Human Rights and Compliance
At Vey Willetts LLP we understand that as workplace human rights law continues to evolve ensuring compliance can pose significant challenges for employers. Our team has significant experience drafting accommodation and anti-harassment policies, as well as litigating these issues in both the courts and human rights tribunals.
As such, we are well-positioned to provide advice in regard to navigating these challenges and ensuring a legally-compliant and productive workplace.
In Ontario, employers are required by law to provide a workplace free from harassment and discrimination. In addition, employers must reasonably accommodate the needs of employees that exhibit one of a list of protected characteristics, including (but not limited to): disability (which is interpreted to include both physical and mental illness and injury), race, ethnic origin, gender identity and sex (including pregnancy). When considering how to go about protecting workers’ rights it is useful for employers to consider the following:
- Implement clear policy prohibiting harassment and discrimination in the workplace. This policy should comply with the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Human Rights Code (or, if subject to federal laws, the Canada Labour Code).
- Have in place a formal process for employees to raise concerns about harassment and discrimination and ensure that this process has been clearly communicated to all staff.
- Provide ongoing training and resources to all management, and non-management personnel. Encourage your senior executives to lead by example to help foster a culture of equality, respect and inclusiveness.
- Ensure consistent enforcement of all workplace policies, along with a neutral internal process by which to investigate and respond to complaints brought pursuant to the policy.
- Take all requests for workplace accommodation seriously, consider the needs of the employee, and engage with the individual (and the union and healthcare providers, if necessary) to craft a reasonable solution that will permit the employee to continue to work productively and safely within any restrictions they may have.
In addition to the above considerations, employers should also keep in mind three factors that contribute to successful accommodation and a harassment-free workplace: a clear understanding of the applicable legal framework; fostering an inclusive and respectful work environment; and clear and fairly-applied workplace human rights policy. Although this list is not exhaustive, it gives a starting point for employers to draft and implement policy that is successful in respecting workers’ human rights.