For employment matters, the province's employment and human rights laws are two pieces of legislation that you will have to be familiar with. The Employment Standards Act (ESA) provides the minimum standards that apply in most workplaces in BC.

The BC Human Rights Code (the "Code") prohibits discrimination in employment based on the grounds of race, colour, ancestry, or place of origin; political or religious beliefs; marital or family status; physical or mental disability; sex or sexual orientation; age; and unrelated criminal conviction.

Your human rights may have been violated if you were asked questions in a job interview about your age, marital status, and whether you have children, and then were effectively eliminated from the application process because of your answers to those questions.

In McGregor v. Morelli and Quarterway Hotel, 2006 BCHRT 277, the BC Human Rights Tribunal (the "BCHRT") made a finding of discrimination when a prospective worker was screened out of the competition and was not hired as a server at a hotel because she was a young unmarried single mother. The first three questions that the worker was asked during the interview were about her age, marital status, and whether she had children. After providing her age and advising that she was an unmarried, single parent, the interview abruptly ended. The interviewer did not ask her any questions about her background, experience as a server, or anything related to her suitability for the job.

To his defense, the prospective employer said that he "used questions about an applicant’s age, marital and family status to determine whether or not the applicant had responsibilities." He explained that in his experience, he found that workers who had responsibilities were more reliable and that he preferred to hire them. The BCHRT found that such information was not relevant to determining the worker's bona fide suitability for the position of hotel server and as such the Code was breached.

The Code also requires that employers accommodate disabled employees.

The duty to accommodate is well established in human rights law and requires employers to accommodate disabled workers' medically supported special needs short of undue hardship. While employers and service providers have a legal duty to accommodate, those seeking accommodation also have a corresponding obligation to participate in finding an acceptable solution.

Accommodation may require making changes to certain rules, standards, policies, workplace cultures, and physical environments, to ensure that they do not have a negative effect on a person with disabilities, to the point of undue hardship. Accommodation to the point of undue hardship means that the employer must incur some hardship that might involve expense, inconvenience, or hardship. For example, the employer may not simply terminate an employee after being injured at work or from a motor vehicle accident and then rendered disabled. If the worker can still perform his job with some accommodation, the employer is required to inquire into the disability and possible accommodation and actually provide the accommodation required.

If you are in BC, you may find answers to your workplace concerns through the following resources: Employment Standards Branch (labour.gov.bc.ca/esb ). If you believe that you have suffered discrimination, you may file a complaint before the BC Human Rights Tribunal (http://www.bchrt.bc.ca/)

General Legal Inquiries
For the above and other legal issues, the following resources are very helpful as well: 1) Legal Services Society (lss.bc.ca); 2) Law Students’ Legal Advice Program (http://www.lslap.bc.ca/ ); 3) Lawyer Referral Service (http://www.cbabc.org/for-the-public/lawyer-referral-service ); 4) Access Probono (accessprobono.ca); 5) Community Legal Assistance Society (clasbc.net); and 6) West Coast Domestic Workers’ Association (for Live-in Caregivers) (wcdwa.ca).


(Dulce Cuenca was called to the Bar in the Philippines and British Columbia. She works in labour relations with the largest federal multi-professional labour union in Canada. This regular column features information on human rights, employment and immigration cases of interest to Canadian Filipinos.)


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