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Human Rights law: What constitutes retaliation?

Many workers' fear of losing their jobs may prevent them from filing human rights complaints at the BC Human Rights Tribunal against their employers when they encounter discrimination contrary to the protected grounds established under the BC Human Rights Code (the "Code"). However, employees in British Columbia are in fact protected against retaliation by employers under the Code.

But what type of action constitutes retaliation? Any change in normal work conditions for a worker who filed a human rights complaint or might file a complaint against an employer or supervisor could be viewed as retaliation, even if it does not involve termination. It is also unlawful to take action against an employee who provided evidence or otherwise supported a co-worker who filed a complaint.

An employer may not base a refusal to employ someone on knowledge of a human rights complaint the applicant filed while employed by another company. Retaliation could include imposing penalties upon the employee like eviction, suspension or intimidation. An employer may also not discharge, expel, coerce or deny established rights to benefits for any worker as a consequence for filing or intending to file a complaint.

British Columbia workers who are unsure of whether the treatment they received at work after filing a human rights complaint amounts to retaliation have every right to consult with an employment lawyer to get answers. Legal counsel can assess the circumstances, gather additional evidence and explain the worker's rights under the Code. This can allow the client to make informed decisions about how to proceed. Regardless of whether the choice involves legal action, the lawyer will provide the necessary support and guidance along every step of the way.

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