Discussion Topic 4 – Discrimination in the workplace



After three weeks of in-person meetings, and continued discussion here on the engagement website, I am seeing a clearer picture of the status of human rights in British Columbia. I appreciate the ideas that have been offered by those who have experienced discrimination and by experts in the field, some of whom have experienced discrimination themselves. I am also hearing how discrimination has been, and continues to be, a barrier that leaves many people feeling powerless, angry and left behind.

For our next discussion, I’d like us to focus on the place where many of us spend much of our time – at the workplace. Some of the stories I’ve heard so far have been about experiencing discrimination while searching for work, being at work, and pursuing career advancement. Despite having clear protections under the B.C. Human Rights Code, discrimination in the workplace is still a reality for many British Columbians. This must change.

In discussion topic 3, Bonnie suggests that opportunities should be created to help employers and organizations learn more about employing people with disabilities, understand universal design, and learn more about grants for workplace enhancements to employ people living with disabilities.

Each day, with each new conversation and each new comment like Bonnie’s, I look forward to the impact our re-established Human Rights Commission will have in our province. What an opportunity! We must signal to those who discriminate that intolerance is unacceptable and that in B.C., the opportunity to succeed must belong to everyone.

What kind of discrimination have you experienced in the workplace? What did you do about it? If you’re an employer or supervisor, how do you contribute to an inclusive workplace?

– Ravi Kahlon, Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism & Sport
(Please remember not to mention third parties specifically)

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64 responses to “Discussion Topic 4 – Discrimination in the workplace

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    [-] Colin

    “Owner” of a somewhat popular restaurant treats his kitchen staff like crap. He’d force them to clean up customer throw up, plunge toilets, clean up garbage/used condoms/clothing from the back alley, wouldnt pay the kitchen manager OT, would threaten them with suspensions if caught on their phones, force kitchen members to attend unpaid staff meetings and swear at them at any given time. He’d shower the bartenders and servers with gifts, hockey tickets, free drinks, pizza parties and always take their side if an issue arose from a kitchen staff member. He’d also sexually harass female employees, get them drunk or give them drugs and have sex with them in his office holding empowerment and embarrassment over their heads all behind his wife and children’s backs.

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    [-] Corey

    I think if there’s any chance that an employee has a disability of some kind and that their disability could be the reason why they’re having troubles doing their job according to the company’s expectations, the employer should be required to take the time and if necessary, spend some money to have the employee assessed (with the employee’s permission, of course). If the employee is found to have a disability that affects them in the workplace, then the employer should be required to accommodate the employee, up to, but not including, the point of undue hardship. The Commission should have the authority to address these types of issues, which are very common in the workplace.

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    [-] Corey

    One thing I hear about sometimes are employees being discriminated against because they don’t want to work on a Sunday, or another day of the week that is holy under their faith. We have freedom of religion in this province, but it seems to protect the atheists more than those who have religious beliefs of some kind. Employees should be allowed to express their faith and wear clothing or accessories that are important in their faith, even while at work, provided it doesn’t disrespect somebody else’s choices. While I realize not everybody in BC belongs to a faith system of some kind, there are a great many who do, and they should be protected, even in their workplace. If somebody wants to put a Bible verse underneath their name sign on their office door, they should be allowed to do so.

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    [-] Claire

    Gender equality is still a huge issue in trades and labour. Women get hired but for the most part do not get promoted or treated with the same respect as their male counterparts. For example, recent Respect in the Workplace workshop for Foremen, 3 women and 22 men, all from Public Works. Sadly, that does not represent the proportion of women in the Divisions.

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    [-] Jennifer

    Parents who breastfeed or pump milk for their children need accommodation to continue to do so after they return to work. It’s unacceptable for an employer to constructively dictate the terms of when an employee must stop breastfeeding or pumping milk and it should not be assumed that breastfeeding will cease once a parent returns to work, or in the event of pregnancy or infant loss. Providing recommendations to employers through a toolkit or breastfeeding policy template will allow for employers to adopt a baby-friendly, parent-friendly work place without the need for their own internal HR team or working knowledge of what is involved with breastfeeding and lactation. For example, it is important to understand that if pumping or feeding is delayed, engorgement can occur and bring the risk of infection. Another example of a policy could include whether a child can visit the workplace for the purpose of breastfeeding, or being clear that it is acceptable and encouraged for parents to store breastmilk in a shared refrigerator without the fear of harassment or inappropriate commentary. There are many other examples, including lived experiences, that local parents could provide upon consultation.

