Relevant Laws

As an employer it is your responsibility to ensure your employees' rights under employment law are protected. It is also up to business leaders and managers to create an enjoyable work culture that encourages communication, ideas, growth, and work-life balance. Following employment law is a minimum requirement for cultivating an environment that fulfills, motivates, and inspires employees each and every day. Not knowing or abiding to your legal obligations as an employer can cost you in other ways. Look at these facts:

  • Hundreds of employment lawsuits are filed every day
  • The hourly rate for a lawyer to defend a lawsuit varies from $200.00 for a junior lawyer to $600.00 for senior counsel
  • The vast majority of employment lawsuits are won by the plaintiff
  • One in five employment law jury verdicts are for over a million-dollars

This section provides the information you need to fulfill the rights of your employees and protect your business.

Relevant Laws

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Act is a law that makes it illegal to discriminate in this province.  This law applies to private businesses as well as to the provincial government, and all of its departments and agencies. However, when Nova Scotians do business with the Government of Canada, or with a business regulated by the federal government, the Canadian Human Rights Act applies instead.  If you are not sure which law applies or are looking for more information, call the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission at 1-877-269-7699, or in the Halifax area at 902-424-4111.

Protect the Rights of Your Employees
For employees it can be scary to speak up if they are not being treated fairly. Your company policy needs to be clear about the rights of workers and should identify complaint and investigation procedures for harassment or discrimination. It should also identify the people in the company who are responsible for carrying out the policy and outline their responsibilities under the policy. Information and resources to help you write company policies to protect the human rights of your employees are available in the Policies and Practices page of this toolkit.

Human Rights

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission is charged with administering the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act. This Act makes it illegal to discriminate in Nova Scotian workplaces based on any of the following characteristics:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Colour
  • Religion
  • Creed
  • Ethnic, national or aboriginal origin
  • Sex (including pregnancy)
  • Pay equity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Physical disability
  • Mental disability
  • Family status
  • Marital status
  • Source of income
  • Irrational fear of contracting an illness or disease
  • Association with protected groups or individuals
  • Political belief, affiliation or activity

The Act also:

  • Protects equal pay for the same or similar work performed by males and females,
  • Prohibits individuals who are in a position to grant or deny a benefit or advancement from engaging in unwelcome sexual solicitation with the person who is seeking or receiving the benefit, and
  • Protects individuals who have made complaints under the Act or who have assisted with the complaint process from retaliation.

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Act applies to private businesses in Nova Scotia However, when Nova Scotians do business with the Government of Canada, or if the business is regulated by the federal government, the Canadian Human Rights Act applies instead. If you are not sure which law applies or are looking for more information, contact the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission at 1-877-269-7699, or in the Halifax area at 902-424-4111.

Duty to Accommodate

Employers also have what is called a “duty to accommodate." This means they must do what is reasonable to allow a person to get, or keep, a job. Accommodating a person may mean allowing shorter work hours, changing job duties, or providing equipment that will let a person continue to work. All employers must try to accommodate the needs of their employees up to the point of undue hardship. Where this point is depends on several things, including the size of the organization and the role of the employee within the organization. For example, the larger the organization, the greater is the ability to accommodate. Accommodation does not have to be perfect, but it should be reasonable.  More information and support is available.

Mandatory Retirement

For decades, many people had to retire at age 65 whether they wanted to or not.  The Nova Scotia Human Rights Act was amended on July 1, 2009 to prohibit mandatory retirement policies, plans, schemes or practices. As a result, most employers in Nova Scotia can no longer have mandatory retirement policies. There will still be situations where, for legitimate reasons based on job requirements, an employer can require a person to retire. However, this can no longer be based on an arbitrary age limit.

More information on human rights can be found on the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission website.

Consultation
The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission meets regularly with organizations to discuss human rights principles at work and to support organizations seeking to develop or improve their workplace policies.
To arrange a consultation call 902-424-4111 (Halifax) or toll-free 1-877-269-7699.

For information about the federal Canadian Human Rights Act, visit the Canadian Human Rights Commission at www.chrc-ccdp.ca

Links to Other Agencies and Resources

The Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work has a Job Accommodation Service. This fee based service offers advice, consultations, and assessment services to assist companies in complying with their legal duty to accommodate.

Other Organizations in Nova Scotia with Human Rights Responsibilities include:

Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women
Nova Scotia Disabled Persons Commission
Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS)

You can find resources to help you understand and accommodate specific disabilities by going to local advocacy groups and organizations that serve people with disabilities, and websites for national organizations like the Canadian National Institute for the Blind or Canadian Mental Health Association.

 

YOU CAN BUILD A STRONG COMMITMENT PILLAR FOR YOUR ORGANIZATION THROUGH:

Leadership

Value Statement

Strategic Goals

Company Practices

Communication

Relevant Laws