The Legalities of Criminal, Credit and Medical Checks in HR


From time to time, I get questions from employees and companies alike about the legalities of performing various forms of background checks in the hiring process. While thankfully these issues do not come up too frequently, three forms of checks which cause particular concern are criminal record checks, credit checks, and medical checks.

While requests for this type of sensitive personal information are far more common in the United States, they continue to be applicable in Canada as well. In this article, we will examine whether these requests are legal and if so, what types of limits are associated with them. Continue reading “The Legalities of Criminal, Credit and Medical Checks in HR”

BC to Protect Transgendered People under Human Rights Code

Transgender flag (00630711xD7EDD)

On July 25, 2016, the British Columbia government passed the first reading of Bill 27, or the Human Rights Code Amendment Act.

If the Bill passes into law (which it is widely expected to do), it will amend the Human Rights Code to add “gender identity or expression” to provisions prohibiting discrimination in :

  • Publications (s.7);
  • Accommodation, service and facility (s.8);
  • Purchase of property (s. 9);
  • Tenancy (s.10);
  • Employment advertisements (s. 11);
  • Employment (s. 13); and
  • Membership in unions or associations (s. 14).

Continue reading “BC to Protect Transgendered People under Human Rights Code”

When Workplace Discrimination is Not Illegal: Schrenk v. British Columbia

The British Columbia Human Rights Code mandates the BC Human Rights Tribunal to prevent and provide redress to discrimination in areas such as tenancy, services and employment. In recognition of its important public purpose, this Code has long attracted a large and liberal interpretation of its mandate.

No where is this “large and liberal” interpretation of the law more evident than in the employment context, where an “employer” has been held to include at times supervisors, contractors, unions, trade groups, significant customers or any other organization that occupies a position of power and can dictate conditions of employment. Continue reading “When Workplace Discrimination is Not Illegal: Schrenk v. British Columbia”

Working with Legal Weed – This Changes Everything… Or Does It?


A key component of the Federal Liberal party’s election mandate is the legalization of recreational marijuana. While it’s believed that a fully functional legislative and regulatory scheme ending the prohibition of cannabis will not be ready for some time, the prospects of legalized cannabis in the workplace has some companies feeling a little dazed and confused.

Continue reading “Working with Legal Weed – This Changes Everything… Or Does It?”

Does the Restaurant Industry Discriminate Against Women?


In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, 2016, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a policy statement calling for an end to sexualized workplace dress codes that discriminate. OHRC Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane was cited :

“Employers must make sure their dress codes don’t reinforce sexist stereotypes. They send the message that an employee’s worth is tied to how they look. That’s not right, and it could violate the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Continue reading “Does the Restaurant Industry Discriminate Against Women?”

Does the Restaurant Industry Discriminate Against Men?

Men need not apply…

If you’ve ever been into Earl’s, Cactus Club, Moxie’s or one Canada’s many other trendy chain restaurants, you’ve probably noticed something about the restaurant’s wait staff. The servers are overwhelmingly (or exclusively) women under the age of 30. With few exceptions, men work in the kitchen or in management. The female servers will adopt a highly sexualized dress code with tight skirts, high heels and low cut tops, while any males in the “front of house” will wear a dress shirt and dress pants.

Continue reading “Does the Restaurant Industry Discriminate Against Men?”

Increasing Damages for Workplace Discrimination : The Presteve Foods Case


Across Canada, Human Rights Tribunals have a unique role in our legal system by enforcing protections against discrimination provided by human rights legislation. As part of their mandate, these specialized tribunals have the authority to award damages and “make whole” victims of discrimination, including:

  • Damages for past and future wage loses;
  • Damages for loss of benefits and other perquisites of employment;
  • General damages for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect.

Continue reading “Increasing Damages for Workplace Discrimination : The Presteve Foods Case”

Terminating an Employee on Medical Leave

Questions surrounding disabilities and the duty to accommodate are often misunderstood and nowhere is this more evident than the widespread perception that employees on some form of leave of absence cannot be terminated.

However, this perception is not entirely accurate. In fact, it’s not uncommon for disagreements between an employee and their employer to mount over time, creating tension and stress in the workplace.

Continue reading “Terminating an Employee on Medical Leave”

God, Homosexuality and the Legalities of Refusing Service

For a country founded on principles of freedom, liberty and equality, the United States is having tremendous difficulty grappling with same-sex marriage and LGBTQ discrimination.  In fact, even prior to the June 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage, national headlines have included a long stream of cake bakers, florists and pizzerias  refusing service to homosexuals. Today, a Kentucky County Clerk is garnering international attention for her termination and imprisonment (for contempt of court) for refusing to issue marriage licences to homosexual couples. The country seems torn on whether the clerk is a modern-day Joan-of-Arc fighting for religious rights or whether she’s simply a close-minded bigot.

Calgary Rainbow Bus (00299646xD7EDD)

Continue reading “God, Homosexuality and the Legalities of Refusing Service”

“Can We Talk About Your Health?” : Human Rights and the Duty to Inquire

Health information is sensitive. Very sensitive. And given the intimate nature of this information, the BC government has understandably put in place important protections to ensure the integrity of a person’s personal health information.

So considering the uniquely private nature of health information, is there ever a time when it would be appropriate for an employer to ask about an employee’s health? Under human rights law, there is.

Continue reading ““Can We Talk About Your Health?” : Human Rights and the Duty to Inquire”