Canadian Human Rights Commission cautions employers on rights of older workers

Mandatory retirement transition period ‘not a license to force aging workers out the door’
||Last Updated: 03/28/2012

The Canadian Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to federally regulated employers encouraging them to be mindful of the rights of older workers during the transition period for the repeal of mandatory retirement.  

Dec. 16, 2011, the government of Canada repealed the section of the Canadian Human Rights Act that permitted federally regulated employers to impose mandatory retirement in some circumstances. This measure was included in the Budget Implementation Act, which also stipulated a one-year transition period before the repeal takes effect.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission has received inquiries and is aware of media commentary about employers seeking to take advantage of the transition period to force employees to retire before they are ready to do so, said the commission. While there is no evidence that this is taking place, the commission believes it is prudent to caution any employer that might be considering such action to think again.

''The transition period should not be viewed as a license to force aging workers out the door,'' said David Langtry, acting chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission. ''Forcing someone to retire because of their age clearly contradicts Parliament's intent, even if a defense in law still appears to be available.”

Even before it was repealed, the Federal Court had ruled the section regarding mandatory retirement violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that this breach is not a justifiable limitation of an individual's right to equality, said the commission.

Employers should continue working towards an inclusive work environment while taking steps to ensure that they are able to positively respond to an aging workforce, said the commission.

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