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Author Archive - Andrew Lawson

Andrew Lawson is a human rights and health and safety trainer and advisor, currently consulting to both the federal and Ontario governments. Since 1996, he has conducted extensive legal research in the areas of human rights and occupational health and safety law. He has worked in the people management business for over 25 years. Read more

Responding to a human rights complaint

As an employer it is always possible that your organization will become involved in a human rights complaint— most likely as the respondent. Being the respondent means that a complaint has been filed against you, probably by an employee, former employee, customer or other member of the general public. You must respond in writing to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) within 35 days in order to preserve your legal rights.


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Ontario policy on competing human rights


The Ontario Human Rights Commission has published a very useful “Policy on competing human rights.” I recommend that you take a few minutes and review the policy and include it in your workplace human rights policies and training curricula.


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What does the case of Trayvon Martin tell us about racism in Canada?

Racism has reared its ugly head as a result of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin several weeks ago in Sanford, Florida. This United States-style racism just does not exist in Canada, right?


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Is the flu a disability?

Is the flu, etc., covered by human rights law and other Canadian legislation like Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act?


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Opportunity or penalty? AODA vs. HRC

Rule of law

I asked a skill testing question to which nobody responded! Nevertheless, I will answer the question here because I know you are busy and don’t always have the time to respond to my skill testing questions. The question is “How to comply with two laws at the same time?”


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Human rights and the Oscars

Something happened at the Academy Awards Sunday night that caught my eye and got me thinking about our current attitudes about equality and racism and human rights in general. I was supposed to write this week about the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act as per my last post. But the Oscars are much more interesting, don’t ya think?


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How to comply with two laws at the same time

Learning the little bit of information contained herein may very well prevent your organization from litigating a very expensive legal action.


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Accessibility compliance: is accommodation enough?

I am going to tell you a story that will test your knowledge of your current legal responsibilities under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Ontario Human Rights Code. For those readers who pass the test, congratulations, you are providing all your customers with the respect they deserve and have sufficient knowledge to insulate your organization from legal liability. For those of you who don’t pass, well, we’ll give you another chance and point you in the direction of some helpful resources to help you get on track!


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Is training a wise investment?

Valuable information can come from diverse sources. Consider this case I uncovered via the daily commuter newspaper: a female employee complained that a third-party service provider harassed her. The incident took place on the employer’s premises, but the alleged harasser was not employed directly by the employer. He was employed by the company that serviced the company’s office photocopiers…


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Reverse discrimination: is it just an attitude?

Reverse discrimination is not a legal term but a socially constructed idea that describes a particular phenomenon; it is a side effect of employment equity programs, as they are called in Canada; “affirmative action” programs in the United States. Reverse discrimination in employment is perceived to have occurred when the majority (or a member of it) is denied an opportunity because the law forces an employer to hire a person from a minority group.


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What is reverse discrimination?

Two men are holding hands and occasionally kissing while waiting in line at a driver licensing office. A person waiting in line approaches the men calling them “fags” and telling them their behaviour is “disgusting”. The same person attempts to engage others waiting in the line to join in the demeaning discourse…


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Do your managers and front line workers have accurate info about human rights issues?

Do your managers and front line workers have accurate facts about human rights issues? A number of conversations I have had with workers lately inform me that many people allow their emotions to overwhelm the facts. The misunderstandings that flow from this emotional response can lead to costly violations of the law for your organization.


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Clinging to past knowledge can be costly

Twice in the last month while conducting training sessions, I have had a workshop participant insist that their workers could NOT file a claim directly with the HRTO because the workers are members of a union. The workers must, they have insisted, file a grievance and settle their human rights claim via the labour relations process. A review of the law reveals the above is simply NOT the case.


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Does over-sensitivity lead to harassment? The preventive value of respect

“Excessive claims of workplace harassment are a sign that our society has become far too sensitive and it really needs to stop.” This is the message I received from workshop participants this week during a group discussion on the topic of the prevention of workplace harassment and discrimination. But is it true?


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Can I be disciplined for off-duty behaviour?

“I am at a party on my day off and a coworker hurls racial insults at me or makes sexual suggestive comments to me.” Am I protected by my employer’s harassment and discrimination policy? Likewise, if I am the one doing the hurling or suggestive commenting, am I subject to discipline under my employer’s policies?


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