BC’s 14 Protected Grounds of Discrimination

The Federal government, along with every province and territory in Canada, has human rights legislation prohibiting discrimination on grounds such as race, gender and disability in a number of public environments: tenancy, service, and employment, to name a few. 

In the employment context, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees at any time in the employment process.  This includes discrimination in advertising for positions, hiring, working conditions and through to termination and retirement.

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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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The Legalities of Criminal, Credit and Medical Checks in HR

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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”

Defining your ‘Why?’ in Business and Law

Last month I took a leap of faith from a large, well established and respected law firm to a small, energetic boutique that was opening an office in my town. In between the hustle of changing offices, I was afforded a rare opportunity for some down time to look at myself and my practice beyond client needs, file demands and limitation dates. Questions of self-doubt started to dog me. Anxiety about financial insecurity, workflow and resources kept me awake at night. At least once after giving my resignation I asked myself “what have I done?” Continue reading “Defining your ‘Why?’ in Business and Law”

Easing the Burden of Proof on Failure to Mitigate? : Logan v. Numbers Cabaret Ltd.

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In any wrongful dismissal lawsuit, you are almost certain to find the defence that the worker “failed to mitigate” their losses. In common terms, this little bit of legalese suggests that the worker failed to take reasonable steps to find comparable employment, and as a result, they should be awarded less damages for their termination. While often pled, arguments on the failure to mitigate often fall flat. The reason for this is that it’s been the employer’s responsibility to demonstrate that a worker has failed to mitigate, or in the words of the Supreme Court of Canada: “i) the employer bears the onus of demonstrating both that that an employee has failed to make reasonable efforts to find work and ii) that work could have been found”: see Evans v. Teamsters, Local 31, [2008] 1 S.C.R. 661. This can be extremely difficult to do.

However, a recent BC Supreme Court decision may suggest that the onerous task of proving a mitigation defence is easing. Continue reading “Easing the Burden of Proof on Failure to Mitigate? : Logan v. Numbers Cabaret Ltd.”

Probationary Periods – Are they Legal in Canada?

Probationary periods in employment… for  something seeming so simple,  they still cause a lot of confusion, and employees and employers alike are frequently mistaken about the legality of probationary periods and how they apply to the non-unionized worker. Employees who are terminated during probationary periods often accept their lot without ever receiving legal advice, while employers often terminate ‘probationary’ employees without providing any compensation, only to be surprised by a demand letter or civil action claiming wrongful dismissal.

So where do these challenges come from? And how can they be remedied?

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Pets: A Workplace’s Best Friend?

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Research shows that, in addition to happier, healthier employees, pet-friendly employers also witness reduced absenteeism, increased productivity and creativity, a greater willingness to work late, and improved talent attraction and retention. A number of high-profile companies, like fellow B Corps Hootsuite and Etsy, have taken this research to heart and adopted “dog-friendly” policies.

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Flex Hours: Making it Work for Your Business

Researchers and pundits alike hail the benefits of flexible work arrangements, which include employee happiness, productivity, and engagement. In certain circumstances, such as where an employee faces health issues or family responsibilities, flexible work hours can also make the difference between retaining and losing a key part of your team.

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