There was a story in the Star about how a bunch of employees of the Ontario Ombudsman’ office have filed human rights complaints against their employer. The story line is essentially that the boss, Andre Marin, took over in 2005 and has terrorized the employees with intrusive management practices and “bizarre” rules. The story claims that 70 people have left the employer since Marin took over. Marin denies most of the claims, but does acknowledge that he saw his job to be to whip the place into shape, so he set standards high, and expected employees to work hard to obtain them.
A few of the complaints listed in the story allege racial discrimination and a failure to accommodate disability, which if true would be human rights violations. However, the Star story is mostly describing HR practices that are not employee friendly. For example, the employees allege that there are rules: banning personal photos at desks; banning charity bake sales at work; forbidding employees from speaking to Marin unless he addresses them first; prohibiting casual dress; and prohibiting employees from walking past Marin’s office. Mostly, the employees seem pissed off about the confrontational and unfriendly way in which they claim their boss and managers are treating them.
Is it a violation of the Human Rights Code for a manager to be a prick to workers?
The answer is no, unless he is being a prick because the employees fall into one of the prohibited grounds in the human rights code. So, if Marin is picking on non-white people only (as one sentence infers in the Star piece), then that is a human rights problem. But if a manager is a prick to everyone–an equal opportunity prick, if you will–then there is probably not a human rights complaint.
There is however an implied term in every employment contract that employers will treat employees with decency and civility. A similar requirement was recently implied into collective agreements in Canada too (a requirement for employers to not behave in a manner that will destroy the employees’ trust and confidence in the employer). So, if Marin is being uncivil and a prick to his employees, they may have a claim for breach of that term. But they would not likely have a human rights complaint.
As I tell my students, the Human Rights Code does not regulate bad management practices, only discriminatory management practices.