Different human rights and labour laws in the counties of Canada

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1. Introduction:

Across Canada, different counties have different human rights and labour laws but all based on same core principles of equality and prohibit hiring, discriminating, firing etc on the basis of personal characteristics with only few exceptions when it is a basic job requirement. The current paper is based on a case study of a Canadian firm; Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP. The company was recently sued for discrimination based on gender discrimination. These and many other cases in Canada showed that gender discrimination does exist at workplace in Canada.

The statistics for the year also showed that there is a clear gap and discrimination when it comes to recruitment for jobs as the rate for men is 65.2% while that for women is 58.3% (HRSDC, 2011). The employment tenure for men has also been found to be longer than that for women (Piobar, 2011). Recently there were cases like the Excellence Research Chairs in Science in Canada where all seats were taken by men and none of the women professors in science got the position. The discrimination was said to be one of the main reasons that in the international talent search program not a single woman found a place (Church, 2010). In the field of education the discrimination is said to prevail in recruitment practices as women make only twenty percent of the professors at Canadian Univerities (Mason, 2010). The current paper examines the discrimination of why some companies try to prove women as incompetent and deny them basic labour rights. The paper proves that there are a number of reasons that the companies should not be engaging in discriminatory practices and also they can take a number of step to ensure fair workplace management.

1. 2. Research Topic:

The current research paper focuses on discrimination at workplace and the impact it can have for the business or employer engaged in discriminatory practices. The research topic has been defined as:

Discrimination in the workplace has a negative impact on the employer/business engaged in discriminatory practices. This is usually in the form of:


Damage to brand reputation

Reduced profits for the business.

The research paper in particular focuses on the gender based discrimination; discrimination that women face at workplace.

1.3. Research questions:

The following research questions address the gender discrimination at workplace:

1. What is gender discrimination and how it is happening at workplace at Canadian firms?

2. How discrimination is harmful not only for its victims but also the parties engaged in the discriminatory practices?

3. Are the legislative measures sufficient to help stop discrimination at workplace?

1.4. Research scope:

The full integration of women into the working market is still being resisted or surrounded by partialities, prejudices, patriarchal stereotypes and culture-oriented expectations from the roles of gender, what constitutes equitable labour conditions and 'valuable work'. In the Canadian society, racism along with prejudice against immigrant women, aboriginal women, refugee women and women of colour in addition to ablelism against disabled women has created even more underclass treatment towards the disadvantaged women. Along with these disadvantages, another thing that is making the challenges women have to face even tougher is the compounded burden of meeting the demands of their paid work alongside the unpaid care work that they do at home in sustaining communities and families (Sayer, 2005).

Compensating the gender based discrimination in the labour market is one of the most eminent issues of discrimination that regional, national, international organizations, legislators, unions, human right agencies and employers are facing. A multifarious approach is needed for engendering the labour market of a country. In order to demolish this discrimination, the international human rights demands from the employers, governments, unions and social societies to take both non-legislative and legislative pay and employ equity measures. With one test the success of these measures can be analyzed and that is to find out if these measures have contributed to the reduction of inequality and injustice faced by women. The current study would therefore provide good theoretical support for avoiding the discriminatory practices at workplace.

2. Case Description:

The current case is about a Toronto based Law firm called the Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt LLC. A female employee sued the filed a lawsuit on grounds of sexual discrimination. According to Jaime Laskis the company made a sex joke about one of the female clients, they made fun of the female lawyers and got personal remarks based on her gender. The discrimination was later also in evaluations and the female lawyer who always had good reviews was now being rated as incompetent. Laskis also believed that she got fired because she made complaints about the discriminatory behaviour of the managers at the firm. Even after getting fired, the manager at the firm made an attempt to prevent her from getting hired elsewhere.

One such case against the company was also filed in the year2 2009 by another female lawyer Diana LaCalamita. The two lawsuits against the company are both currently in courts. In case of Laskis that her performance appraisal was not fair and biased. Also her pay was frozen and she did not earn what her level at the organisation and the rules of the company stated. The main reason she filed for being fired from the company was retaliation and complaint about the firms and its management.

Even after when Laskis left the organisation one of the senior managers at Osler suggested not hiring Laskis to a manager from the other firm. The emotional distress, demoralisation and other substantial forms of damages have been filed for by Laskis. Not just the firm aimed at running her reputation but also "disrupt her ability to gain employment."

3. Support for Claim

The present claim of the study is that discrimination in the workplace has a negative impact on the employer in the form of lawsuits, damage to brand reputation and loss of profitability for the company. The effects of discrimination at an organization seen in these three main forms are interrelated. News of workplace discrimination tends to spread fast, and this can hurt the company's reputation and lead to backlashes with customers having affinity to the victim shunning the company's products and services, thereby having a direct impact on the company's bottom-line (Brighthub, 2010).

3.1 Discussion:

Discrimination has been defined as

acts by an employer offering different terms and conditions of employment or any unfair treatments to employees based on sex, marriage, status, pregnancy or maternity without any reasonable reason(Blanpain et al., 2008, p.154).

