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Unfortunately, racism in the workplace still exists, and creates hostile work environments. The Ontario Human Rights Code, RSO. 1990, c. H. 19, (the “Code”) attempts to prevent racism from occurring the workplace and provides for certain remedies if it occurs. Namely, employers who are found to condone or foster racism can be held liable for damages.
Section 5(1) of the Code states that, “Everyone has the right to equal treatment with respect to employment without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, reed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, record of offences, marital status, family status or disability.” The Code prohibits discrimination based on any of these protected grounds.
Section 10 of the Code defines harassment as, “engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known to be unwelcome.”
In accordance with the Code, if an employee is discriminated against at the workplace, the employer may be held liable for condoning the behaviour or for its omissions in not preventing it. The employer may be required to pay damages, attend sensitivity training, and/or apologize to the employee.
In the case of Phillip v. Andrews, 2018 HRTO 28 (CanLII) an employee suffered racial discrimination at her workplace. She was successful in bringing an Application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario against not only her employer, but also the co-worker who made the discriminatory remarks.
This case demonstrates that both an employer and a co-worker may be held liable for this type of behaviour. The Code applies to acts committed by both employers and employees, and can be used to penalize both a personal respondent and an employer.
Racism in the workplace can be extremely damaging to the individual who experiences it. It can also affect co-workers who experience the behaviour second-hand. Employers ought to take all steps necessary to prevent racism at the workplace, and not turn a blind eye to it. Employees who feel discriminated against should contact a lawyer in order to determine their best course of action.
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To arrange your free confidential 30 minute phone consultation make sure to contact us today.