On November 27, 2018, the Human Rights Code Amendment Act (Bill 50) received Royal Assent. The bill was introduced in early November and proposed two key changes that employers should be aware of:
- extension of the deadline for filing a human rights complaint from six months to 12 months; and
- appointment of a Human Rights Commissioner and advisory council.
These features are discussed more in depth in an article our firm published at the time the changes were introduced which can be read here.
Since these changes now have legal effect, it is important to note again that for employers the increase to 12 months for filing a complaint may mean a longer period of uncertainty about potential liability. It also means that employers need to be even more mindful about record keeping practices.
The new legislation provides that the Human Rights Commissioner is responsible for promoting and protecting human rights, including by doing any of the following:
- identifying, and promoting the elimination of, discriminatory practices, policies and programs;
- developing resources, policies and guidelines to prevent and eliminate discriminatory practices, policies and programs;
- publishing reports, making recommendations or using other means the commissioner considers appropriate to prevent or eliminate discriminatory practices, policies and programs;
- developing and delivering public information and education about human rights;
- undertaking, directing and supporting research respecting human rights;
- examining the human rights implications of any policy, program or legislation, and making recommendations respecting any policy, program or legislation that the commissioner considers may be inconsistent with the Human Rights Code;
- consulting and cooperating with individuals and organizations in order to promote and protect human rights;
- establishing working groups for special assignments respecting human rights;
- promoting compliance with international human rights obligations; and
- intervening in complaints and in any proceeding in any court.
Furthermore, the Commissioner may assist a person or group of persons with any aspect of filing a human rights complaint and will also have the power to launch an inquiry into any matter if such an inquiry would promote or protect human rights.
We are very interested to see how these changes will affect the human rights landscape in BC, particularly for employers. We will continue to provide articles and updates as the effect of the changes begin to crystallize.