Employment Discrimination and Workplace Harassment

Many employers and employees go looking for the definition of workplace harassment in the employment standards act. They don’t find it there. This and others are enshrined within the BC Human Rights Code. Many have to do with discrimination related to tenancy agreements, but they also cover the workplace.

Under the BC Human Rights Code, there are numerous things that one cannot do during an employment relationship. Employers cannot discriminate against individuals based on personal characteristics such as sexual orientation, age, religion, family status, and marital status, to name just a few. 

Employers are also required to take reasonable steps to ensure employees do not suffer hardship due to these personal characteristics. For example, if an employee is unable to work Sundays for religious reasons, their employer cannot force them to work on that day. This is known as an employer’s duty to accommodate

In addition to laws about descrimination, there’s also legislation that deals with workplace bullying and harassment. WorkSafeBC defines bullying and harassment as “when someone takes an action that he or she knew or reasonably ought to have known would cause that worker to be humiliated or intimidated.” Examples include verbal insults, vandalizing personal belongings, and inappropriate hazing or initiation rituals. 

Both employers and employees need to be aware that there is zero tolerance for bullying and harassment in the workplace. WorkSafeBC has the authority to investigate claims and, when they deem appropriate, levy fines and other sanctions against employers. 

One situation where disputes around discrimination, harrassment, and bullying can arise is during the termination of an employment agreement. In BC, an employer can terminate without cause if they provide either advanced notice or severance pay. If the employer provides neither, they can terminate an employment agreement if they can prove misconduct, incompetence, or poor performance on the part of the employee. 

However, if an employer terminates an employment agreement without providing advanced notice or severance and can not prove that the termination is justified, an employee is eligible to file for wrongful dismissal.

Under the BC Human Rights Code, there are numerous things that one cannot do during an employment relationship. Employers cannot discriminate against individuals based on personal characteristics such as sexual orientation, age, religion, family status, and marital status, to name just a few. 

Employers are also required to take reasonable steps to ensure employees do not suffer hardship due to these personal characteristics. For example, if an employee is unable to work Sundays for religious reasons, their employer cannot force them to work on that day. This is known as an employer’s duty to accommodate

In addition to laws about descrimination, there’s also legislation that deals with workplace bullying and harassment. WorkSafeBC defines bullying and harassment as “when someone takes an action that he or she knew or reasonably ought to have known would cause that worker to be humiliated or intimidated.” Examples include verbal insults, vandalizing personal belongings, and inappropriate hazing or initiation rituals. 

Both employers and employees need to be aware that there is zero tolerance for bullying and harassment in the workplace. WorkSafeBC has the authority to investigate claims and, when they deem appropriate, levy fines and other sanctions against employers. 

One situation where disputes around discrimination, harrassment, and bullying can arise is during the termination of an employment agreement. In BC, an employer can terminate without cause if they provide either advanced notice or severance pay. If the employer provides neither, they can terminate an employment agreement if they can prove misconduct, incompetence, or poor performance on the part of the employee. 

However, if an employer terminates an employment agreement without providing advanced notice or severance and can not prove that the termination is justified, an employee is eligible to file for wrongful dismissal.