner elsewhere. We represent clients in the Greater Toronto Area including Toronto, North York, Markham, Vaughan, Thornhill, Newmarket, Aurora, Brampton, Mississauga, Barrie, Ajax, Whitby, Pickering and Oshawa.

Legal Receptionist

Zeilikman Law is an employment law firm located in Vaughan, Ontario. We are looking to hire a legal receptionist to join our firm. Preference will be given to candidates who have experience working as a receptionist at another law firm.

Location: Vaughan, Ontario.

Start Date: Immediately.

Hours: Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. Full time. In-person only. This is not a remote work position.

Wages: 35,000 to 40,000 per year.

Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Manage our firm’s multi-line telephone system to receive incoming calls.  Screen incoming telephone call inquiries to determine the nature of the telephone call and provide standard information related to our legal services.  Take and deliver messages and route incoming telephone calls to the appropriate staff person.
  • Answer general inquiries coming from the firm’s social media and website email.
  • Welcome in-person visitors upon arrival.  Direct visitors to the appropriate staff person and / or office or boardroom.
  • Organize in-person visitor schedule to prevent overlap and multiple bookings.
  • Receive, sort, and distribute daily mail and deliveries.
  • Arrange for couriers.
  • Keep front reception, kitchenette area and boardroom tidy.
  • Perform various clerical duties such as filing, photocopying, and faxing on an as-needed basis.
  • Process client or other payments.
  • May be asked to run minor errands outside of office such as attending post office to arrange a courier or pick up mail.
  • May be asked to assist other law clerks or lawyers of the firm as required and as appropriate.
  • Any other basic administrative duties or tasks as deemed appropriate.

Required Skills:

  • Basic knowledge of general office procedures including filing, faxing, and printing and copying.
  • Basic word processing computer skills.
  • Proficient in receptionist and telephone practices, etiquette, and decorum.
  • Professional attitude and appearance.
  • Excellent organizational skills.
  • Positive customer service attitude is a must.
  • Must be able to maintain confidential and sensitive information.

Education and Experience:

  • Highschool diploma or equivalent.
  • 1 – 2 years’ experience in an office setting with an emphasis in accounting, reception or clerical work is required.   We would prefer experience in a law firm environment.

Applications for this position should be sent via email to jennifer@zeilikmanlaw.com. All applications should include a cover letter, resume and at least two references. Only successful candidates will be contacted.