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Human Rights at Work Scenarios

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  1. An employee who is denied a promotion because his employer believes he is a drug abuser has been discriminated against under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Yes and No – Section 5(1) of Ontario Human Rights code.

The Ontario human rights code recognizes that employers have a duty to keep their working environment safe for all employees. Drug/substance abuse is one way in which an employee can compromise workplace safety. However, if the abuser is an addict, then the employer cannot deny them any job-related benefits/rights since the Ontario law recognizes drug addiction as a form of disability.

The only instances that the law allows an employer to take action against an addicted employee is if the drug testing policy that results in proving the employee’s addiction is adopted in connection with performing the job, is adopted in good faith to assess if the employee can legitimately fulfill a work related purpose and  if he/she can prove that it is impossible to keep the employee without putting pressure on the employer.

  • Refusing to hire an individual based on prohibited grounds under the Ontario Human Rights code is always illegal. 

Yes – In section 10 of Ontario human rights Code.

This section states that it is against the law to deny a Canadian individual employment due to the reasons of age (as long as they are over 18 years, ancestry, citizenship, creed, disability, ethnicity, marital status, family status, place of origin, race and color, receipt of public assistance, offenses (as long as a pardon has been granted on the offense or the offense in respect of provincial enactments), real or perceived ground, gender and sexual orientation.

  • Proving that a qualification is a Bona Fide Occupational Requirement (BFOR) is a sufficient and complete defence to an employer who has been charged with discrimination.

Yes. Section 9 of Ontario human rights code.

Even though the code prohibits discrimination resulting from factors that may appear neutral but have a negative effect on the employee, it also allows the employer a chance to prove three things: –

  • The requirement was put in place specifically to facilitate the function been performed.
  • Was put in place in the belief that it is necessary to fulfill the purpose or goal.
  • That it is very hard to accommodate the complainant without undue hardship to the employer.
  • An employer is guilty of discrimination based on family status if that employer asks an individual to indicate the number of dependents that he/she has.

Yes. Section 10 of the code.

It states that an employer is not allowed to ask a job applicant about his/her family status. Family status includes the number of children or dependents one has. An employer cannot refuse employment to an applicant due to the sole grounds of their family status.   

  • An employee who is forced to retire at age 60 has been discriminated against on the prohibited ground of “age” under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Yes. Section 10 of the code.

It explicitly states that an employee can only retire at the age of 65 years. Therefore, an employer cannot force an employee to retire before that age unless there are other underlying factors like the health of the individual preventing him/her from discharging their duties diligently.

  • An employee who is HIV positive must be accommodated up to the point of undue hardship.

Yes. Section 10 of the code.

The section states that HIV/Aids is a disability. Therefore, all persons suffering from Aids and other HIV related illnesses including those who are asymptomatic of HIV can continue their employment for as long as they are able to adequately perform their duties. They are entitled to all forms of assistance including assess to medical treatment so as to discharge their duties well.

  • It is discriminatory for an employer to ask for an individual’s social insurance number.

 No. Section 6 of the code.

It states that an employer can ask for an employee’s social insurance number but only after they have issued them with a written employment offer. This is because the number contains sensitive information including the employee’s residency status and date of arrival in Canada which the employer may use against the employee to deny them a job offer.

  • Employment Equity plans can be seen as reverse discrimination and are a violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

No. section of the code.

The section requires Ontario companies that have contracts with the federal government to take progressive measures to achieve equity for women, aboriginal people, members of minority groups and persons with disabilities. These measures include collecting data, reviewing barriers and other forms of planning.

Even though some of these measures alike collecting data may be deemed as reverse discrimination due to their invasive nature, they are permitted by the code and are therefore legal.

  • An employer can ask an applicant to take a medical exam after a written offer of employment has been made.

Yes. Subsection 23(2) of the code.

An employer can ask an applicant to take a medical exam after a written offer of employment has been made. This is especially if the nature of the job in which the applicant is been offered cannot be performed by an employee with a certain type of medical condition(s).

The employer must however show cause that the medical test is been done in good faith and fulfilling of the applicant’s duties is dependent on knowing about their medical status. 

  1.  An employer can ask an applicant if he/she has ever been a member of Alcoholics Anonymous.

No. Section % of the code.

An employer is prohibited by the code to ask an applicant for prior details of their drug/alcohol abuse history. This information is deemed private by the code and irrelevant to the employment details since it does not related to the applicant’s ability to perform their duties.  Alcohol (drug) addiction is also deemed a form of disability which is protected by the code unless the employer can prove hardship on their side if they offer employment to the applicant.

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