Accounting for Law
Employment & Labour

Broader protections from harassment while working

By Nicole Simes

Recently, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the changing nature of employment relationships and that harassment and discrimination can occur at work whether coming from a boss, co-worker, or fellow contractor.

The case

In this case, a man worked as a civil engineer consultant. He worked on a job site where he supervised workers who were not employed by his engineering firm. One of these workers repeatedly made discriminatory comments to the consultant about his religion, sexual orientation, and birthplace. Eventually, he brought a human rights complaint against the worker and his employer.

The case went all the way to the Supreme Court. The worker and his employer argued that they had no relationship to the consultant and that since they were not his employer he could not bring a claim against them.

The Supreme Court disagreed. It held that the B.C. Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination in the employment context. The court said that the Code “protects individuals from discriminatory conduct regarding their employment no matter the identity of the perpetrator.”  The court continued that an individual may bring a human rights complaint if:

  1. The perpetrator was integral to the complainant’s workplace;
  2. The discrimination occurred in the complainant’s workplace; and
  3. The individual’s work performance or work environment was negatively affected.

Lessons

Of importance, the Ontario Human Rights Code is worded in a similar manner to that of B.C. So, if you are working as an employee or contractor in Ontario and you experience harassment or discrimination, you may be able to bring a claim against the perpetrator regardless of whether they are your manager or colleague.

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