Legal

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

shIt seems everyone has a story where they have been victims of unwanted attention from coworkers, clients or employers.  Reflecting on my personal experiences, these comments stand out in particular:

“You always have the prettiest women working for you; where do you find them?” I was working in an accounting office when a man walked in and said this to my employer in front of me, he then looked at me as if I should have been flattered instead of disgusted.

A more recent example, a client had called for information that I did not have on hand so I asked if I could get his number to call him back and he replied with “If I give you my number, can I have yours?” I replied with a stern “no”. He was shocked and said “but you just responded with a no” – I’m not sure what he was expecting to be honest. Although some argue that this is merely “harmless humour”, others would strongly disagree.

Sexual harassment is common in most workplaces; however, the Occupational Health and Safety Act will now include sexual harassment under its code to help protect employees. The proposition of the act is currently being referred to as Bill 132 and will include factors such as: gender, sexual orientation, gender identity expression, sexual solicitation and advances made by a person in a position of power.

shhThe objective is to help victims who are too afraid to take action against such behaviour in their workplace due to power dynamics with the harasser. The idea is that the harasser should know or should reasonably know that such advances would be unwelcomed. The bill will allow the Ministry of Labour to order third-party investigations into sexual harassment complaints. Who will pay for this investigation? The employer, especially in circumstances where the investigation process is faulty or inadequate.

The bill is expected to become effective as of Sept. 8, 2016.  The Occupational Health and Safety Act will set out:

  1. Investigators responsible to oversee the investigation if the accused harasser is the employer;
  2. the means of maintaining confidentiality; and
  3. make conclusions drawn from the investigation available to both the complainant and alleged harasser

Employers would be required to carry out:

1. appropriate investigations;
2. make available written results; and
3. complete annual reviews of the sexual harassment complaints (at minimum)

Have you been harassed at work? What is your story? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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Legal Phone Applications

question markHave you ever found yourself in a situation where you wish you were aware of your legal rights? Individuals who feel targeted by practices such as carding: being stopped by a police officer and asked to produce ID due to your racial background. An individual who felt he was targeted due to his racial profile created a phone application to assist laypersons with navigating the legal system – he named LegalSwipe.

Christien Levien, the creator of the application, came across this idea while working in legal rights workshops and completing his Law degree; he realized that many individuals could not completely appreciate the advice being given or how to apply it.  Being a victim of carding himself, he advocates for the importance of such an application. The app is meant to assist individuals during interactions with the police. The app also videotapes encounters with the police and uploads them to Dropbox. The app allows the user to ask a question and have it answered almost promptly.

The application was launched in Toronto in July of 2015 and had about 10,000 downloads in the first day. Toronto and Quebec have had the most downloads for the app.
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What does this phone application offer you?

It seems relatively easy to navigate compared to searching for answers online. It is aimed to be easy to understand so the average person is not confused by the use of legal terminology. There is also a broadcast messaging factor that allows the users emergency contacts to be sent constant messages about the user’s location. Finally, the product also offers a Dropbox Audio and Video Recording that will be emailed to emergency contacts and uploaded to synchronized Dropbox accounts. That last part is still a bit confusing to me, to be completely honest.

Although I have not used the application myself, I cannot imagine a police officer responding well to someone pulling out their phone while being arrested or questioned. Mr. Levien acknowledges this issue and encourages individuals to familiarize themselves with the product before they may need to use it. I think it’s a fantastic idea to educate laypersons about the law, after all, that is the objective of this blog.

What are your thoughts?
How effective do you think this app can be?
Have you used the application?

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Terrorism in Orlando

This past Sunday, Orlando U.S was faced with an act of terrorism that left 50 individuals dead and countless individuals traumatized. The attack targeted the LGBTQ community at a nightclub known as Pulse. A man armed with an assault rifle and handgun began shooting in the nightclub during the late hours of the night.

LgbtqAccording to some sources, the man worked for homeland security in the United States. Thus, this man was legally permitted to carry the firearms.  The assailants’ co-worker explained that the assailant had a short-temper when it came to topics regarding women, homosexuality and religion.  The assailants’ ex-wife stated that she had divorced him due to his “bipolar personality” and physical abuse. She also stated that the assailant had a history of using steroids which she believes altered his mental stability. Media sources had stated that the shooter, Omar Mateen had allegedly pledged himself to ISIS.

