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A Doctor’s Examination, a Tiffany’s Necklace and 3 Questions to ask yourself before commenting on a colleague’s appearance

When I do respectful workplace training, one of the responses I often hear is, “Does this mean I can’t compliment my co-worker’s hair/clothes/eyes/jewelry?” My answer is always an annoyingly lawyerly one: “It depends.”

A comment that pertains to a colleague’s appearance has the potential to create a welcome personal connection. It can also cause harm. A set of recent decisions from the British Columbia Health Professions Review Board (the “Board”) provides some insight on when comments on a person’s appearance are inappropriate.

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Investigating The Invisible: Examining Subtle Racial Discrimination (Part 1)

Overt racial discrimination, such as a racial slur or derogatory comment, can be easy to spot. However, the difficulty for investigators arises where an allegation of race-based discrimination seemingly does not relate to race at all. As discussed further in this post, such forms of discrimination (often dubbed “microaggressions”) are often manifested through subtle, unintentional behaviours that perpetuate stereotypes about marginalized groups.

The question then arises: how can allegations of subtle racial discrimination be investigated, let alone proven, where there is no obvious link to race? In the case study below, we outline considerations for investigators through the following scenario.

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Il, elle, iel ou ille? Quel langage neutre utiliser en français? | Gender neutral language in French, does it exist?

Lorsque j’étais membre du Tribunal des droits de la personne de l’Ontario, j’ai présidé à une audience qui se déroulait en anglais où une des parties désirait être identifiée par le pronom « they ». Et si l’audience s’était déroulée en français? Est-ce qu’il y a un terme correspondant? On le sait, la langue française n’est pas neutre; tout est forcément féminin ou masculin.

French is not a gender-neutral language, which presents added challenges when referring to individuals who identify as non-binary. There is no corresponding term to “they” in French. As noted by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, deliberately misusing pronouns can be a form of discrimination under the Human Rights Code.

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Unfair Investigation? No Comment.

We are now in a world where workplace harassment is taken much more seriously than it was before. Although some jurisdictions in Canada do not have an explicit legal obligation to investigate incidents of this nature, there is now a pressing moral obligation to do so. But when such a moral obligation is unmoored from legal principles or government-issued guidelines, there is a greater risk of unfairness to all parties. An investigation in this context is more likely to be guided by an emotional drive to either undermine those who raise complaints or persecute those who are alleged to have behaved badly, rather than arriving at factual findings from a neutral perspective using a fair investigation process.

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