About The Equity Ombudsperson
The Law Society of Manitoba supports the full participation of men and women in the legal profession regardless of age, disability, race, religion, marital or family status or sexual orientation.
A Confidential Service for Manitoba Lawyers, their Staff, Students and Clients
The Law Society of Manitoba supports the full participation of men and women in the legal profession regardless of age, disability, race, religion, marital or family status or sexual orientation. The Society also acknowledges the diversity of the community of Manitoba and expects lawyers to respect the dignity and worth of all persons and to treat all persons equally. Discrimination and harassment are against the law and are prohibited by the Code of Professional Conduct for lawyers. The Law Society of Manitoba has established the Office of the Equity Ombudsperson to provide assistance to Manitoba lawyers, support staff, articling students and clients of lawyers in dealing with issues of discrimination and harassment.
Discrimination in the workplace involves unwelcome comments or actions that relate to an individual's race, colour, ancestry, nationality or ethnic background or origin, political belief, religion, marital or family status, physical or mental disability, age, sex or sexual orientation. It is an act or omission which effectively denies an individual or group benefits or opportunities available to others because of a distinction relating to their personal attributes.
Harassment means abusive and unwelcome comments or conduct and applies to a range of behaviour, including comments or conduct made on the basis of an individual's ancestry, colour, race, nationality, religion, age, sex, gender, sexual orientation, marital or family status or physical or mental disability. Sexual harassment means one of a series of incidents involving unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
Most employers know that a happy work environment is necessary for a productive and efficient workplace. Employees who are being discriminated against or harassed may suffer from stress, depression and other illnesses that either keep them away from work or reduce their well-being and productivity. If it is an ongoing problem, discrimination and harassment can affect morale, cause a decrease in the firm's productivity and lead to high staff turn-over. Working relationships can break down, work quality may drop, a firm may become a party in unwanted litigation and lawyers may have to respond to complaints about their conduct. Freeing the workplace from discrimination and harassment is essential for an effective and healthy work environment.
Who is the Equity Ombudsperson?
The Equity Ombudsperson is Brenlee Carrington Trepel, a lawyer and mediator who also teaches legal methods at the University of Manitoba, Faculty of Law. Brenlee's practice is located in Winnipeg and is situated separate and apart from the Law Society offices. Brenlee has been the Law Society Equity Ombudsperson since 2001. She has talked with and assisted many lawyers dealing with issues relating to discrimination and harassment, maternity and parental leave, flexible work arrangements, and reasonable accommodation. Brenlee has personal experience in juggling professional and family responsibilities and was the first person in the Province of Manitoba to complete her articles on a part-time basis.How can the Equity Ombudsperson Help?
The Equity Ombudsperson, Brenlee Carrington Trepel, provides confidential and neutral assistance to lawyers, support staff working for legal employers, articling students and clients who have concerns about any kind of discrimination or harassment. She cannot reveal to anyone, including the Law Society, the identity of those who contact her about a complaint or the identity of those about whom complaints are made. Her only reporting to the Law Society is of a general statistical nature in setting out the number and type of calls received.
The goal of the Equity Ombudsperson is to resolve problems. In doing so she maintains a neutral position and does not provide legal advice. She can tell complainants about the options available to them, which include filing a formal complaint with the Law Society or the Human Rights Commission, commencing a civil action, or, having the Ombudsperson attempt to informally resolve or mediate a discrimination or harassment dispute.
The Equity Ombudsperson is also available to consult with and assist any private or public law office wanting to raise staff awareness about the importance of a respectful workplace environment. The Equity Ombudsperson is available to assist law firms in developing office policies on parental leave, alternative work schedules, harassment and a respectful workplace. She can provide educational seminars for members of firms, is available for personal speaking engagements and informal meetings or can talk confidentially with a firm about a particular problem. The services of the Equity Ombudsperson are provided free of charge.
Effective October 1, 2008 the Equity Ombudsperson will provide coaching sessions to lawyers and their spouses or life partners to help them plan for maternity and parental leave and meet the challenges of becoming new parents. Six in-person sessions will be offered, focusing on issues such as how to discuss leave options and transition issues with the lawyer's firm, deal with the new dynamics of having a family, and successfully re-integrate into practice while juggling career and home life. Sessions are free, completely confidential and supported by the additional resources of Blue Cross Manitoba.Frequently asked questions?
Is my call to the Equity Ombudsperson confidential?
Yes. The Equity Ombudsperson operates independently of the Law Society of Manitoba and reports only general statistical information. All conversations with her are strictly confidential, including discussions under the Parental Support Program.
Is this service only available to lawyers and their staff?
No, the service is available to lawyers, their staff, articling students and clients of lawyers and law firms. Coaching sessions offered under the Parental Support Program are only available to lawyers planning to take or currently on maternity or parental leave.
You may reach Brenlee or leave a confidential voice message at any time by calling 204-942-2002 in Winnipeg or toll free from anywhere else in Manitoba by calling 1-866-771-2002.
By mail at:
P.O. Box 2555 - Station Main, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 4B3
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
By fax: 204-474-1161
Brenlee is also available to meet with individuals at a location of their convenience.