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Ageism is a form of social prejudice that is often overlooked in comparison to, for example, gender or race-based discrimination. Ageism is defined by the World Health Organization as the stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination that are experienced by individuals or groups based on their age. This type of prejudice can be seen in all facets of society, including in the workplace. This post will focus on ageism in federally regulated workplaces.

WHAT IS AGEISM AND HOW DOES IT IMPACT THE WORKPLACE

Ageism affects people of all ages and can manifest itself in both subtle and overt ways. Examples of ageism include statements such as “Will you be able to add some creativity, since you are an old person” or “Will you be able to deal with this case, since you are very young”. These and other types of age-related discrimination can have a serious negative impact on individuals, as well as on society as a whole.

Data indicates that 20% of discrimination among older people is due to their employers, and 41% of Canadian seniors feel that they have been neglected or as though their presence was unacknowledged. Research further reveals that about two out of three adults aged 50-plus in the labour force (62%) believe that older workers face age discrimination in the workplace.

It is essential to recognize that age discrimination in the workplace can have damaging consequences for both individuals and their families. All employers in Canada should adhere to the legislation and regulations that are in place to protect employees from discrimination based on their age. This includes refusal to hire or promote a candidate due to their age, as well as treating an employee unfairly due to their age.

It is important to recognize that age-related prejudices and stereotypes, such as assuming that older workers are less productive and adaptable, or that younger workers are less knowledgeable and more intolerant, can fuel age discrimination. Employers should be aware of these issues and strive to create a workplace culture that is free of discrimination.

PROTECTIONS

The Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) and the Employment Equity Act (EEA) are the primary federal laws that protect older workers from facing age discrimination in federally regulated workplaces. 

The Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) prohibits discrimination on the grounds of age in the areas of employment, services, goods, and facilities regulated by the federal government. This means federal employers must not discriminate against employees or job applicants due to their age and must protect employees and job applicants from harassment and retaliation related to age. This applies to employers and service providers across Canada, both in the public and private sectors in federally regulated industries.

The Employment Equity Act (EEA) also works to address systemic discrimination in the workplace and promote equal opportunity for designated groups, including older workers, in federally regulated industries.

Furthermore, federal organizations with 100 or more employees must develop and implement an employment equity plan that addresses the underrepresentation of designated groups in the workplace. This includes taking steps to ensure that older workers have equal access to job opportunities and promotions, regardless of their age.

Employers are prohibited from mandating a retirement age under the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) or the Employment Equity Act (EEA), unless age is an bona fide occupational requirement (BFOR) for the job. For a BFOR to be valid, the employer must clearly demonstrate that age is necessary for the job to be performed safely and correctly. Additionally, employers must ensure that any requirement is genuine and not arbitrary, as using BFOR as a pretext for discrimination is strictly prohibited.

In addition to the CHRA and the EEA, there are provincial human rights laws also prohibit age discrimination in employment. These laws may have different processes and remedies, but they all aim to protect employees and job applicants from discrimination based on age.

EMPLOYERS DUTY TOWARDS PREVENTION OF AGE DISCRIMINATION

As mentioned, the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) and the Employment Equity Act (EEA) are the main federal laws that protect older workers from age discrimination in the workplace. These laws require employers to follow mandates including the following:

  • to develop and implement an employment equity plan that aims to reduce or eliminate underrepresentation of designated groups in the workplace
  • make reasonable efforts to accommodate employees’ needs
  • actively work to reduce any stereotypes or biases that workers may face in the workplace, and ensure their policies and practices are in line with the laws.

Furthermore, employers may implement certain policies or practices that may have an impact on older workers, so long as they can demonstrate that these policies or practices are based on bona fide occupational requirements. For example, an employer may require a certain level of physical fitness for a job that involves manual labour.

Additionally, employers have a duty to accommodate employees to the point of undue hardship, which means they must make reasonable efforts to accommodate an employee’s needs related to age, such as flexible work arrangements and/or retraining opportunities. 

TAKEAWAY

Employees and job applicants who have experienced age discrimination can take legal action by filing a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission or their respective provincial Human Rights commission depending on whether their employment is provincially or federally regulated. This process can be lengthy and complex, so it is recommended to seek out the support of an experienced employment lawyer to help bring forth available remedies such as reinstatement, back pay, and financial compensation for any pain and suffering experienced. 

If you have experienced ageism in the workplace contact, Toronto employment lawyers, Sultan Lawyers, at 416-214-5111 or mlahert@sultanlawyers.com.

 


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