    The policy template should be created with feedback from parents, health care specialists, HR professionals and those with lived experience of returning to work while continuing to breastfeed and/or pump milk.

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    [-] Yvonne

    My employer likes to Relentlessly target the more senior ( Long term ) employees, the ones with the pricey benefits . They have turned their back’s on harassment cases, supervisor standing over her shoulders just to intimidate us, PI’s even filming us on off time in some cases. And this is a union job. The stress for many of us has become almost unbearable. All because they don’t want to pay our benefits so they try to either force us to quit or find any bit of dirt on us they can. How is this even allowed? This is so wrong

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    [-] Christina

    I am continually discriminated against by not being selected for jobs because I am a woman in my mid thirties, perceived as likely have a child soon. Employers prefer to select candidates who are less likely to leave a position for maternity leave. This affects me, as a woman who is responsibly waiting to have children until I have a stable job; but can’t get a stable job in part because of this. I would like to see a cultural shift in support of female rights in the work place. As a means of helping to level the playing field, I would also like to see more support for fathers taking paternity leave. I have repeatedly lost job selection competitions (some in the public service) and have been consoled by co-workers with the rationale that the successful candidate deserved the position more because they have children to provide for. This argument infuriates me! Being discriminated against because of family status has no place in the workplace.

    I have also been discriminated against in the workplace time and time again for being perceived as incapable or less capable of doing a job than a man, because I am a woman. This occurs frequently in the outdoor guiding industry, as well as in science, natural resources, wildfire fighting, and forestry.

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    [-] charlotte

    There has been so much , as stated in a previous comment being frozen out for my color Caucasian as being the person who inflicted said harm and difficulty personally to said co worker. Being bullied for my color for my quick learning ability, and for speaking up in so many instances. I have had my mental health outed by supervisors the part I actually shared, my physical concerns the same. Speaking up has made me labeled as a trouble maker in some instances, the whole system need real help and real change. I worked for a company where they said all the right things and never did one of them. Real change means accountability monitoring and possible tax breaks or something of that nature as an incentive as they need money as a motivation, the bottom line as it were. Thank you for your time. The 3 month I can fire you thing for any reason encourages all discrimination, please set regulations on that one it cause such grief.

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    [-] Sharon

    What protection is there for independent contractors/self employed? I am with a ‘BBB’ accredited business & have not been paid for October hours & it is the 17th of November & I have bills to pay! Who do I turn to? Do I have any rights? And in the rules of the business I am not supposed to operate similarly for 2 years after terminating. Will that hold up in a court of law?

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    [-] Craig

    My wife and I are getting old and would like to cut down our hours from 40/week to 32/week but our employers will not do it. If we insisted, they would reduce our hourly pay and cut back our benefits. That’s unfair. Also we would like to use our sick days for family time as we still have a teenager at home who needs more time with us.

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    [-] Shayla

    I have recently had to quit my workplace of 8.5, doing a job that I love, due to medical illness caused by bullying and harassment. I am currently unemployed and I have not been paid the last three weeks of sick pay owed to me because my employer states that I am not genuinely sick (even though it was work that made me sick) and despite having a doctor’s note verifying my illness. I was bullied by a racial majority in my workplace to the point where I experienced high blood pressure, chest pains, nausea, vomiting, and insomnia. I was spoken about in another language despite our workplace respectful workplace policy which states the necessity of speaking English in the workplace. I was made to feel unwelcome because of my minority ethnicity and my employer used this as an opportunity to villainize me for my previous union activism and because I am a young female activist who stands up for worker’s rights. I have no way to pay my rent and no recourse to reclaim the sick pay owed to me. Management has carte blanche to do whatever they like to whomever they like with no consequences. It disgusts me that they have also made racist and homophobic remarks.

