Canadian HR Reporter

May 2019 CAN

Canadian HR Reporter is the national journal of human resource management. It features the latest workplace news, HR best practices, employment law commentary and tools and tips for employers to get the most out of their workforce.

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CANADIAN HR REPORTER MAY 2019 2 NEWS Islamophobic incidents need to be addressed at work: Report Labour group makes several recommendations for employers, unions BY JOHN DUJAY ON M ARCH 15, the world looked on in horror when a mosque and Islamic centre in Christchurch, N.Z., were at- tacked by a gunman. Fifty peo- ple lost their lives while 50 others were injured. Once again, the spotlight was on Islamophobia and its horrible consequences. While Canada may not have suffered as badly over the years when it comes to these attacks — aside from the 2017 mass murder of six worshippers at a Quebec City mosque — "it would be pro- foundly mistaken and dangerous- ly complacent to think that these forces are not prevalent in Canada and growing," according to a new report from the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). "e division and scapegoat- ing represent a grave threat to working people and their organ- izations, which depend on inclu- siveness, equity and solidarity for economic and social power," said Islamophobia at Work: Challen- ges and Opportunities. As a result, working people and unions must respond by engaging members, and educating and tackling workplace discrimina- tion head-on. "Although Canada's unions have made great strides towards challenging racism and other forms of oppression, there is much more to unpack, unlearn, challenge, interrupt and disrupt," said the CLC. "Unions must understand, confront, and inter- rupt racism and discrimination in our workplaces, our organiza- tions and our society." Workplace issues "e stigma that comes with peo- ple and their children being iden- tified as a Muslim is a huge, huge problem," said Hassan Yussuff, president of the CLC in Ottawa. "Most communities are gen- erally welcoming in the country. But there are places, of course, where people face very much an isolated reality of experiencing Islamophobia and discrimination, and not feeling that they have the kind of support that they think could help them deal with those challenges." One Canadian woman, for ex- ample, faced inappropriate behav- iour from a supervisor, he said. "He basically told her, in very coarse language, he didn't care about her faith when she told him she had to go and pray, and how her faith was annoying oth- er people in the workplace and making them feel uncomfort- able," said Yussuff. "Rather than trying to recog- nize him, as a supervisor, having responsibility to ensure those things weren't happening... he was just trying to make her more miserable than she was already feeling and not appreciating that he had some legal obligation to stop that kind of behaviour and not perpetuating it." e workplace is a microcosm of society, said Faisal Bhabha, as- sociate professor at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto. "We do know that anti-Muslim discrimination has been on the rise steadily over the last 15 years and incidents of discrimination spike at particular points in time, usually related to political devel- opments," he said. "One of the really sad realities is whenever there's been a violent attack against Muslims, there's been a swell of support and soli- darity being shown from the gen- eral population, who might not otherwise think about Muslims or care about Muslims." "But also — we see it happen every time without fail — (there) is a spike in hate attacks and dis- crimination against Muslims," said Bhabha. e CLC report cited a 2016 Environics Research study that found 35 per cent of negative in- cidents of prejudice due to reli- gion over the previous five years took place at work, compared to 34 per cent in public spaces and 25 per cent in stores, banks and restaurants. e report's insights are not surprising, according to Michael Bach, founder and CEO of the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI) in Toronto. "We have at least anecdotally known for some time that we're facing a severe issue around Is- lamophobia in the workplace," he said. "It is an important wake-up for a lot of us that we need to be paying more attention to this." Recommendations e report makes several rec- ommendations to trade unions, employers and government. For example, it encourages unions to "speak out, immediately, against any backlash or incidents of dis- crimination against Muslims in your community." As an example, after the Christ- church attack, George Floresco of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers said the union and its 50,000 members "condemn this act of terrorism and extend their support and compassion to the Muslim community in Christ- church. Further, we condemn in the strongest possible terms those that would promote Islamophobia and violence against immigrants and refugees." Similarly, Stephanie Smith, president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union, said they "will do everything in our power to defend your right to pray and gather and live free from violence in any form." Unions should also provide bystander training and tools to members so they can immediately speak out against discrimination, and educate members about the dangers represented by the Islam- ophobic far-right political move- ments, said the report. e creation of workplace hu- man rights committees is also recommended. As for employers, the report makes 11 recommendations, including ensuring employees and management understand their obligations to Muslim employees under the Canadian Human Rights Act. Employers should also establish and public- ly promote a commitment from leadership against Islamophobia in the workplace and society. In an ideal world, it's about having a zero-tolerance policy that's acted upon, said Bach. "I know a lot of organizations have zero-tolerance policies for various things, and I would just like to see action being taken where some people end up be- ing shown the door. We all have a role to play in addressing bias and discrimination in the work- place and, far too often, we see a lot of lip service paid to the con- cept of zero tolerance." Education is the "obvious an- swer" said Bhabha, but he has sensed backlash against some training initiatives. "ere's a view amongst some of the workforce that this is all just mumbo jum- bo that has to be endured rather than saying (these are) meaning- ful things that need to be learned and implemented," he said. e report also recommends name-blind recruitment practi- ces to ensure there is no bias or discrimination against employ- ees from diverse backgrounds, including Muslims. But this obscures the real con- cern, said Bach. "It doesn't address the core is- sue. It doesn't make the racism or Islamophobia go away. It means that the candidate gets through the interview process but they're still going to face the same issues of discrimination when they get into the interview," he said. "e onus needs to be on em- ployers to address the issue of bias in hiring by educating their hiring managers, by educating their talent-attraction people, to understand bias that exists in the hiring process, to understand our personal blind spots and to create systems where we are eliminating those at the oppor- tunity for those things to exist." Jeff Bezos to rivals: Up your pay e Amazon.com CEO recently challenged his competition to match his company's minimum wage — or better — after the online giant hiked its pay in November to US$15 ahead of the busy holiday shopping season. U.S. CEOs fly high Many of the 100 top companies let executives fly on corporate planes for personal travel Balancing human rights with health and safety Ontario decision deals with re-integration of police officer with major mental health issues To thank or not to thank? Changing norms around power dynamics raise questions about the necessity of thank-you letters Future of work about more than technology, automation: Report Employers must prepare for broader trends impacting labour – including natural disasters Retiring late: As pensions underwhelm, more Japanese opt to prolong employment Government mulls raising retirement age to 70 or higher BLOGS BRIEFS NEWS VIDEO BLOGS BRIEFS NEWS VIDEO BLOGS BRIEFS NEWS VIDEO Recent videos, stories and blogs posted on www.hrreporter.com. Check the website daily for updates from Canada and around the world. People gather at a mosque in Toronto on March 22 to show solidarity with the Christchurch victims. Credit: REUTERS/Carlos Osorio "I know a lot of organizations have zero- tolerance policies for various things, and I would like to see action taken where people end up being shown the door."

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