Tools to Fix Your Workplace

Since the courts have ruled that sexual harassment is a form of discrimination based on sex (or gender), they have continued to interpret harassment to cover other protected forms of discrimination covered under human rights legislation. What other types? Depending on the provincial, territorial or federal human rights legislation, your list is made up from a number of the protected grounds noted below:

If an employee is being harassed, but that harassment doesn’t qualify under the protected grounds of discrimination, the human rights commission will not be able to legally assist that employee. The person being harassed and her employer will want to deal with the problem somehow, but it won't be through human rights. Human rights commissions are designed to take care only of issues under their jurisdictions – not all problems that ail us.


If a provincial, territorial or federal commission does not offer all the protected grounds, be aware that a person can argue a new case to forge new ground. In Alberta, Delwin Vriend was fired from his job because he was gay. Since sexual orientation was not a protected ground in Alberta, Vriend was unable initially to secure protection from the province's human rights commission. But after many appeals, the Supreme Court of Canada "read in" protection of sexual orientation to the province's legislation, and the province did not attempt to overturn the decision.


So even though you don’t see sexual orientation listed as a category in Alberta, Alberta's Human Rights and Citizenship Commission has made it clear that heterosexual men and women, gay men, lesbians and bisexual men and women will get protection if they have a complaint based on their sexual orientation.


If I were in charge of a business, I wouldn’t lose sleep over whether an employee might end up influencing the Supreme Court to change laws, but I would make sure employees don't feel they have to go elsewhere to resolve internal matters. Just because harassment based on hair loss is not protected by human rights law doesn't mean you should allow one employee to call another employee "cue-ball."


In fact, most Canadian employees work in provincial jurisdictions that protect bullying, often referred to as psychological harassment, general harassment or personal harassment.  For extensive information about this, and suggestions on how to handle bullying, go to  the Workplace Bullying page.


Do-it-yourself training manual

If you are a supervisor, manager or employer, you may want to tackle harassment, discrimination, bullying and other forms of weird workplace behaviour by doing your own in-house training.  If you do, Stephen has created the most comprehensive training manual for Canadian workplaces, with all the resources you’ll need, such as all your notes, training slides, answers to typical questions, handouts and even videos of Stephen explaining some aspects of the learning to make it easier on the instructor.  It’s more than 600 pages long with 100% Canadian content to ensure you’re not relying on U.S. materials that don’t apply to Canadian laws.  Click here for more information.



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