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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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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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?

marijuana

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.

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Does the Restaurant Industry Discriminate Against Women?

syhag-hot-waitress

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.

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Does the Restaurant Industry Discriminate Against Men?

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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.

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Increasing Damages for Workplace Discrimination : The Presteve Foods Case

Presteve

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.

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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.

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