Ontario (Human Rights Commission) v Simpsons-Sears Ltd

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Ontario (Human Rights Commission) v Simpsons-Sears Ltd
Supreme Court of Canada
Hearing: January 29, 1985
Judgment: December 17, 1985
Full case name Ontario Human Rights Commission and Theresa O'Malley (Vincent) v Simpsons‑Sears Limited
Citations [1985] 2 S.C.R. 536
Docket No. 17328
Ruling OHRC appeal allowed
Court Membership
Chief Justice: Brian Dickson
Puisne Justices: Jean Beetz, Willard Estey, William McIntyre, Julien Chouinard, Antonio Lamer, Bertha Wilson, Gerald Le Dain, Gérard La Forest
Reasons given
Unanimous reasons by McIntyre

Ontario (Human Rights Commission) v Simpsons-Sears Ltd, [1985] 2 S.C.R. 536 is a leading Supreme Court of Canada decision where the Court first acknowledged the existence of indirect discrimination through conduct that creates prejudicial effect.


Theresa O'Malley was a Seventh-day Adventist who was employed by the retailer Simpsons-Sears. As part of her religion she was forbidden from working from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. There were no full-time shifts available that did not require work on Friday and Saturday, so the company terminated her employment.

Simpsons-Sears argued that by requiring all their employees to work Fridays and Saturdays, they were not intentionally trying to discriminate against her; rather, it was a neutral requirement they imposed on all employees.

The issue before the Supreme Court was whether the requirement that all employees work on Friday and Saturday was discriminatory against her religion.

Opinion of the Court

Justice McIntyre, writing for a unanimous Court, held that Simpons-Sears had discriminated against O'Malley. Despite the reasonable basis for the requirement, the company did not try to make any changes to the work schedule to accommodate O'Malley's religious requirements.

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