Work Place Discrimination

Alberta legislation prohibits certain discriminatory practices for companies doing business inAlberta. Federal legislation prohibits certain practices for banks, railways and telecommunication companies which are subject to Federal law. The main provisions of Alberta law are found in the Human Rights Act. Section 6 states:

“Where employees of both sexes perform the same or substantially similar work for an employer in an establishment the employer shall pay the employees at the same rate of pay.”

Section 7 of the Act makes it illegal to discriminate:

“. . . because of the race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, source of income, family status or sexual orientation of that person or of any other person . . .”

The Act goes on to state specifically that discrimination is allowed where it is based upon “a bona fide occupational requirement”. In all cases, it will be up to the employer to show that there is a bona fide occupational requirement.

If equal pay is not given, the employee has a right of action for the difference and costs, or may alternatively make a complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission. If discrimination is alleged, the employee may make a complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission. The Commission, after investigation, and due process, has the power to award monetary damages, impose fines, award costs, and order “any other action the panel considers proper”.

In the 1999 case of Chow v. Mobil Oil Canada, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench decided that a release signed by an employee on termination is void as being against public policy where the employer wrongfully discriminated against the employee.

It is obvious that the Act must be taken seriously and that all employers should have strict and monitored compliance policies.