Managing human rights issues in the workplace

All aspects of the employer-employee relationship, from recruitment and hiring to day-to-day operations and dismissal or retirement, are governed by legislation that requires respect for human rights, equal opportunities, and freedom from discrimination and harassment. Employers need to understand the scope of their responsibilities.

Human rights law prohibits discrimination and harassment based on various grounds including gender, race and religion, protecting individuals at work, in housing or accommodation, in professional associations or unions, and while accessing services. Our practice focuses on human rights violations in the workplace.

At Hum Law, we help employers maintain healthy workplace environments. With our assistance, you will improve productivity and morale, while managing the risks of liability. Safeguarding human rights requires more than simply having mandatory policies and procedures in place. We will actively assist you in managing human rights issues in the workplace, including removing systemic barriers to equity, and promoting an inclusive and collegial workplace culture.

We help you establish reporting procedures and policies that enhance human rights in the workplace, increase worker compliance and minimize employer exposure to financial risks. We also guide you through internal mediation or conciliation techniques that defuse conflicts before they escalate to litigation.

For instance, under the “vicarious liability” provision of the Human Rights Code, an employer can be held responsible for an employee’s discriminatory behaviour. Employers who take proactive steps to discourage such conduct and display an ongoing commitment to fairness will be looked on more favourably by a tribunal ordering remedies in a disciplinary hearing.

Of course, there will always be instances of discrimination or harassment that go unreported. We urge employers to be vigilant. Where a human rights violation is suspected, seek counsel to ensure you are compliant with your obligation to take all reasonable steps to ensure a safe workplace, rather than waiting for someone to come forward with a complaint.

Unaddressed, toxic situations can poison the entire workplace, undermine productivity, and lead to serious legal and reputational damages for you and your management team.

Hum Law is your trusted advisor in optimizing the workplace environment and enhancing productivity.

As set out in Ontario’s Human Rights Code, discrimination and harassment are prohibited based on enumerated grounds.

“Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to employment without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, record of offences, marital status, family status or disability.“

R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, s. 5 (1); 1999, c. 6, s. 28 (5); 2001, c. 32, s. 27 (1); 2005, c. 5, s. 32 (5); 2012, c. 7, s. 4 (1).

“Every person who is an employee has a right to freedom from harassment in the workplace by the employer or agent of the employer or by another employee because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, record of offences, marital status, family status or disability.“

R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, s. 5 (2); 1999, c. 6, s. 28 (6); 2001, c. 32, s. 27 (1); 2005, c. 5, s. 32 (6); 2012, c. 7, s. 4 (2).