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September 3, 2015

Unfair Labour Practice




Few twentieth-century political movements have galvanized black communities into action like the "Don't Buy Where You Can't Work" campaigns. These campaigns sought to boycott stores in black communities that refused to hire black employees. The "Don't Buy" movement used mass protest and direct action tactics such as economic boycotts and picketing as potent political weapons.  

Brilliant! Wheelchair users can take a page from this playbook. I encourage all wheelchair users not to patronize businesses where they can't get a job because of accessibility.  

Oh wait!  They can't get in to shop, so a boycott is meaningless!  

Just another Catch-22 faced by wheelchair users in Halifax, and I've written about it before, as has Contrarian.  Halifax and Nova Scotia enable discrimination against people with disabilities through subtle exceptions to the building code.  Your old building doesn't need to be accessible, so you don't need to hire anyone with a wheelchair.

Last week, an inaccessible business (two steps at the entrance) on Spring Garden Road, exactly  493 meters from where I am writing this, advertised for a sales associate.  An attractive-sounding job, the advertisement ending with this: (emphasis in original):

“Please make sure to drop off your resume and cover letter in person, during business hours and ask to speak with our manager ****.  See you soon :) NO EMAILS PLEASE.”

Because this business is not wheelchair accessible there is a precondition that a wheelchair user cannot meet.  I'm not saying that this employer has to hire a person who uses a wheelchair, just that he shouldn't be able to prevent them from applying.

After I contacted the business owner with some suggestions, including getting a free ramp, the advertisement has disappeared from the website.  They didn't write back.

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Act says:
  • (2) No person shall use or circulate a form of application for employment or publish an advertisement in connection with employment or prospective employment or make an inquiry in connection with employment that, directly or indirectly, expresses a limitation, specification or preference or invites information as to a characteristic referred to in clauses (h) to (v).....[Item (o) is physical disability or mental disability]
That's pretty clear.  You can't require wheelchair users to present their job applications in person in an inaccessible location.

What do I propose to do about this?  Not much.  The offending business might get it's wrists slapped by the Human Rights Commission after a lengthy process, but that result would not apply to the literally hundreds of inaccessible businesses in Nova Scotia.  

I know this business is engaged in an unfair practice, and if you can follow the clues, you know who they are.  It's just not worth the effort to tackle a mountain of bias one case at a time.  As I suggested earlier, the best way to remedy this unfairness is through incentives and savings.  It's in our own interest to have accessible businesses, in order to encourage employment and increase retail traffic.  

Epilogue


Peter MacKay, Minister of Justice for Canada, endorsed the Mother Canada Monument with these moving words:

“This Memorial is a wonderful initiative that will give Canadians a steadfast symbol here in our country, to honour the unsurpassed bravery in the name of freedom and liberty, that Canadian soldiers displayed.   This monument makes that symbol of sacrifice more accessible to Canadians.”

The biggest battle I’ve ever faced in my entire life is here at home - Major Mark Campbell
Major Mark Campbell, who had his legs blown off in Afghanistan, would not be able to apply for the job on Spring Garden Road.  Fixing that would be a more fitting monument.

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