To what extent can an employer decree its employees’ dress? An Ontario labour arbitrator recently addressed this question in the case of a hospital in Ottawa that updated and consolidated its dress and appearance codes in an attempt to improve client relations. The union grieved the new policy as “an unreasonable infringement on employees’ rights to express themselves in their appearance, unjustified by any health or sanitation concerns, or any complaints by patients.” The arbitrator agreed.
Is it discrimination to terminate an employee because that employee has been convicted of a criminal offence? Can being charged with a criminal offence qualify as a disability? A recent Ontario Human Rights Tribunal case that was appealed to the divisional court looked at these questions, as well as the appropriate time to raise a challenge to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
A recent case before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal demonstrates that offensive comments don’t have to be intentional to be the basis for discrimination. When a black employee wore a soccer jersey, baggy black jeans and running shoes to work on a “casual day,” the employer told him he looked “ghetto,” suggesting the outfit was too casual for the workplace. The employee was offended and asked for an apology. The employer did so but with no indication that he understood what caused the offence. The employee complained of discrimination to the tribunal.