Rights can be defined as claims for privileges. Rights are hardly granted, instead, they are usually won. Rights are usually claimed by the underprivileged. However, when granted, rights apply to everyone. Claim for rights usually arises due to conflict between the violator and the violated. For instance, there is a conflict between a deaf student and a Sikh professor in the case study. The student feels that he should use only one learning technique.
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On the other hand, the professor feels that he should leave his beard unshaved. This paper will explore the nature of discrimination as contained in the case study. The paper will also examine the responsibilities of employers to accommodate designated groups in workplace settings. Additionally, the paper will discuss employment equity. Furthermore, the paper will provide recommendations based on the issues in the case study (OHRC, 2014).
Nature of harassment and discrimination
The case study gives a good example of situations where discrimination or harassment applies. The professor is put under immense pressure to change his teaching methods by shaving his beard, an act that would go against his religious, as well as ancestral beliefs. Moreover, the chairperson expects him to make these changes for the sake of a student who has three ways of learning but has refused to utilize the other two (note-taking or use of an interpreter).
Understandably, the treatment of the Sikh professor amounts to discrimination or harassment. Firstly, The professor’s case satisfies all the elements of discrimination on grounds of religion or origin, as well as race. Additionally, the act of the chairperson is unwelcome and this amounts to harassment. The student has more than one mode of learning i.e. to read lips, take notes, or use an interpreter, however, he refuses to utilize any of the above options except to read lips. It can be noted that the student has been offered all the options up to and including hiring the services of a new lecturer or interpreter to help him understand the unit taught by the Sikh professor. However, the student still insists that he has to use one method of learning (HRTO, 2014).
Discrimination is usually based on the personal characteristics of the subject. Discrimination imposes a burden, which may be physical or mental on the subject. Moreover, discrimination is only valid if it tries to deny the subject access to opportunities or gains, which are available to other people. Moreover, discrimination must entail distinction, individual characteristics, and burden to the subject for it to qualify.
In essence, the nature of discrimination and harassment must entail the elements listed above to be considered worthy of a follow-up. It should also be noted that discrimination could be intentional albeit this is not always the case. Harassment can refer to situations or conducts that are unwelcome to others. However, for such an incident to amount to harassment, it has to be done more than once (ServiceOntario, 2012).
Protection against discrimination and harassment are the cornerstone of human rights. In this regard, an employer has no obligation to violate and employees’ rights. For instance, it has to be established that asking the professor to shave his beard for the sake of one student amounts to a violation of his rights. Employers are expected to protect their employees concerning human rights (Matzler, Bailom, Anschober & Richardson, 2010).
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In essence, employment agencies are required to obey the order to protect human rights or face the law. A range of fines can be attributed to the violation of human rights. These include fines, change of practices as well as requirement to apologize. However, since human rights abuses do not amount to criminal offenses, their repercussions are usually less severe than those of criminal offenses are. In this regard, the law tries to protect individuals from discrimination or harassment (Matzler, Bailom, Anschober & Richardson, 2010). Moreover, it should be noted that social condition or class cannot be utilized as a ground for discrimination.
Ontario has a human rights law, which protects employees from discrimination or harassment in their workplace. This law protects subjects on grounds of nationality, origin, ancestry, creed, race, and color. For instance, the professor is protected from discrimination or harassment based on his Sikh origin. Moreover, Ontario has a fair employment practices act, which was enacted in 1951. The act was aimed at minimizing discrimination based on ancestry or race at the workplace. Essentially, from the case study above, it can be observed that discrimination was done to the professor and this act was worth investigating (Hitt, Ireland & Hoskisson, 2013).
Definition of the duty to accommodate including undue hardship
The act that governs fair accommodation practices was enacted in 1954. This act prohibited racial discrimination in public places as well as in housing. Every employment agency must accommodate bona fide job requirements. In this regard, employment agencies need to prove beyond doubt that their policies are necessary for job performance. Additionally, the agencies need to prove that individuals subject to discrimination or harassment cannot be accommodated without incurring undue hardship. In this regard, employers must accommodate employees in their workplaces unless the above-named factors cannot be achieved.
