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Courts focus on proactive steps to avoid discrimination

Author(s): Allan Wells, Kelly O’Ferrall, Melanie Simon, Abigail Omale

Nov 30, 2022

Legislation relating to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) has traditionally focused on non-discrimination and negative obligations, but recent cases suggest there is a movement towards positive obligations and the importance of employers taking proactive steps to avoid discrimination. This was a key observation made during Osler’s Employment and Labour Law Insights November webinar, moderated by Allan Wells, Chair, Employment and Labour, with presenters Kelly O’Ferrall, Melanie Simon, Abigail Omale and Ksenija Novakovic.

In Alberta, the Court of King’s Bench has held that an employer who terminated an employee for cause for gender-based discrimination was justified in doing so because the employer had sufficient DEI policies in place and the employee was trained in these. The Ontario Court of Appeal has stated that an employer who responds quickly and effectively to a complaint may avoid liability or not be liable to the same extent as an employer who fails to take such steps.

Other topics covered during the webinar included employer obligations in relation to the collection of employee demographic data; Bill 88: Ontario Employment Standards Act exemption for consultants, and mitigating employer risks associated with holiday parties.

Watch the full webinar