HRC hopes to outlaw ‘discrimination by association’
The new Human Rights Commission is throwing its weight behind proposals to prohibit age and sexual orientation discrimination and calling for further legislative changes to outlaw “discrimination by association”.
The comments came with the announcement of a new HRC chairman, lawyer Michael Hanson.
He said in a press release issued yesterday that the Commission will be “pushing hard” for this new protection.
“Examples of this type of conduct are employers who refuse to hire someone because they have a child with a disability, or a business refusing to enter into a contract with a white businessman on the basis that he associates with black politicians (or vice-versa).
“While this ‘discrimination via the back door’ is protected against under the UK’s Equality Act 2010, it is not legislated in the Human Rights Act. We will be pushing hard that discrimination by association is legislated for in the Act as a matter of urgency.”
Besides Mr Hanson, the new Commission consists of deputy chair Kim Simmons, Donna Daniels, Pamela Fowkes, Darcy Gimas, Richard Horseman, Jens Juul, Kai Musson, Naomi Schroter, Louis Somner, Tawana Tannock and Millard Thompson.
Mr Hanson said: “With its modern infrastructure, sophisticated social and business networks and small population, Bermuda should be at the forefront of human rights development. In reality, we fall short. This is something that we will seek to improve during our term.”
Mr Hanson added that the debate on sexual orientation and age discrimination protections should be over and the HRC look forward to seeing those amendments passed into law.
“We appreciate that protection from age discrimination is a more difficult topic (than sexual orientation) as it has implications, in relation to employment, on issues such as mandatory retirement, health insurance and pensions, but this does not mean it should be delayed indefinitely.
“The executive officer, Mrs Lisa Lister Reed, has shared her observation of the increase in complaints of age discrimination. Age discrimination is clearly an issue and it must be protected by law. Discussing the logistical and statutory difficulties in getting age incorporated into the Act is welcome, but it should not be a barrier to its implementation.”
But the HRC’s first task, he said, is to establish tribunals and hear complaints.
“The quasi-judicial authority will see the establishment of tribunals to provide fair, robust and efficient processes, not only to ensure the rules of natural justice but to ultimately give confidence to all that any complaint will be dealt with professionally and expediently, with the ultimate goal of clear precedence.”
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