It should be noted that all employers must allow as many people as possible to participate in their workplace settings. Duty to accommodate is not only restricted to people with disabilities but also people with diverse cultural backgrounds or religious commitments, among other grounds for discrimination. In this regard, the college had a duty to accommodate the professor despite his religious commitment (having a long beard) to emphasize inclusion (Cadbury Schweppes, 2014)
It should be noted that the Ontario human rights code came into being in 1962. This code entailed all the previous human rights codes so that they consult one code rather than many codes. Moreover, harassment and discrimination were included in the code as late as 1981. For an activity to be considered harassment or discriminatory, it has to demonstrate the following factors (Younkins, 2014). One must experience the specified harassment or discrimination at his/her workplace, housing, or areas where services are provided whether public or private. Additionally, the kind of harassment must be concerning disability, sex, religion, and race, among others.
However, it should not be based on class. These codes are expected to apply in both the public and private sectors. Furthermore, complainants are expected to make their complaint at the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Who must be persuaded enough to investigate the matter? Timing is also important in ensuring the complaint is heard, usually within six months (Ebert & Griffin, 2012).
To some people, employment equity tends to refer to affirmative action. However, this is not the case. Equity addresses the needs of designated groups in workplaces to ensure that they are accommodated and represented. Additionally, employment equity tries to empower designated groups to guarantee their representation in the workforce (Schmidt, 2003). Canada established its Royal Commission on Employment and Equity in 1983. The country later passed an act on employment equity to minimize barriers to employment concerning designated groups. Additionally, the laws were enacted to help accommodate a workforce, which is representative. Furthermore, the laws were aimed at implementing an employment equity plan (OHRC, 2014).
Equality rights are clear in their emphasis concerning the protection of human rights under the law. However, in some cases, exceptions are usually made to the equality laws to cover programs aimed at helping people with disabilities or minorities, among others. For instance, laws that govern employment equity are good illustrations of situations where exceptions can be made. Grounds for discrimination are usually in section 15, yet at times exceptions can be made if historical injustices to special groups of people are proven (Belcher, 2014). From the case study, it can be noted that the professor’s right to equal employment has been ignored.
By forcing him to shave his beard, the professor’s cultural origin has been ignored at the workplace. Additionally, his religious belief has been disregarded too. Essentially, the departments need to rectify their mistake and apply the employment equity laws that would minimize such instances in the future. Additionally, the college needs to apply employment equity rules in all its departments to improve the condition of the workplace to its diverse employees (Schoenberger, 2000).
From the case study, it is clear that the professor’s right to employment equity was infringed. Additionally, it can be noted that the professor was discriminated against or harassed that he wished to quit his job. Moreover, he reported a complaint to the Ontario Human Rights Commission. However, it was necessary to note that the college made a follow up to the incident and offered remedies.
For instance, the union of faculty did not feel that it was right for the professor to make any changes. In this regard, the anti-harassment office would have advised the department to offer an apology to the professor for acts that amounted to discrimination or harassment. Moreover, If any compensation would be required, the department should negotiate with the complainant (professor) amicably to avoid further complications on the matter. Lastly, the student should be advised to adopt alternative ways of learning since he has more than one option based on his disability status.
Firstly, the college should apologize to the professor to repair the damage done in requiring him to shave his beard. Secondly, just as the union of faculty proposed, the department should make changes to accommodate employment equity in its policies. This would help to avoid such instances in the future. Thirdly, the student should be advised on alternative ways of learning such as note-taking or the use of an interpreter, this should be done professionally (by a psychologist) to avoid negative results (Schmidt, 2003). Finally, the college should adopt the changes in employment policies in all departments within the institution to avoid future occurrences of the same in other departments.
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Ebert, R. & Griffin, W. (2012). Business Essentials: Business ethics and Social responsibility (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Print.
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