With the holiday season fast approaching, many organizations are in the midst of planning their annual holiday parties, meant to recognize the culmination of a year of hard work by employees and celebrate the holiday season. Although this time of year is marked with celebration and provides for a valuable team building opportunity, it can also bring with it particular obligations and potential liabilities for an employer.
On June 19, 2012 the Human Rights Code (Ontario) was amended adding two new protected grounds of discrimination, namely “gender identity” and “gender expression”. The first interpretation of these new grounds was examined in the Human Rights Tribunal decision in Vanderputten v. Seydaco Packaging Corp.
When a support worker at an evangelical Christian organization that runs homes for persons with developmental disabilities entered a same-sex relationship, the organization found the worker had breached its "Lifestyle and Morality Statement," which prohibited homosexual relationships. The organization, Christian Horizons, eventually terminated the employee on that ground, and the worker complained of discrimination to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.