Constructive or adverse discrimination in employment occurs when rules or standards are established that do not discriminate at first glance, but have an adverse effect on persons whose rights are protected under human rights legislation. In such a case, the burden shifts to the employer to establish that such rules or standards are essential to the job, also known as bona fide occupational requirements (BFOR’s. British Columbia (Public Service Employee Relations Commission) v. BCGSEU is the leading case which addresses this issue. This seminal human rights case from the Supreme Court of Canada established a three-part test which has become the standard to evaluate constructive discrimination.
Kimberly Ouwroulis filed a Human Rights complaint alleging discrimination based on her age. The complaint was filed after she was terminated from her job as an exotic dancer at a strip club, allegedly, for being too old. As a highly publicized case, experts quickly asked the question whether or not age, for an exotic dancer, is a BFOQ?
In the employment setting, there is a constant tension between an employer’s desire to control its image and employees’ rights to be free from discrimination and to freely express themselves. While it is generally accepted that an employer may impose appearance-based requirements if it establishes a legitimate business reason for the rule, it seems hard to believe that an employer could justify refusing to hire a person based on their physical appearance. However,...
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