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Discrimination trial testing the boundaries of BC employment law

Canada is a country that promotes tolerance and respect in all aspects of life, including work. Certainly, no person deserves to be subjected to discrimination in the workplace for any reason. The definition of "workplace" is at the heart of a case from British Columbia that is currently before the Supreme Court of Canada. The ruling could have a major impact on employment law disputes in the future.

In 2013, a worker became the target of discrimination while at work. A foreman overseeing the complainant's work on a road project apparently made numerous derogatory remarks, both verbally and in email, about the worker's race, sexual orientation and religion. Although the two men worked for different companies, the foreman was let go by his employer following the incident. A Human Rights tribunal upheld the claim of discrimination.

However, in 2015, a B.C. Court of Appeal overturned the ruling and dismissed the complaint. In the judge's view, not all insults at work constituted "discrimination regarding employment." With the case now before the nation's highest court, the case may determine whether laws that protect workers from workplace discrimination only apply in situations where a direct imbalance of power exists between the accused and the complainant.

Dealing with discriminatory behaviour on the job is offensive, demeaning and stressful. Any person who believes his or her rights as a worker have been violated by discrimination may wish to seek clarification from a lawyer. A lawyer with a deep understanding of employment law in British Columbia can provide advice and assistance should legal action be required.

Source: CBC News - British Columbia, "Case of two B.C. men tests limits of workplace discrimination legislation", Karin Larsen, March 29, 2017

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