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How Do Equal Opportunity Laws Protect Job Applicants in Canada?

Within Canada, any business that is regulated by the federal government has a legal obligation to abide by the Employment Equity Act. This means that these regulated businesses are required to provide equal opportunities for employment to four designated groups of people. People who fall under the Employment Equity Act include women, Indigenous persons, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities.

Though the Employment Equity Act has been around since 1995, many people are unfamiliar with it and are unaware of how it may protect them as job applicants. There is sometimes confusion surrounding how the act affects potential employees who fall within or outside of the designated groups. In this article, we will break down what you need to know about the Employment Equity Act, how it affects you, and what you can do if you feel a business is in violation of the act.

If you feel that your concerns about employment equity are a violation of your human rights, it may be a good idea to consult with an employment lawyer. At Soni Law Firm we are experts in human rights and employment law. We would be pleased to offer you a free consultation to discuss your concerns.

Why Does Canada Have an Employment Equity Act?

The purpose of the Employment Equity Act is to increase representation in the workplace for women, Indigenous persons, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities. Canadians value diversity and understand that having a diverse workforce is good for business and the economy. Though employers may not hold prejudice against these protected groups of people, it is known that people in these protected groups are often underrepresented in the workplace. The Employment Equity Act is in place to help ensure that people in these protected groups are adequately represented in the workplace. It acts as a protective step to ensure that there are equal opportunities for all people to work in federally regulated businesses.

Do Private Businesses Have to Comply with the Employment Equity Act?

Not all businesses are required to comply with the Employment Equity Act. This act covers businesses that are regulated by the federal government. This means that some private businesses must comply, but non-regulated industries and businesses do not. Examples of federally regulated industries include air transportation, banks, federal Crown corporations, radio and television broadcasting, and Federal public service.

Does the Employment Equity Act Require Employers to Hire Me?

If you are a member of one of the protected groups under the Employment Equity Act, you may be wondering if this status places you at an advantage over other job applications. Ultimately, it is the decision of the employer who they wish to hire. But employers should be ensuring that they have a well-balanced workforce and are actively taking steps to achieve a diverse workforce. If you are upset that you did not get a job it does not necessarily mean that you have been discriminated against. If a lack of diversity seems to be a pattern of behaviour for the employer, it may be worth getting the opinion of a human rights lawyer.

Though the Employment Equity Act does not require any employer to hire you, specifically, it does attempt to even the playing field and ensure that more diverse workplaces exist.

How Is the Employment Equity Act Enforced?

The Canadian Human Rights Commission oversees the obligations of employers to comply with the Employment Equity Act. The commission conducts audits to determine if employers are meeting their obligations. When it is deemed that an employer is not meeting their representation levels for their industry, they are required to act and must demonstrate that they are doing everything they can to fill in gaps in their employment diversity.

What Can I do If I Feel a Business is In Violation of the Employment Equity Act?

When you are applying for a job it can be difficult to determine if you are being discriminated against. Federally regulated employers are required to comply with the Employment Equity Act while unregulated businesses do not. Know that Federally regulated businesses are audited to ensure they are meeting their legal obligations and may have to demonstrate they are doing so. Be sure that the business you have a complaint against falls under the category of being Federally regulated. You may wish to make a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission or obtain legal advice from a human rights and employment lawyer.

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Rahul founded Soni Law Firm, a boutique employment, labour, and human rights law firm, with the goal of taking his Downtown Toronto litigation experience and making it accessible to Ontario’s Main Street employees and employers.