Human Rights Lawyers

Human Rights at Termination

An employer may be liable to compensate an employee if the employee was terminated for a discriminatory reason, including 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. The issue for employers here is proving the termination happened for another reason unrelated to the alleged grounds of discrimination. A Toronto human rights lawyer can help with that, including proactively advising on preparing performance improvement plans (PIPs) and other forms of employee discipline documentation.

Human Rights at Hiring

Employers must not discriminate against individuals when they hire their employees. This means that the employer:

  • should not prescreen applicants for discriminatory reasons;
  • should not ask discriminatory questions in the interview;
  • should not refuse to hire anyone based on discrimination.

However, employers:

  • should make accommodations available at the interview; and
  • Should set policies for preventing discriminatory hiring practices.

If an employer does discriminate against an applicant employee, the employer could be ordered to compensate the applicant for injury to dignity, feelings, and self-respect, lost wages and future earnings.

Human Rights in Employment

Employees in Ontario have the right to a discrimination free workplace. This includes all areas of active employment, including, wages, hours, job descriptions, the assigning of work, evaluations, discipline, promotion and everything else under the control of the employer or its employees.

Discrimination is very broadly defined. Discrimination in the workplace means unjust or prejudicial treatment by the employer or employee of the employer 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. Examples of discrimination cases handled at Dutton Employment Law firm include:

  • Accommodation of disabilities, parental obligations or illnesses;
  • Discriminatory drug and alcohol testing or discipline;
  • Discrimination in the promotion of female minorities;
  • Lack of work assigned due to past injury at the workplace; and
  • Wrongful comments and touching of a sexual nature directed at female employees.

Individuals who have been discriminated against in the workplace are entitled to financial compensation. Primarily, employers can be ordered to compensate employees for injuries to their dignity and self worth (usually between $10,000 and $25,000, but there is no limit). Secondly, employers can be ordered to compensate employees for money that has been lost because of discrimination. For example, lost income or the difference in income between a job at a discriminatory workplace and a new job.

Those with questions or concerns regarding discrimination should speak to a qualified employment lawyer specializing in discrimination law in the workplace. The wrong advice could cost up to $500,000.

Moreover, harassment is another human rights issue employers need to guard against. Everyone has the right to be free from unwelcome comments or conduct in the workplace. Several laws introduced by the federal and provincial governments protect workers from harassment in the workplace (i.e. Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act) and provide compensation in case of a breach (i.e Ontario’s Human Rights Code).

Harassment can come in many forms, including:

  • Unwelcome remarks about race, religion, sex, or age any other grounds of discrimination;
  • Unwelcome physical contact;
  • Threats or intimidating remarks; and
  • Violence.

All employers must prepare and review a policy on workplace harassment at least once a year.

If the employer or an employee of the employer is guilty of harassment, the employer can be fined, ordered to change its policies, make accommodations, and compensate the victim financially as much as $200,000 or more.

In addition, employers must now conduct an investigation into  all harassment allegations due to a recent government law (Bill 132). Employers who fail to conduct an investigation, or do a faulty one, are liable for fines and damages.