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Employers and Employees Need to Know the Human Rights Code

By David Smart, Gary Hagel

Published 10:21 PDT, Mon April 22, 2019

Last Updated: 2:23 PDT, Tue July 2, 2019

The BC Human Rights Code (the “Code”) is an important piece of legislation that impacts the employee, employer relationship.

The BC Human Rights Code (the “Code”) is an important piece of legislation that impacts the employee, employer relationship.

The Code protects employees against discrimination based on specific factors which are listed in the Code. These protected grounds are age, gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, colour, place of origin, marital and family status, disability and criminal conviction.

The Code creates an obligation on the part of an employer to create and maintain a work environment which is free from discrimination and harassment. This obligation lasts from the interviewing process through to the termination of employment.

Asking discriminatory questions during an interview may put an employer in contravention of the Code. Similarly, it is a violation of the Code if an employer is guilty of discrimination when deciding to dismiss an employee.

Discrimination can also occur during employment. Discrimination occurs when a person is excluded from participating in activities or opportunities based on any of the listed personal characteristics. This might take the form of denying someone work or a promotion or treating that person unfairly or differently than others. Discriminatory harassment can occur when someone is victimized or made to feel uncomfortable because of a personal characteristic.

An employer has an obligation to accommodate workers that have a physical or mental disability. The physical or mental conditions that can constitute a “disability” are not specifically defined in the Code. Rather, it is left to the Human Rights Tribunal to consider whether an individual worker has a disability which the employer must accommodate.

The number of conditions that have been found to constitute a disability under the Code is quite broad. An employer has a duty to accommodate an employee’s disability up to the point of “undue hardship”.

The lengths to which an employer must go in providing accommodation is subject to the Tribunal’s interpretation.

If an employee feels they have suffered discrimination in the workplace, or have been terminated for reasons which are contrary to the Code, the Code provides a procedure by which the employee can bring a complaint and seek compensation.

Both employers and employees should be aware of their rights and obligations under the Code.

If you have questions related to the BC Human Rights Code, contact PLLR Lawyers at 604-276-2765.

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