Today it was revealed that the man had ties to the LGBTQ community, in fact he was a regular at the nightclub. He was also an avid user of gay dating apps. Mateen’s ex-wife later explained on a Portuguese media station that the FBI had asked her not to share that he was gay with media.

Many Muslims are outraged and feel the FBI is orchestrating a hate crime of their own as conflicting theories have been released stating that Mateen had connections with ISIS and Al Qaida, two ideologies that run parallel to each other.

americanIn contrast to Canada, Americans have a legal right to bear arms. June is recognized as PRIDE month in Toronto. The LGBTQ community floods the streets of downtown Toronto to celebrate liberation, acceptance and freedom to be who they are. However, this event in Orlando has left many individuals scared for their safety. In light of the fear, the Canadian government has agreed to provide more security during the PRIDE parade this year.

There have been many attacks against the LGBTQ community including bombings of venues, setting homosexuals on fire and targeted mass shootings. However, some argue that the distinct factor in this case is the high death toll. Members of the LGBTQ community often face stigmatization relating to HIV and AIDS; consequently, LGBTQ members are also more likely to become victims of physical abuse than their heterosexual counterparts. Furthermore, teenagers belonging to the LGBTQ community are more likely to be suicidal than their heterosexual peers. This group of individuals is considered a vulnerable minority due to this harsh reality.

Canada has taken significant steps to embrace the LGBTQ community by proposing legislation to help protect their rights and choices. To read more about the proposed legislation, click on the links below.

What are your thoughts on this incident? How do you think the media handled this tragedy? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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Tourist Nightmare

passportWith the summer season here, many individuals are looking to travel and explore various parts of the world. Some individuals want to escape the heat while others gravitate towards exotic locations. Regardless of where you choose to travel, it is important to recognize that legal systems differ across nations. Although nations may uphold similar laws, their repercussions may differ drastically.

Many travellers overlook the importance of familiarizing themselves with a nation’s law because they feel they are ultimately protected by their country of residence; however, there are cases where the government will not intervene. A recent example of this practice was a hostage situation of John Ridsdel in the Philippines. Prime Minister Trudeau had refused to pay ransom to the terrorists who had kidnapped Ridsdel which resulted in Ridsdel being beheaded.

prisonFurthermore, a couple that had travelled from Brampton, Ontario to Punta Cana found themselves in a helpless situation after wrongfully accusing a man of sexually harassing two women. The accused, a man of the military, was later found innocent but wanted the travelers to be charged for their false accusations. The woman was charged with swearing while the man was charged with falsely accusing an innocent person. The man was then ridiculed by police officers during his four hour stay in the local jail. The couple had contacted their family in Canada to assist them with obtaining government assistance but was advised that the Canadian embassy could not help. Eventually, a family member had flown to Punta Cana and negotiated a price of $3,000.00 to have the man freed and to allow the couple to return home.

Familiarizing yourself with a nations legal system can help avoid the above – noted issues. Although one may not have the intention of violating a law, the consequences of doing so can be harsh, even if they are committed in ignorance. So before you travel this summer, inform yourself of the nation’s laws.

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Points of Discussion:

Have you had an experience will law enforcement while visiting another country?

Leave your thoughts in the comments.

A Free Women’s Clinic

Everyone should have access to justice but reality can be very different. Over the past 14 years, B.C has reduced its legal aid funding by 40%, leaving many individuals without the assistance they require. Although legal aid provides individuals with up to 25 hours of legal assistance this is far from sufficient for most women.

money Impact

A 40% decrease in funding only leaves enough funding to protect women in high conflict circumstances such as domestic violence victims. Consequently, many women who are not able to obtain legal representation while their husbands can, lose their cases in court. Women are often forced to represent themselves and unable to obtain the same access to justice as someone who would have more resources. Mothers involved in divorce matters are particularly impacted by less funding if they are the primary caregivers for the child but can’t afford a lawyer. For this reason, many paralegals have argued for the chance to represent individuals who cannot afford representation.

 untitledRise Women’s Legal Centre

The Rise Women’s Legal Centre is targeted towards women who require the kind of assistance noted above. Prior to its opening, the phone was already ringing with women seeking help. The lawyers involved were barely surprised as they understood the need for such a clinic. The clinic is situated in British Columbia and made up of multiple lawyers and law students. In Ontario, Paralegals are now permitted to practice family law with the assistance of a lawyer. The courts had declared a legal crisis when numerous individuals chose to self-represent in family law cases as they were unable to afford lawyers.  Individuals were stuck in a limbo where they couldn’t afford legal representation but they also didn’t qualify for legal aid. As a result of self-representation, documents were misfiled and had to be corrected and resubmitted, legal procedures had to be explained in more detail and legal proceedings were delayed.

