Arbitrators can now hear Human Rights grievances

With the implementation of the new Public Service Labour Relations Act (PSLRA) and Public Service Modernization Act (PSMA), grievances that include a human rights component (discrimination) are no longer barred from the grievance process.

Adjudicators, who in the past had to defer jurisdiction to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, may now interpret and apply the Canadian Human Rights Act, and, if appropriate, give monetary relief for pain and suffering and/or special compensation for willful or reckless behaviour.

What is Discrimination?

Discrimination means treating people differently, negatively or adversely on the basis of personal characteristics that are a recognized prohibited ground of discrimination.

What are the Prohibited Grounds of Discrimination?

Prohibited grounds of discrimination are defined under Section 3 of the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) as:

  • Race
  • National or Ethnic Origin (includes language)
  • Colour
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Sex (includes pay equity, pregnancy and child birth)
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Marital Status
  • Family Status
  • Physical or Mental Disability (includes past or present dependence on alcohol or drugs)
  • Pardoned criminal conviction

These are the only recognized grounds on which to file a discrimination complaint. Although one might be able to think of other groups or people that may at some point feel discriminated against, they do not presently have grounds based on the CHRA to file a complaint.

What are Discriminatory Practices Relating to Employment?

Discriminatory practices in employment include:

  • A refusal to employ or to continue to employ a person on the basis of prohibited grounds of discrimination
  • Differentiating adversely in the course of employment on the basis of prohibited grounds of discrimination
  • Employment practice or policy that deprives or tends to deprive employment opportunities based on a prohibited ground.
  • A person cannot be denied a job because of a disability that does not affect job performance or that can be accommodated.
  • A job performed mostly by women cannot be paid less than a job of equal value done mostly by men.
  • An individual unable to work certain days for religious reasons may not be denied employment unless the employer can demonstrate that it would cause undue hardship.
  • Making demeaning comments because of the person’s colour, ethnic origin, age, disability, sex or any of the grounds in an employment or service situation is prohibited under the Act.
  • An employer cannot fire an employee in retaliation because he or she has filed a human rights complaint.

Some Discriminatory Practices are permissible. They include:

  • A job may be refused to a person who cannot perform it safely, efficiently and reliably with accommodation. This is called a bona fide occupational requirement.
  • An employer can grant workers special leave or benefits in connection with pregnancy or childbirth, or for the care of their children.

What are my Options?

If you believe you have been discriminated against in the course of your employment or if you have any questions or concerns, please call a Labour Relations Officer at the ACFO National Head Office at 613-728-0695.