Human Rights Code protects employees who suffer discrimination with sufficient connection to employment

Supreme court | Human Rights | Practice and procedure | Commissions, tribunals and boards of inquiry

Complainant was civil engineer who was subjected to derogatory comments and emails regarding his place of origin, religion and sexual orientation from co-worker who worked for another employer on same construction site. Complainant filed complaint with British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal alleging discrimination contrary to s. 13(1)(b) of Human Rights Code. Co-worker and CC Ltd. unsuccessfully brought application to dismiss on basis of lack of jurisdiction, submitting that complainant was not in employment relationship with them. Co-worker unsuccessfully brought application for judicial review. Co-worker appealed, which was allowed on basis that s. 13(1)(b) was not so wide as to encompass conduct by any person that might have adversely affected employee in their employment. Tribunal appealed. Appeal allowed. Human Rights Tribunal did not err in concluding that co-worker’s conduct was covered by s. 13(1)(b) of Code. Scope of s. 13(1)(b) of Code was not limited to protecting employees solely from discriminatory harassment by their superiors in workplace. Section 13(1)(b) did not restrict who could perpetrate discrimination but rather it defined who could suffer employment discrimination. Code’s protection extended to all employees who suffered discrimination with sufficient connection to their employment context, which may include discrimination by their co-workers even when co-workers had different employer.

British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal v. Schrenk (2017), 2017 CarswellBC 3506, 2017 CarswellBC 3507, 2017 SCC 62, 2017 CSC 62, McLachlin C.J.C., Abella J., Moldaver J., Karakatsanis J., Wagner J., Côté J., Brown J., and Rowe J. (S.C.C.); reversed (2016), 2016 CarswellBC 869, 2016 BCCA 146, MacKenzie J.A., Willcock J.A., and Fenlon J.A. (B.C. C.A.).

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