As per the OHRC’s Policy on Discrimination and Language, although the Human Rights Code does not explicitly identify “language” as a prohibited ground of discrimination, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario may consider claims under a number of related grounds, such as ancestry, ethnic origin, place of origin and in some circumstances, race. The 2010 matter of Arnold v. Stream Global Services offers an explicit interpretation of this policy.
When a respondent is first made aware that a Human Rights application has been filed against them, often their first response is to deny any accusations and to request a summary hearing in hopes of disposing of the matter at the outset. While such hearings may be requested, it does not always work to the advantage of the respondent. Such was the case in the recent Interim Decision of Lomotey v. Kitchener Waterloo Multicultural Centre.
While more often than not the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario’s decisions are not challenged, there are two processes by which this can be done.
A recent Ontario Human Rights case further underscores the employer’s ongoing duty to accommodate to the point of undue hardship, and that Code based harassment or discrimination constitutes a breach under the Human Rights Code of Ontario.
On July 15, 2013, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (“OHRC”) released its Policy on Removing the “Canadian Experience” Barrier (the “Policy”) barrier. The purpose of the Policy is to address the fact that new immigrants, with university educations and/or work experience, are denied opportunities for jobs or career advancement because they lack “Canadian Experience” (i.e. Canadian based work experience) and their foreign educational qualification or work experience are not recognized.
Many H.R. Departments pride themselves on the skill with which they can interview prospective employees in order to assess their qualifications for the position being advertised, the fit of the employee with the organization, and the likelihood that the employee will stay with the organization for a reasonable period of time. What employers are often not cognizant of is the limitation imposed on this process by the provisions of various provincial and federal Human Rights statutes.
Can you require employees to speak English? As always, the answer to this question is “yes”, “no” and “it depends”.