We still have a long way to go (Editor’s notes)

Sampling of stories reveal areas for improvement

We’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got quite a distance to go. A flip through the pages of this issue of Canadian HR Reporter highlights some areas where employers — and society — have some room for improvement.

Start with one of our cover stories, which looks at the case of a Muslim woman who was suspended from her job as an airport screener for wearing a long skirt. The uniform policy at her job gave her only two options — slacks or a knee-length skirt. The woman was uncomfortable wearing pants — they showed off her figure too much, which went against her beliefs — and the skirt was too short and revealing. So she lengthened it, with a supervisor’s approval, wearing it down to her ankles for several months before the hammer came down from above and she was suspended.

Dress-code policies are well and good, but let’s use a little discretion. What harm was this woman causing? Is it worth enforcing the policy to the letter, potentially violating a worker’s human rights in the process? What does it do for workplace morale and the company’s reputation? There’s just not much upside to this scenario.

Flip to page two. As a male, I find this story a little embarrassing. Next month marks the 20th anniversary of pay equity legislation in Ontario, and the news isn’t good. The wage gap between men and women is currently sitting at 29 per cent, a measly six-percentage-point improvement from 1987. That means, on average, for every dollar a man is paid, a woman earns 71 cents.

But what legislation and common sense haven’t been able to accomplish might soon be eroded by demographics. The labour shortage should help put an end to the gender pay gap. Here’s hoping that, by the 25th anniversary of the legislation, it’s not a story anymore.

The news doesn’t get much better on page 3. We decided to write about the case of a racist teacher to highlight off-duty conduct and show that employers can — in some cases — discipline and terminate staff for activities and behaviour completely outside the workplace. It’s an interesting case that highlights the issue, but the facts are disturbing.

It would be naive to think racism will disappear completely. And employers can’t stop a worker or customer from being racist. But they can implement policies to keep racism at bay and ensure a decent working environment for everyone.

Each generation, generally speaking, seems to be a little bit more tolerant than the last. Time might just erode this problem completely — it’d be nice to see that day arrive.

This is our last issue of 2007. Next issue, Canadian HR Reporter will take a look back at “the remarkable year that was” in HR. And we’ll unveil an exciting new feature.

On behalf of the entire Canadian HR Reporter staff, I’d like to wish all our readers a safe and happy holiday season. See you in 2008.

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