Canadian Lawyer

September 2021

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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Page 35 of 51

34 IN DECEMBER 2020, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of current and past Black federal employees claiming systemic racism and discrimination against the Public Service of Canada. The suit, filed in the Federal Court, claims damages for the wrongful failure to promote, intentional infliction of mental suffering, constructive dismissal, wrongful termination, negligence, and in particular, violations of employment law, human rights law and Charter breaches. It also seeks, among other things, the appointment of a Black Equity Commission and an apology Social issues including workplace safety and inequity are coming to the fore, writes Elizabeth Raymer The 'S' in ESG is in the spotlight from the prime minister. The class action represents the growing prominence of the "S," or social, aspect of "Environmental, Social and (Corporate) Governance," the three broad categories of interest for socially responsible investors. In 2020 and beyond, social issues including workplace safety and social ineq- uity are coming to the fore, says Renee Reichelt, a partner in Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP in Calgary. She says that climate change will continue as an issue, but social issues will become stronger and present potential for litigation risk. LEGAL REPORT LITIGATION Since July 2020, lawsuits have been filed by two California law firms against seven major U.S. companies — Oracle, Facebook, Qualcomm, the Gap, NortonLifeLock, Cisco and Monster Beverage — claiming a lack of diversity on their boards of directors. These cases are examples of what may arise in Canada, says Reichelt. "Even if they're successful in having a claim dismissed, which was the case with many of those U.S. examples, the company can still be impacted not only by the legal cost of defending the litigation but by the potential reputational damage." Companies may be vulnerable when they have made commitments to diversity on "Climate change will stay, but workplace safety and social inequity have taken on a more predominant role for focuses in companies in responding to and assessing ESG issues." Renee Reichelt, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP

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