The work of Workplace Human Rights lawyers is generally understood to comprise the provision of advice and representation, whether by way of negotiation, judicial proceedings, alternative dispute resolution, mediation or arbitration, in all matters relating to discriminatory practices based on grounds that are, or are argued to be prohibited by various federal and provincial statutes, codes, constitutional protections and at common law. Mandates in this area also include the development of training programmes to enable legislative compliance.
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Workplace rights in Canada is a combination of multiple rights, such as human rights, equality rights, labour rights and occupational workplace rights. While these rights may collectively be referred to as “human rights” (e.g., labour right is said to be also a human right), laws are enacted for each “right” to effectively enforce these rights.
Human rights are the intrinsic rights of persons by the very nature of their being as a human. These rights are inalienable, which means that it cannot be taken away by another person or entity; and are universal, which also means that it is true among all persons regardless of what country or state they are in. Human rights are enforceable by every person against anyone who have, or may have, violated these rights, even against the state or the government.
Applied in the context of employment and labour, workplace human rights are a subsection of both labour rights and human rights which specifically provides for the rights of the employees, workers, or labourers in the context of employment, specifically in the workplace. A workplace may refer to the location where an employed person usually performs his/her duties, the location of the employer’s office, corporation, factory, etc., or the location of the project assigned to the employee for those who work remotely.
When alleged violations against employees occur, it is the legal practice of a workplace human rights lawyer to either represent any of the parties (the employee or the employer).
First, said lawyer will have to determine whether there has been a violation at all according to Canadian laws. If there is, a workplace human rights lawyer may proceed with the different methods of alternative dispute resolutions and any other administrative remedies applicable to the parties to amicably or extrajudicially settle the labour dispute.
A workplace human rights lawyer may also use the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement on mediations or dispute resolution. Should all these remedies fail, it becomes the duty of a workplace human rights lawyer to represent the party before judicial courts.
Generally, human rights in Canada are governed by substantial federal and provincial laws, which at the same time accedes to treaties and international conventions on human rights, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), where Canada is a signatory of, among others.
The main federal laws where employment rights and human rights intersects are:
These laws are complemented by provincial laws still on labour and employment. Due to the complexities of these laws and their regulations, the services of a workplace human rights lawyer may be necessary to further expound its provisions. A summary of these laws on its workplace human rights provisions are provided below.
The Canadian Human Rights Act is the federal legislation which generally prohibits any kind or form of discrimination, not just in the workplace, but in any other circumstance. The purpose of the Act is to ensure equal opportunity to all Canadians, and to prevent any undue discrimination based on a person’s race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, or disability or conviction for an offence.
The Employment Equity Act directs the federally regulated agencies and businesses to provide equal employment opportunities to these four specific sectors:
Furthermore, the Act also prescribes penalties, through assessment of fees, for private sector employers who fail to submit equity reports, as mandated in Section 18, to show that they are compliant in providing equal opportunities to the above-mentioned sectors.
Another law which governs federally regulated industries is the Canada Labour Code. The Code provides for the statutory labour standards to be followed by these federally regulated industries (Part III) and discusses matters regarding the collective bargaining agreement (Part I). For workplace human rights, Part II of the Code provides for the occupational health and safety standards to be followed both by employers and employees alike.
Another law which connects employment rights and human rights is the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. In implementing Part II of the Canada Labour Code, the Regulations provide for specific guidelines that an employer must follow to ensure the safety of employees in the workplace, especially for industrial workplaces, such as the specifications of infrastructures, handling of hazardous substances, etc.
Both the Code and the Regulations highlight three legal rights of employees with regards to workplace hazards or dangers:
The Canadian Human Rights Act prescribes certain acts as human rights violations, but specific for labour and employment, the following can be considered as human rights violations which may be committed in the workplace:
Employees who think and feel that their workplace human right has been violated should firstly address these concerns to their employers and to exhaust any administrative remedy available to them.
However, when these concerns are left unaddressed, an employee may seek help from a workplace human rights lawyer for any appropriate action against the employer. This is an addition to seek any redress from regulatory authorities, such as filing a complaint before the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
Want to know more about your rights in the workplace and what to do in case of a violation? Scroll down below and consult with the best Lexpert Ranked workplace human rights lawyers in Canada.