The vast majority of employers in BC treat their employees with respect, and value their contribution to the success of the business. Unfortunately, there are exceptions. At DBM, we have represented clients who have faced discrimination or have had their human rights abused in the workplace.
It is important to know your rights, and know that there are federal and provincial laws that protect you from this kind of discriminatory behaviour. You don’t have to feel alone in this struggle, we are here to help!
Firstly, it is important to understand what workplace discrimination and human rights violations are:
1. Discrimination is any treatment you receive in the workplace that is different from other persons because of your race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, age, family status or disability. That includes treatment you may receive from your supervisor or manager, or from fellow employees. The employer has a duty to make sure you are not discriminated against by anyone in your workplace.
2. A human Rights violation is when you are discriminated against as a result of your identification as being of a particular race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, age, family status or disability. If you are a member of one these groups and you are being mistreated as a result, you are protected by both BC and Canadian Human Rights legislations – the law. In addition to being treated differently, bullying can also be considered a violation of one’s human rights even if you are not a member of a protected group.
3. Bullying, or harassment, is defined by WorkSafeBC as “any inappropriate conduct or comment by a person towards a worker that the person knew or reasonably ought to have known would cause that worker to be humiliated or intimidated.”
4. If you have experienced or seen bullying and harassment in your workplace, you are required to report it to your employer. If your employer doesn’t do anything to address the incident, you can call WorkSafeBC’s Prevention Information Line to discuss the incident before submitting a complaint.
5. It is also very important to know what is not considered bullying, harassment or discrimination. For example, the following may not be discriminatory, depending on how the situation is handled:
• Someone expressing an opinion different from yours;
• Someone offering you constructive feedback, guidance, or advice about work-related behaviour and performance;
• Someone making a legitimate complaint about your conduct through proper procedures; or
• A manager or supervisor performing their duties, such as changing the duties of your job, your workload, deadlines, transfers, work instructions or feedback, evaluating your job performance, or implementing disciplinary actions. As long as these are based solely on your performance and not on your race, religion and other factors mentioned above.
6. Employers must establish procedures on how they will handle bullying and harassment complaints in the workplace. Procedures must fully address the incident, must include some form of investigation, and must make sure future bullying and harassment is prevented.
If you are an employee being discriminated against or bullied in your workplace, or you have been fired based on discrimination, you have rights. In some cases you may have cause for a lawsuit for compensation. Being the victim of discrimination is an awful situation to find yourself in, and at DBM, we urge you to seek legal advice and take the necessary steps to protect yourself.
If you are an employer and you are seeking assistance in drafting or reviewing your current bullying, harassment and discrimination policies we at DBM are happy to assist you at making sure your policies are in line with the law and that you are protected. In addition, if you are being improperly accused of bullying, harassment or discrimination, we urge you to seek a consult with one of our employment lawyers who will be able to assist you in understanding your rights.