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 nameOntario Human Rights Commission and Theresa O'Malley (Vincent) v Simpsons‑Sears Limited
Citations[1985] 2 SCR 536
Docket No.17328
RulingOHRC 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 byMcIntyre J

Ontario (Human Rights Commission) v Simpsons-Sears Ltd, [1985] 2 SCR 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 its employees to work Fridays and Saturdays, it was not intentionally trying to discriminate against her; rather, it was a neutral requirement it 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[edit]

McIntyre J, writing for a unanimous Court, held 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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