One of the recent cases of discrimination based on gender was that of Ms. Chindley who was denied the right of employment equity. When Chindley applied for the driver job at a Canadian company the Clowe's Ambulance Service and had the enough qualification and experience, even then a less qualified male driver was hired. The charges were backed by violation of the Human Rights Code section 9 and later it was proved in the court that discrimination did take place (Justice, 2008).

3.1.1. Lawsuits:

The labour laws in Canada give the employees the right to sue the company if they believe they have been victims of discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, nationality, race, origin, physical or mental disability, origin, cast, sexual orientation, associations, belief or pregnancy etc. Such act of discrimination not only affects the victim but also the companies engaging in such practices. According to Dreiband, to file discrimination charge against someone or some organization is equal to a charge serious enough to make them short of a criminal accusation. The applicant is charging the violation of their civil rights and this charge directly questions the repute and integrity of the employer (Phillips and Gully, 2009). Although neither for the management nor for the workers is dismissal an easy task yet there is a procedure that is well thought out, respectable and considerate enough to minimize the damage as much as possible. A fair dismissal policy is meant to build employee morale and loyalty, make the process of selection and recruitment easy whereas on the other hand if there is a harsh dismissal policy, it will damage the reputation and image of the company, badly affect its community relationships and lower its value as an attractive employer. Thus a dismissal policy that is considered to be fair will help the firm in reducing the possibility of any legal action or costly industrial action against the firm. Increased protection from subjective dismissal is a critical part of acquiring worker acceptance of the impacts of globalization as depicted by a large number of countries (Rogovsky and Sims, 2006).

The remarkable federal discrimination case held in 1997 against Texaco imposed $q75 million settlement to the minority workers. The publicity that this case gained also ruined the reputation of the firm very badly. The firm was forced to change its organizational practices and its personal policies so as to make a credible commitment to eliminate the factor of racial discrimination and thus restoring its image and legitimacy from further fines and charges. Coca-Cola was charged with a similar kind of accusation and this case was dissolved at the charge of $192 million against the firm. Moreover the management of Coca-Cola agreed to initiate monitoring its progress in light of eliminating all factors of biasness in its operations. When such a charge is filed against an organization, its brand name, finance and the overall image of the company are all badly affected. Other firms also greatly learnt from these past cases and they reinforced their beliefs in self-monitoring in order to stay in compliance with the guidelines of EEO / AA (Smelser and Swedberg, 2005).

As in the Osler's case, the most common results of discrimination are the lawsuits against the related company. The company have to pay sometimes millions in fine and compensation for discrimination. There have been a number of cases that where individuals based on the federal and provincial acts and laws files charges against the companies for not just discrimination but also related various damages. The lawsuits then require series of hearings at the courts, answering press releases and media.

The human right activists as well as various movements address the issue of discrimination and provide support to its victims openly. The lawsuits and the social movements etc all put great pressure on the firm. All this has a direct impact on the reputation of the firm not just as an employer but also as a brand. How discrimination on the firms' part deteriorates the reputation of the employer has been discussed in the next part of the claim.

3.1.2. Impact on Employer's Reputation:

With the increased competition and companies now focusing on acquiring and retaining highly competitive workforce, the employer brands concept has emerged. Employers need to differentiate themselves in the minds of the potential employees and the employers have to provide a good brand image of them to attract the most competitive employees. Discrimination by the employer on the other hand can baldy effect the employer brand (Martin and Groen, 2011). When a company engages in discriminatory or unfair acts, the human rights activists in providing support to the victim can also do severe damage to the brand image of an organization. Organization in order to be seen and regarded as corporate social responsible need to have equal employment opportunities as well as refrain from various discriminatory acts. Thus according to the claim one can say that engaging in discriminatory acts can have a negative impact on the brand reputation and the company reputation overall.

3.1.3. Loss of Profitability:

A firm is an economic entity that is meant to make profit; it has a certain capital, produces products or services and is bound to follow the legal principles of the marketplace. The labour force employed by a company serves as a type of a commodity and is bought from the market and thus is a production factor for the company (Li and Goldschmidt, 2009).By definition of neoclassical economics, discrimination is an unlawful act, which damages the profitability of a firm and prevents the optimum resources allocation. The employer taste model gave out a significant prediction that by increasing the degree of competition and activity of the labour market, discrimination would be eroded. Another similar prediction is that discrimination should be discernable in firms that have a greater market power at their disposition (Smith, 2003). According to one study by Gartner and Haworth (1974), the firms that discriminate on any grounds are usually at the loss of competitive advantage to those that do not discriminate. They found the main reason to be that due to the discriminatory behaviour they cannot hire a proportionate of effective factors of production that is the ones that have low cost but high production or performance. Their study was mainly based on the sports industry and they did recognise that industrial factors can have an impact on the finings (Gartner and Haworth, 1974). Not just by poor allocation of resources but also by paying for lawsuits and compensating for unfair acts, the companies do lose profits.

