Investigating Discrimination – Is this Discrimination?

Published on: July 7, 2021

We asked the instructor of our upcoming Investigating Discrimination in the Workplace to set out why knowing how to investigate allegations of discrimination in the workplace is so important. Here’s what he wrote:

On June 24, 2021, MP Jody Wilson-Raybould tweeted a screenshot of a text message she received from Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett. Bennett’s one-word message “Pension?” was accompanied by a link to Wilson-Raybould’s Tweet discouraging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from calling an election.

Bennett’s message suggested that Wilson-Raybould’s Tweet was motivated by her wish to be eligible for a pension, which requires her to be an MP until at least October 19, 2021. But, according to Wilson- Raybould, Bennett’s message was motivated by racism and misogyny. In her Tweet, she wrote: “Racist & misogynist text from @Carolyn_Bennett Reflects notion that Indigenous peoples are lazy & only want $”

Did Bennett taunt Wilson-Raybould, or did she engage in behaviour that would be considered discriminatory, or both?

It’s common knowledge that individuals and institutions alike discriminate in pervasive yet subtle ways. Complaints of discrimination may be based on comments like Bennett’s, or they could be based on unequal access to resources. They can also be based on a single event or a constellation of systems and processes that have a disproportionate impact on groups of people who are protected by human rights legislation. Allegations of microaggressions – which can be difficult to investigate – are becoming more common-place.

Investigating these types of complaints can be challenging for several reasons. People bringing forward complaints may not have a lot of tangible evidence that captures the subtle discriminatory behaviour they see. People accused of engaging in this type of behaviour may provide a seemingly reasonable justification for their behaviour. No one wants discrimination to taint a workplace, but how can you deny that discrimination has occurred when someone sincerely felt it?

In these scenarios, an investigator needs to have a solid grasp of the concept of discrimination to ensure that no stone is left unturned in their investigation process and any conclusion that they draw is legally defensible.

The Investigating Discrimination in the Workplace course is a scenario-based course. The course provides participants with the skills and tools they need to enhance their understanding of the legal concept of discrimination and ask the right questions in their investigations to capture the issues that matter.