Although a workplace anti-discrimination policy is not mandatory in Ontario, we recommend it. If a complaint about discrimination is brought forward, employers can rely on the policy to help address the issue and follow predetermined steps. This type of policy can protect an employer if litigation is commenced by an employee about discrimination. Employer discrimination policies are reviewed and considered by human rights tribunals.
Discrimination-free Workplace policies should be customized to the individual needs of the workplace. The policy should include a definition of discrimination and what grounds are protected in the relevant human rights legislation. As the protected grounds such as age, disability, and gender, vary in each province and federally, it is important employers are aware of the human rights legislation that applies to their workplace. For example, the Canadian Human Rights Act allows someone to claim discrimination based on genetic characteristics whereas the Ontario Human Rights Code does not. Part of the discrimination policy documents needs to include what employees and managers should do if they witness discrimination and what steps an employer will take to deal with any complaint.
If a complaint is brought, an employer must take it seriously, respond promptly, take steps to conduct an investigation, and ensure confidentiality. The respondent must be given details of the complaint and information about the policy in order for them to respond. Both the complainant and respondent must be provided the outcome of any investigation.
Having a policy, and following these steps can significantly reduce the potential liability for employers arising from discrimination in the workplace.
Lessons for Employers
- Although it is not mandatory, it is prudent for all employers to implement a discrimination policy to prevent and deal with issues when they arise.
- Employers should review their discrimination policies annually.
- Once a discrimination policy is in place, staff and managers should receive proper training.
- Educating employees on their rights, and making them understand what behaviour is not acceptable, will allow employees to feel that they can come forward should issues arise.
If you have any questions about employment policies, discrimination complaints, or human rights issues, you can contact MacLeod Law Firm at 647-204-8107 or at [email protected]
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