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    [-] Markku.

    When I was working at a Federally regulated Telecommunications company in the 1990’s I bid for a Senior Technician Position , which I was unofficially doing already. The collective agreement stated that the senior most qualified person would be chosen. I had by thid time had the most training of sll the technicians on the Nortel DMS250 , which was the main ewuipment in our department. The Company wanted to hire me, but my Union stopped them and insisted the position be awarded on seniority only. The other applicant was a person of Chinese decent and my union shop steward said to me that I was only a single white guy , and that the other fellow had a family to support. Even though it was common knowledge that I am Gay and I had a common-law husband . I do not know if the BC human rights commission would have helped any more than my Union did when they chose the less qualified but more senior guy who bid in from another department.

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    [-] Lynda

    I used to worked for one of the largest communications company in Western Canada they fired me because I was needing to go on a medical leave as well, struggling to find day care to work until 12 a.m sometimes 1 am due to late night shifts, they were not flexible with a person using city transportation that stopped after 11 p.m, the list is large of issues with this corporation.

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    [-] Daniel

    It would be good to have a complaints registry to track discrimination.. and an do investigations

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    [-] Mela

    The Code is really just a bunch of black marks on a page and unless people enact its spirit, it only comes into action when explicit, traceable discrimination occurs. Most of the time in the workplace, discrimination is subtle, systemic, cultural, invisiblized, couched, casual, micro and unintentional. The Commission will have to prioritize its goals and define its roles along the continuum of upholding a policy and changing everyday behaviour.

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    [-] Samuel

    I have experienced situations that employer are under the perception that they can let an employee “go” for any reason in the first three months of employment (the “probation period”). This misconception where an employer doesn’t have to provide a reason in the first few months of employment has led to discrimination taking place. It opens the door for the employer to quietly discriminate. This needs to be examined much closer by the commission. Thank you.

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    [-] Christina

    I completely agree.

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    [-] Lynne

    I believe in equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. Each person should be provided with the opportunity and supports they need to excel. They should NOT be coddled or given positions where they cannot actually do the work, based on their status (gender, disability, race, or any other criteria).
    For example, I support providing all the needed educational supports to people with disabilities, to reach the extent of their capacity. I do NOT support giving anyone unrealistic ideas of their capabilities, or handing them something they have not earned.
    Reducing the qualifications required for a certain position to ensure participation by under-represented groups isn’t the way to ensure the best candidate for the job. I don’t want to be operated on a by a surgeon for whom certain qualifications were reduced or waived. I would rather provide every opportunity for someone with the talent, skills and motivation to overcome any personal hardships and to excel in their field. Let’s try to do provide supports instead of imposing quotas that do little other than create doubt about whether people are qualified for the jobs they are in.

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    [-] Norbina

    I live with a disability a paraparesis, worked for home care under health authority. I stated that I was unable to perform a certain duty, Kneeling on the floor to wash a patient, peri care , although I satiated that I was unable to perform this task I was treated very poorly and am now unable to work .

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    [-] Issam

    The Human right tribunal is an instrument of extortion, as simple as that, It should never be used to reward people that complain even if the fine is imposed it shouldn’t go to the complainer.

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    [-] Dawn

    Many of the barriers to employment for people with intellectual disabilities are unintentional, and arise from workplaces and working arrangements that simply never imagined the need to accommodate a more diverse workforce. For example job descriptions in union contracts are described in some detail to protect workers. But these job descriptions can present barriers to people with disabilities who could do that job if minor modifications were permitted. Ensuring that more people with disabilities can be accommodated in the workforce is a change that benefits everyone, and this goal is already the focus of excellent existing programs. It’s an easy sell and a goal that’s more easily accomplished by boosting investments in existing federal and provincial supported employment programs, so I don’t see this as a big priority for the new Human Rights Commission. Discrimination against students with disabilities in K-12 and post-secondary is a far bigger challenge and one that the new HRC should place more emphasis on, based on our personal experience and that of many other families of young adults with intellectual disabilities.

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