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Employment law: Supreme court rules on discrimination

Following a claim of workplace discrimination in British Columbia, the Supreme Court of Canada ultimately ruled that such discrimination is possible even if the accused and the claimant are employees of different entities. According to employment law and human rights legislation, all individuals are protected against discrimination and insults. The case arose from a complaint filed by a civil engineer who worked on a road project who alleged discriminatory remarks were made by an employee of a contractor who was involved in the project.

According to court documents, a foreman who was an employee of a contractor made homophobic and racists comments to the complainant. She reported the incident to her employer, who in turn discussed the matter with the contractor -- who is a separate entity but affiliated with the complainant's employer. The contractor was asked to assign the foreman to another worksite, but the discrimination apparently continued until the foreman was dismissed.

The complainant proceeded to file a claim against the foreman and the contractor with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal. The two defendants asked for dismissal of the claim because the two individuals involved were from separate companies and not in a traditional employment relationship. The Court of Appeal questioned the jurisdiction of the tribunal to hear the complaint, and the B.C. Supreme Court was asked to consider it.

British Columbia employers may want to note that even employees of other companies may accuse them of discrimination if sufficient nexus exists. For guidance on how to determine whether there is sufficient nexus between the employer and the discriminatory conduct, employers can consult with an experienced employment law professional. Any company facing such allegations may seek the advocacy of legal counsel to navigate the legal proceedings for them in pursuit of the best possible outcome.

Source: employmentlawtoday.com, "Can workplace discrimination arise out of a 'non-traditional' employment relationship? The Supreme Court of Canada says 'yes'", Jordan Michaux, Dec. 21, 2017

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