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Discrimination In The Workplace: Steps To Take

Employers have a duty to protect employees from harassment and discrimination in the workplace. It is important to understand that nuanced acts or “microaggressions” can also be considered discrimination. For this reason, both employers and employees should be extremely diligent when it comes to any reports of racial discrimination or harassment, as not every action will be overt and obvious.

What can employees do to address discrimination in the workplace?

If you believe you are experiencing discrimination in the workplace, it is important to voice your concerns to someone in authority. As a first step, it is crucial to file a report or complaint with your human resources department. If your situation allows for it, and you feel comfortable, you should document your harassment as much as you can in writing. This means creating a record of emails and any complaints you make to your human resources department or manager. Creating an evidentiary record of your harassment can help you during any workplace investigations or any potential lawsuits.

Review your company’s harassment policy and follow the necessary steps in order to report your complaint. If your company’s policy is vague on how to report such incidents, you should report to your manager or supervisor. If you are in a scenario where your harasser happens to be your direct supervisor or someone of authority it may be best to speak to someone in a different area who may be in authority, to avoid any bias.

Further, the  Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”)  provides added protection for those employees who may fear raising a complaint due to the risk of potentially losing their job. This ground is known as “reprisal” and the Code makes it illegal for employers to threaten or fire employees who file a report or complain about harassment or racial discrimination in the workplace.

Once you disclose your complaint, the employer’s duty to investigate is triggered.

How should employers address discrimination in the workplace?

Employers are expected to conduct a thorough and reasonable investigation with an investigator who is neutral and removed from the situation. This ensures a fair and unbiased investigation of the situation.

As employers, it is good practice to review your workplace’s harassment policy periodically to make sure it is up to date. A fair and sound policy should include the definition of harassment and microaggressions in the workplace, how the complaint and investigation process is conducted and what the possible consequences could be for violating this policy.

What happens if workplace harassment is left unaddressed?

Employers who fail to address complaints of harassment can potentially find themselves in the middle of costly litigation before Ontario Human Rights Tribunal or the courts. Allegations of this nature can bring severely affect company morale, bring negative press and reputational harm to an employer’s brand. It is imperative for employers to thoroughly investigate complaints regarding harassment and discrimination in the workplace as soon as they are informed by their employees.

As an employee, if your complaints regarding workplace harassment have been ignored, you may be considered to be constructively dismissed. Constructive dismissal is when the employer treats an employee in a way where the law would consider the employment relationship to be breached and the employee to have been terminated. In this scenario, employees may be entitled to pursue their termination entitlements.

If after raising your concerns, you feel that you are still being harassed or being treated differently, it is important to speak to an experienced employment lawyer to get advice about what next steps you should take.

Contact Us

If you are an employer or an employee who is facing discrimination in the workplace, our team of experienced workplace lawyers at Achkar Law can help. Contact us by phone toll-free at +1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at [email protected] and we would be happy to assist.

If you are a small or medium-sized company looking for full-service support with a same-day response, visit our CLO Program page for our strategic solutions.

Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to serve as or should be construed as legal advice and is only to provide general information. It is in no way particular to your case and should not be relied on in any way. No portion or use of this blog will establish a lawyer-client relationship with the author or any related party. Should you require legal advice for your particular situation, fill out the contact form, call (800) 771-7882 or email [email protected].