5 Questions to Consider When Exploring the Duty to Accommodate

The British Columbia Human Rights Code is an important piece of law that aims to foster a society in which impediments to full and free participation in the economic, social, political and cultural life of citizens are removed. Employment, as the driver of our economy, falls under the authority of the Code, and there are 14 prohibited grounds of discrimination in the workplace, including age, gender, race and place of origin.

In relation to the Human Rights Code, discrimination is considered to be negative, differential treatment on the basis of a protected ground. To take a simple example, I’m looking to hire two workers in the same position. I offer the female worker $15 an hour, and her male counterpart $20 an hour, for no reason other than gender-based stereotypes. Clearly, I am treating the female employee differently than the male employee. This is discrimination.

However, Canadian human rights law also imposes a duty to accommodate. This requires employers to ensure that persons with characteristics protected under the Code are not unfairly excluded where working conditions can be adjusted. The purpose is to remove barriers to employment and allow continued participation. The duty to accommodate has most often been applied in cases of persons with physical or mental disabilities, but has also been used in accommodating religious beliefs and parental obligations.

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The Bikini Bistro and Discrimination in the Restaurant Industry

An article recently came across my news feed that gave me pause. A new restaurant will be opening in Kamloops, BC, with a ‘unique’ dress code. As the name suggests, the Teenie Bikini Bistro will serve typical pub-style fare served by – wait for it – bikini girls.

In today’s day-in-age, how is this still a thing? And how does this pass the smell test for workplace discrimination?

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Calculating Severance : What do the Courts Say?

We’ve all heard one of the following stories… An employee in heavy industry is laid off because of a downturn in the economy… Or an office worker is let go because she doesn’t get along with her supervisor… Or a company is going through a restructuring and has to terminate a quarter of its staff.

While the creation and destruction of jobs is essential to our economy and our workplaces, people affected by job-loss are nonetheless dealing with a unique form of personal tragedy. After all, a job is not only a source of income, it contributes to our overall well-being and is an important part of our identity.

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Important Changes to BC Labour and Employment Laws

While it has been understood for some time that British Columbia’s NDP government was looking to modernize labour and employment laws, the extent of these amendments was not clear.

Well, the wait is over, as this week the provincial government formally announced its changes to the Employment Standards Act and to the Labour Relations Code, and there are important implications for unionized and non-unionized workers alike.

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