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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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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Does a 4-Day Work Week Work for Your Business?

TGIF

Businesses are increasingly looking at ways to attract, retain and motivate talent. But for all the talk of ping-pong tables, bean chairs and remote offices, could one solution be as simple as restructuring the typical work week?

In a recent world-wide survey conducted by Kronos, 59% of Canadian workers indicated that they would be interested in a 3-day weekend, and nearly 30% of Canadians were ready to take a pay-cut in order to do so. But practically speaking, how would a business go about doing so?

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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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Bartering and Bitcoins: The Legality of Alternative Wage Payments

Trading services is as old as commerce itself, but in a modern economy such as Canada it has largely faded away with the rise of currencies, central governments and tax codes. That being said, while cliches of exchanging labour for a bed and a meal may no longer be commonplace, alternative payment models continue to exist. A simple example could include a pizzeria paying a cook with a large pepperoni thin crust in exchange for staying an hour late.

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Can NAFTA Address Your Company’s Labour Shortage?

NAFTA Immage (00652343xD7EDD)

Many Canadian companies face ongoing labour shortages in a variety of positions. The frustration of their recruiters and HR professionals is palpable, for despite offering above average wages, group benefits and other perquisites of employment, finding quality personnel to fill vacancies is harder than ever for some professions. Continue reading “Can NAFTA Address Your Company’s Labour Shortage?”

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).

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Independent Contractor Assessment Form

While there are often many benefits to companies engaging contractors instead of hiring employees, businesses must also be careful not to characterize an employment relationship as something it is not. The following are common indicators of a “true” contractor relationship, and in ideal circumstances, most or all of these items will be present. Not all of these items are necessarily required in order to establish a contractor relationship, nor does this list represent an exhaustive summary of all possible factors suggestive of a contractor arrangement.

This list is designed to be used by organizations to assess the health of their contractor relationships. If an organization is checking more often than not in the ‘no’ column, it may be advisable to speak with an employment lawyer and consider ways to strengthen their contractor’s status.

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Non-Union Federal Employees Score Historic Win in Supreme Court Case

In what will no doubt be one of the most impactful employment law cases of the year, the Supreme Court of Canada in Wilson v. Atomic Energy of Canada, 2016 SCC 29 has found that federally regulated employers cannot, absent economic reasons, terminate a non-unionized employee without just cause. The decision appears to have settled a debate that has been ongoing for nearly 40 years as to whether the “unjust dismissal” provisions of the Canada Labour Code preclude an employer from terminating an employee, even if common law severance is provided. Continue reading “Non-Union Federal Employees Score Historic Win in Supreme Court Case”

Making a Manager

I have defended many companies before the Employment Standards Branch (“ESB”), and without fail, one of the most frustrating (and potentially costly) complaints for business owners is when a manager makes a claim for overtime wages.

One of the primary reasons for this frustration is because there is often a disconnect between an employer’s idea of a manager and the definition of manager under the Employment Standards Act. As many employers have learned the hard way, just because someone is referred to as “kitchen manager” or “operations manager” does not necessarily mean that they will satisfy the ESB’s analysis.

manager photo (00617273xD7EDD)
There’s more to it than just a title…

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