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Visions Journal

When Is It a Human Rights Issue?

Laura Track, BC Human Rights Clinic

From the "Workplace Bullying and Harassment" issue of Visions Journal, 2020, 15 (4), pp. 37

BC’s Human Rights Code protects us from negative treatment in the workplace on the basis of certain personal characteristics. Sex, race, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, age and religion are all protected characteristics under the Code.

Harassment and bullying that target one or more of these protected characteristics—sexual harassment, for example, or homophobic bullying or racial slurs—may be found to be discriminatory and contrary to the Code.

Employers have an obligation under human rights law to provide a safe and discrimination-free workplace. If you have experienced discrimination at work, you can make a complaint to the BC Human Rights Tribunal. You have one year from the date of the discrimination to make a complaint.

The tribunal can help to resolve the issue through mediation. Mediation is an informal process aimed at settling the complaint by agreement. If mediation does not solve the problem, the tribunal can hold a hearing. If you or someone representing you is able to prove that you were discriminated against, the tribunal can order your employer to compensate you. The tribunal can also order the employer to take other important steps, like developing an anti-harassment policy or providing education and training to staff.

To learn more about human rights complaints, visit the BC Human Rights Tribunal website at www.bchrt.bc.ca.

To learn more about your rights, and to apply for free legal help with a human rights complaint, visit the BC Human Rights Clinic website at www.bchrc.net. The clinic is available to all BC residents. While only the tribunal can tell people whether their complaint meets the test for being a human rights violation, the clinic can give people advice on the strengths and weaknesses of their case.

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