David K Law
Human Rights, Discrimination and Diversity
Updated: May 23, 2020
Employment discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender or other grounds protected by human rights laws, poses at least three problems:
1. It is immoral and unjust, as it robs people of opportunities they might obtain on merit.
2. It is stupid and inefficient, as it robs organizations of the most talented people, for no good reason.
3. It is almost always unlawful, in Canada and other jurisdictions.
For those reasons alone, a wise and good employer will take steps to ensure that it does not discriminate when making any employment decisions affecting people, be it hiring, promotion or termination. The various statutes specifying employer obligations must be adhered-to.
The practice of “diversity” – hiring an eclectic mix of people with different personal characteristics – is seen as one antidote to discrimination. Diversity gives opportunities to, and highlights the talents and potential of, people whose personal traits might have prevented them from being hired. Diversity may bring different points of view, or at the very least greater awareness, to organizations that were historically more homogeneous.
Employment diversity is not obligatory under any Canadian law. It is simply a practice that can reduce the likelihood and impact of discriminatory conduct. It may make society more just and it may bring new talent into organizations, too.
Statement of Principles
The Law Society of Ontario ("LSO") is the province’s regulatory body for the legal profession. The LSO has adopted a rule mandating practitioners and firms to declare a “statement of principles” promoting diversity. While well-intentioned, this rule is perceived by some as being “compelled speech” – a morally objectionable and legally questionable requirement to mouth words in order to maintain one’s license.
LAWatWORK believes that diversity can be a useful tool for organizations seeking to attract talent and to eradicate discriminatory practices. For those reasons, we encourage organizations to include diversity as a consideration in recruitment and employment policies.
LAWatWORK also strongly encourages organizations not to compel employees, members or customers to profess beliefs in order to qualify for work or services. Such a practice, while suitable for religious observances or political meetings, is likely to insult people and may be illegal.