Often during my time working as a Human Resources Manager, and while working with clients as a Human Resources consultant, I’ve had employees come to me with what they considered an act of discrimination and a violation of their human rights. Sometimes these have been legitimate issues, other times they have not fallen under the areas covered by the Act.
In order for there to be an issue covered by the Act, three separate circumstances must be true:
- First, the person impacted must have a characteristic that is “protected” by the Act. In Nova Scotia these protected characteristics are: age; race; colour; religion; creed; sex; sexual orientation; gender identity; gender expression; physical disability or mental disability; an irrational fear of contracting an illness or disease; ethnic, national or aboriginal origin; family status; marital status; source of income; political belief, affiliation or activity; or that individual’s association with another individual or class of individuals having any of the characteristics already listed.
- Secondly, the actual area of the alleged discrimination must be covered by the Act. Examples of these are provision of or access to services or facilities, accommodation and/or employment.
- Finally, the discrimination the person is alleging must be connected to the protected characteristic. How is the protected characteristic causing the person to be treated differently at work?
If these three items hold true, then a legitimate concern under the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act exists. At this point, it becomes a question of whether or not the concern can be addressed informally, internally by the complainant and the organization. This would certainly be the preferred step. The complainant may also contact the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and make a formal complaint.
In order to increase the likelihood of an internal resolution, it becomes critical that organizations ensure they have comprehensive employee policies that take the notion of human rights into account. Policies that cover harassment and discrimination, complaint resolution, and progressive coaching and discipline to name just a few are all needed so that employees “know the rules” and what to expect when such a situation arises.
If you like to assess the strength of your current employee policies and how your organization operates in relations to the requirements of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act call us today at 902-877-1887 or send us an email by completing the form below:
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