Workers in BC should be able to work without fear of sexism, racism, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, and other forms of discrimination. But if the Human Rights Code is interpreted and applied narrowly to limit the prohibition on workplace harassment to only those circumstances where the harasser is a supervisor, as the BC Court of Appeal decided in Schrenk v BC Human Rights Tribunal, we’ll have turned back the clock 30 years on the fight for workplace equality.
Today, West Coast LEAF is at the Supreme Court of Canada to argue the Code must recognize and remedy sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination as expressions of power that do not necessarily map neatly onto workplace hierarchies.
Limiting the Code‘s ability to remedy harassment to only when it is perpetuated by a supervisor undermines the Code as a tool for achieving substantive equality. Left untouched, the Court of Appeal decision in this case would mean that sexual harassment between co-workers would not be prohibited by the law.
BC workers deserve protection from discrimination in employment. The negative effects of discrimination and harassment go well beyond economic burdens to encompass psychological harms, as well as the perpetuation of systemic inequality.
The experience of harassment or discrimination on the basis of, among others, one’s sex, sexual orientation, race, place of origin, or ability is harmful, degrading, and disempowering regardless of whether it comes from a boss, co-worker, contractor or customer.
Moreover, where traditional hierarchies are reversed, such as a woman being a boss in a male-dominated work place, harassment can be used as a way of putting the victim “back in her place.”
West Coast LEAF is proud to speak out in Canada’s highest court to call for human rights law that meaningfully confronts workplace discrimination and harassment as it happens in real life.
Read more about the case, including our arguments here.