Equity Ombudsperson

Member Survey – Equity Ombudsperson Program

The Law Society provides BC law firms with the services of an Equity Ombudsperson to help stop workplace discrimination and encourage equitable workplace practices.

Law firms have a duty to foster a professional work environment that promotes equal opportunities and prohibits discriminatory practices. Lawyers or employees who discriminate against or harass others in the firm may face a human rights complaint or a civil action, and these can result in serious damage awards. As well, lawyers may face a complaint to the Law Society.

Anne ChopraContact the Equity Ombudsperson

You can reach Anne Bhanu Chopra on her confidential, dedicated telephone line at 604.687.2344 or by email to achopra1@novuscom.net.

Role of the Equity Ombudsperson

The Equity Ombudsperson confidentially assists anyone who works in a firm in resolving concerns over possible discrimination, and assists law firms in preventing discrimination and promoting a healthy work environment.

The Equity Ombudsperson is independent of the Law Society and reports only anonymous statistical data.

Who should contact the Equity Ombudsperson?

  • law firm staff
  • law students
  • articling students, lawyers
  • human resource administrators
  • managing partners in law firms

Services for individual lawyers, articling students and staff

  • a safe place for you to talk confidentially about a problem
  • help in identifying the issues and advising you about the options available
  • information on other resources, such as counseling or outside mediation

Services for the law firm

  • Advice and strategies to meet your obligations under the Human Rights Act and the Law Society Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia
  • Educational seminars for members of your firm
  • Confidential discussion of a particular problem, if you are worried about an incident and want to know about your options and the impact on the firm
  • Training to conduct bias-free interviews
  • Strategies for creating a positive law firm culture that is recognized, appreciated and sought after
  • Strategies to rejuvenate your workplace and increase productivity

For law firms, a commitment to equity contributes to a healthy bottom line. Discrimination in the workplace can lead to employee absenteeism, lack of productivity and resignations. If you lose your people, you lose your most valuable resource, including your investment in their recruitment and training. All of this can hurt your firm's overall productivity, reputation and ability to attract new people in the future.

What is discrimination?

Discrimination in the workplace involves unwelcome comments or actions that relate to:

  • race
  • colour,
  • ancestry
  • place of origin
  • political belief
  • religion
  • marital or family status
  • physical or mental disability
  • age, sex or sexual orientation

Discrimination is illegal — contrary to both the BC Human Rights Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act. It is the impact of the behaviour — not the intention behind it — that determines if the behaviour is discriminatory.

The Law Society's Code of Professional Conduct Handbook for British Columbia also makes discriminatory conduct a disciplinary offence for lawyers.

What is harassment?

Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination based on sex and is a serious abuse of power:

  • unwanted touching, sexual flirtation, advances or propositions
  • leering
  • suggestive comments about a person's sexuality or sexual orientation
  • unwanted questions about a person's sex life
  • persistent unwanted contact or attention after the end of a consensual relationships

Other forms of discriminatory harassment

  • name-calling
  • racial slurs
  • religious jokes

Personal harassment

  • constant unjustified or unfair criticism
  • insults
  • mocking or belittling comments, especially in front of others
  • behaviour that is rude, nasty or vindictive