Supreme Court: Increased Potential Liability for Harassment

Feb 9, 2018

Recently, the Supreme Court issued a significant decision expanding the nature of possible harassment and discrimination claims.  

The Case

In British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal v. Schrenk, 2017 SCC 62, Mohammadreza Sheikhzadeh-Mashgoul worked as a civil engineer consultant on a job site where he supervised workers who were not employed by his engineering firm. One of these workers, Edward Schrenk, repeatedly made discriminatory comments to Mr. Sheikhzadeh-Mashgoul about his religion, sexual orientation, and birthplace. Eventually, he brought a human rights complaint against Schrenk and Schrenk’s employer.

Schrenk and his employer argued that they had no relationship to Mr. Sheikhzadeh-Mashgoul and that since they were not his employer or colleague he could not bring a claim against them.

The Supreme Court disagreed. It held that the BC 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 the:

  1. 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 BC. So, if you are an employer in Ontario, you could now be required to defend against employment-based human rights claims from individuals who are not even your employees.

If you are facing a discrimination or harassment claim and are considering your legal options, you should consult a lawyer or contact us at [email protected] or 647-204-8107 and one of our lawyers would be happy to assist you.

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