 

Do you believe this is a step in the right direction?

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Employment or exploitation?

moneyNumerous employees are forced to work in unlawful conditions to earn a living. According to a Global News segment, the rate of employee exploitation is exceptionally high. The segment explained that an alarming 72 – 80% of the blitzes conducted by the Ministry of Labour since 2012 show some degree of non-compliance with labour laws. The highest rate of exploitation is usually found in realm of precarious jobs.

 Who are the victims?

The Liberal government took steps to address exploitation in the realms of internships, co -ops and volunteering positions but there are sectors that still need to be addressed. Part – time, temporary, contract jobs are growing in popularity and avoid the securities of full-time permanent work. Some employees are being asked to regularly work overtime without pay. Although there is a growing number of women working in the workforce, there is also a rise of women working in precarious fields.

Issues with the current system

Currently there are approximately 40 officers overlooking exploitation of employees in Ontario, this number is far from sufficient. Officers usually rely on complaints to take action. The current model requires the employee (lowest person in the hierarchy) to report exploitation to the authorities. However, if the employee does choose to report exploitation, they may lose their job. You can imagine why the employee would hesitate to report their employer, this is assuming that the employee is familiar with the law and is aware that they are being exploited. In some cases, the employee is unaware of their labour rights, this is especially common for immigrants.

Fay Faraday, a labour lawyer went as far to state that approximately 40% of jobs in Ontario are precarious. A United Way, McMaster University report found that more than 50% of workers in the GTA and Hamilton are currently illegal temporary, contract or part-time jobs.

Consequences

Precarious jobs provide an allusive shield for employers to hide behind as they are not liable for the same standards as full-time permanent employers. Precarious jobs often result in mental stress and a lack of stability which in turn makes it difficult for some to contribute to the economy. In turn, this can result in individuals delaying starting a family or buying a home. Along with economic hardships, many individuals working in precarious jobs are also victims of human right violations. Some of these individuals cannot afford to lose their jobs while others do not have the means for legal representation.

The Ministry of Labour is looking to shed light on the issue and bring about change but it is likely to be slow and a long process.

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Points of Discussion:

1. What are your thoughts on the subject?

2. Is this a common trend in your country?

Drones and Privacy

untitledThe popularity of drones is undeniable; even legal shows are discussing the topic. Just last week in an episode of the popular show The Good Wife, Alicia Florrick argued a case on behalf of her client defending his right to privacy against drone invasions. Both representatives, the plaintiff, and defendant argued their cases vigorously turning to the law to defend their stance by exploring technicalities including height of the drone, location of the drone, purpose of the drone being used and so on.

As fascinating as technology is, it does have its downfalls including complicating legislation. Currently, there aren’t many Canadian laws dictating the use of drones and robots but this will likely change in the near future since technology seems to be evolving every day. Drone usage is far more regulated in the United States than in Canada. Canada has chosen to focus more on safety thus far, rather than privacy.

The Windsor school of law is the first to open its arms to a course about the legalities revolving around drones and robots. Robots have become such a large part of our lives we rarely question if our privacy is being breached. We are used to being watched while in public through CCTV’s in stores but drones flying over your backyard while your children are playing maybe more troubling. Robots unlike most technology, interact with their environment and have a physical impact.

Robots and drones can collect information from their surroundings to draw conclusions without our knowledge. For instance, Canadians are moving towards autonomous self-driven vehicles. These vehicles will detect the driver’s surroundings and speed which allows the driver to essentially be absent from the equation.

Conversely, we can be unaware of how this information is being used and for what purpose. For illustration consider a children’s toys that maybe collecting information for a marketing company without the purchaser’s knowledge. It may be monitoring the child’s preferences and choices to build specific types of toys for children. Collection of such information may seem harmless on the surface but it is still a breach of privacy.  Realtors for instance, find it useful to use drones to capture the condition of a home for potential foreign investors but at the wrong angle can easily look into a neighbour’s home without their knowledge.

While some individuals are excited by the use of robots in our daily lives while others worry about the implications of such technology. What are your thoughts?

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Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Points of Discussion:

  1. How are drones regulated in your country?
  2. What laws do you think should be put in place?
  3. Do you think drones are a threat or a step towards progress?