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Understanding Age Discrimination in British Columbia

Last month, human rights issues hit the headlines as former employees of IBM Corp. have filed a class action lawsuit in the United States alleging age discrimination. The former employees claim that IBM has been laying off older employees over the course of a number of years in order to create a younger workforce.

Closer to home, last year the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board awarded $25,000 in damages to a policy analyst for the Canada Border Services Agency after being denied participation in an early retirement incentive program by her manager who had presumed she would soon retire.

These news articles have sparked questions and renewed interest in what age discrimination means in BC for employers and employees. 

“Age” is a protected ground under the BC Human Rights Code (the “Code”) and also the Canadian Human Rights Act (the “Act”). Discrimination is an action or a decision that treats a person or a group differently than others due to factors such as their race, age or disability. These reasons, also called grounds, are protected under the applicable legislation.

For employers covered under provincial legislation, the Code only protects against age discrimination for people who are age 19 years of age and over. Examples of age discrimination can include denying an older worker a promotion because they may only work for the employer for a limited number of years before retiring, denying opportunities or denying a younger worker a senior position because they look young. 

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Lawson Lundell's Labour and Employment Law Blog provides updates on the most recent legal developments impacting the Canadian workplace and offers practical tips for employers. We cover a range of topics, including labour relations, employment law, collective bargaining, human rights, employment standards, employment equity, workers' compensation, business immigration, privacy, occupational health and safety and pensions and employee benefits. 

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