What is Discrimination in the Workplace?

Employment Law | March 24, 2022

While most employers strive to be accommodating and provide equal opportunities to each of their employees, issues such as favouritism and discrimination persist in many workplaces. Identifying workplace discrimination and what it looks like along with the different types of discrimination is crucial for ensuring that your employer is accommodating and evaluating everyone solely on their performance and merits. While some forms of discrimination are easy to notice, others can be more difficult. That is why the employment lawyers at Linley Welwood have compiled some information to help you determine if you have experienced discrimination in your workplace and what your options are.

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Defining Workplace Discrimination

Discrimination in the workplace occurs when an individual or group of people are treated unfairly due to specific characteristics. This unfair treatment can happen between coworkers, job applicants, or employees and their employers. Whether on purpose or by accident, discrimination—regardless of intention—is illegal.

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Types of Discrimination

The law and the BC Human Rights Code protect you from discrimination at work. An employer must never discriminate against their employees based on the following characteristics:

  • Race, ancestry, or place of origin
  • Age
  • Sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity
  • Marital or family status
  • Political beliefs or religion
  • Physical or mental disabilities
  • Criminal convictions that are unrelated to the job

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Each of these qualities are classified as “protected characteristics”. If an employee is treated differently than others due to a protected characteristic, this is discrimination. Discrimination at work can be direct or indirect. Examples of direct discrimination include:

  • An employer refusing to hire an employee because they are transgender
  • Co-workers harassing a worker over their race, religion, sex, or other protected characteristic
  • An employer firing a worker because they are pregnant

While direct discrimination is typically easy to identify, indirect can be far more subtle and difficult to notice. Indirect discrimination typically occurs if an employee is treated the same as their co-workers, but they are still disadvantaged by a personal characteristic.

For example, an employer may have a rule prohibiting workers from wearing anything on their heads in the workplace. While this rule applies to everyone equally and is likely intended for hats and other clothing items, it can be discriminatory toward individuals who wear head coverings in accordance with their religion.

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What are Your Options?

If you have been subjected to discrimination in your workplace or feel as though you have lost your job due to discrimination, you have several options including:

  • Filing a human rights complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal.
  • Making an employment standards complaint to receive severance or other outstanding compensation.
  • Filing a wrongful dismissal claim with the assistance of an employment lawyer.

To learn more about workplace discrimination or other areas of employment law, get in touch with the team at Linley Welwood. We can be reached through our online contact form and will be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding your case or our services.

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