On March 15, 2017, Bill 51, An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act, received first reading in the New Brunswick legislature, and second reading the next day. The goal of the changes is to modernize the legislation and increase its efficiency. Indeed, this has been the first extensive review of the legislation in 25 years. These changes come on the 50th anniversary of the Human Rights Act. The ultimate goal of the review was to evolve with society and ensure that values are protected. Bill 51 aims to do just this.
As most of us are aware, the Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination in the context of employment, and applies both during the employment relationship and in the hiring process. Most of us would take it as a given that you cannot make hiring decisions based upon grounds such as race, religion, gender, or disability. However, it is not quite as widely understood that the duty to accommodate an individual applies even to those who are not yet employees.
Customers demand more of businesses in so many ways these days—better quality and safety, greater social and environmental responsibility, extra service, and accessibility. The law increases its demands frequently, too. Even our governments and public service providers have a hard time keeping up with the legal requirements! Making improvements in all of these areas can challenge an organization, but only accessibility offers the advantage of access to a market of unrealized potential.