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Human rights claim settled by Ontario school board

One Ontario school board at the centre of a human rights complaint will now be working toward eliminating discrimination in its hiring and promotion after it created an action plan to address issues of discrimination. The local school board is instituting a plan that is designed to better address employees' rights. The claim that eventually led to the action plan asserted that the school district was systematically using hiring and promotion practices that repeatedly excluded individuals who come from racially diverse backgrounds.

The plan includes new goals for the school board. It mandates conducting a survey of the school board's workforce. It also suggests ways to remove barriers in the hiring and promotion process. Moreover, it offers training ideas to help schools hire individuals in a manner that is not biased against any particular groups of people.

Many workplaces do not choose to freely change their policies. Some employers are only motivated to change their hiring practices when they are confronted with legal action. Employment equity laws have been established to prevent the discrimination of women, racial groups, disabled individuals and aboriginal people and the Supreme Court of Canada has previously addressed the discrimination practices rampant in the workforce. Justice Rosalie Abella wrote that this discrimination has led to many people not being able to hold good jobs or receive fair pay. While she recognized that not all discrimination was intentional, she found that it was a fixed part of the workplace. Proponents continue to argue for more equitable treatment.

While it is aggravating and traumatic to deal with workplace discrimination, there are legal options available to individuals who have experienced such behaviour. Consulting a labour and employment lawyer may be the first step in seeking compensation against an employer who wrongfully discriminated against an employee.

Source: Toronto Star, "Employment equity laws ensure workplace fairness," Mary Cornish, Avvy Yao-Yao and John Rae, Feb. 1, 2013

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