4. Remedies and Initiatives:

For the engenderment of the labour law system, a number of critical steps have been taken by Canadian government. These steps were taken due to the outcome-focused, pro-active approach of equality along with the passage of a few pro-active customized pay and employment laws of equity. But even then a lot is still to be done. The Canadian progressive laws are often just confined to be in principle rather than in reality and many are still to be effectively translated and enforced into the workplace changes. These laws are variable for different people and at times have to be repealed. The agencies that enforce these laws have been underfunded by the government and their implementation is resisted by employers. Moreover there are other laws too that are not progressive and in a lot of situations, a vacuum is seen with the governments being unable to take any legal action.

The Canadian Government is a member of many of international organisations, institutions and conventions like United Nations and ILO that work for gender equality. The steps to ensure equal pay just based on job include the Equal Remuneration Convention and Special Measures Initiative Program that has a purpose to promote development and retention of participation to ensure management of culture, diversity and gender in the federal workforce (HRSDC, 2011).

4.1 Equality Laws in Canada:

To ensure equality. Laws can b found in Canada at both federal and provincial levels. Most of the laws are based on the Charter Of Rights And Freedom 1985 which does not allow discrimination on any basis. The two main aspects when it come women discrimination are the pay equity and employment equity (HRSDC, 2011)..

By pay equity one means that there should be no discrimination in pay if the work or job is of equal value that is if tow people are doing the same job in same organisation and of same value then there is no ground for paying them differently. This is regarded as one of the basic internationally accepted labour standards (HRSDC, 2011). In the Osler's case, Laskis should have been paid what her peers at her level and her position in the firm were being paid.

Another important labour standard is the employment equity which means that there should be no discrimination when it comes to treatment and opportunities related to employment on the basis of gender, nationality, race, disability, opinion or belief etc (Merwe, 1974).

If the laws, plans and initiatives cannot be implemented at the workplace, and not made a reality, they have no use. The bodies that are responsible for the checks and balances and also the private ns public institutions that can help makes these laws effective need to play their roles.

First of all the unions and the nongovernmental organisations have been the most important organisations till date to ensure enforcement of various standard labour laws in the country. One of the main organisations working in promotion and development of women's rights was the LEAF (Legal Education and Action Fund) that has taken a number of steps to ensure equality at workplace (HRSDC, 2011).

5. Conclusion:

The current paper was based around the claim that discrimination in the workplace leads to negative image to the company. The negative image is further related to the lawsuits, loss of reputation for the company and also loss of profitability. The three results of discriminatory acts y the companies were discussed in detail and were found to be valid through study of literature. On the basis of the findings of the study, the companies need to take a number of steps to ensure no discrimination at workplace.

There is a general need for change of attitudes of males and females. Most of the barriers faced by women and the reasons that they become victim of gender based discriminations because of the traditional attitudes towards women career. The training of the employees and awareness can play a role in this regard to change the outlook towards development of women career (Merwe, 1974).

Even when such programs are initiated a very important change is required from the female side as well so that they can themselves reduce the barriers and obstacles at work easily. Some main reasons highlighted by study of literature of why women are said to face such obstacles also include more refusals by women to take new responsibilities at work, women lacking the confidence in their own abilities and talents, the lack of leadership development and use among women themselves and fear and low esteem etc which is more prevalent among the women.

Another important remedy is making the legislation and acts that protect the rights of women at workplace and even outside workplace to be more effective. The legislation and acts empower the women to greatly reduce the discrimination against them on the basis of gender at work. As mentioned and discussed above, based on these laws and regulation the women can file charges against the companies that shown a discriminatory behavior. The women in such cases need to speak for themselves and make the implementation of the laws and regulations effective by taking such steps and providing grounds for establishing and ensuring equal employment opportunity. The protective laws can help the women in terms of pay equality and in case of discrimination on the basis of physical or mental disability but in some places where there is quota system for employment, the women can make no or very less use of these laws. A shortcoming one can say in the legislation is that the action is taken after the discriminatory and all the damage has been done and that too if the victim files for charges otherwise no action is taken and the incident can even go unnoticed and reinforce in this way the discriminatory acts. It should be a part of the corporate social responsibility of the company to ensure that no discriminatory practices take place at work and the companies (Merwe, 1974).

An often suggested step in the researches an studies on women empowerment as well as reducing the discrimination and equal opportunities for them is to provide them career development and planning. This way women would know what they need to reach a particular position, what are their strengths and weaknesses for a particular situation and how they can improve their employability and competitiveness as compared to the males applying for the same positions and jobs?

Career planning is said to have an impact on the altitudes of women towards their own jobs. They can rightly assess their own career training need with the help of such programs which further can help them get good management and even develop leadership. Tow most important things that companies would be able to achieve through such programs are offsetting the discrimination on the basis of gender by including policies of manpower for women and this would have an impact on the organisational attitude and thinking towards women workers as a whole and secondly, the company would be able to better recognise the female talents and the potential of its female workforce to add to the long term success of the company (Merwe, 1974).