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Can I Sue For Discrimination In The Workplace?

With about three-quarters of all human rights cases in Ontario stemming from the workplace, discrimination in the workplace should be understood by all employees and employers. While there are some instances where a type of discrimination may be legal, the remaining acts of discrimination in the workplace are heavily looked down upon by the Courts. They can leave Ontario employers facing significant damages at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. Employees who face discrimination at work often ask us if they can sue for discrimination in the workplace. This article answers the question ‘can I sue for discrimination in the workplace?’ by outlining what to look for and explaining who is protected under Ontario’s Human Rights Code (the “Code”).

Ontario Human Rights Code – Suing For Discrimination In The Workplace

In Ontario, the Code protects individuals from discrimination in various areas, with employment being one of them. When suing for discrimination in the workplace, the claimant must first show that they were discriminated against based on one of the following protected grounds under the Code:

  • Citizenship
  • Race
  • Place of Origin
  • Ethnic Region
  • Colour
  • Ancestry
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Creed
  • Sex/Pregnancy
  • Family Status
  • Marital Status
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Gender Identity
  • Gender Expression
  • Record of Offences

Establishing Discrimination Under Ontario’s Human Rights Code

To establish discrimination under the Code, the employee must demonstrate the following criteria:

  1. As mentioned above, the employee must first demonstrate that they have a characteristic that the Code protects. This means that if the employee falls into any of the protected grounds and possesses the personal attribute of any of the Code grounds, they have likely satisfied the first criteria.
  2. The employee must then demonstrate that they experienced an adverse treatment or impact in the workplace. An example could be failure to promote even when merited or another form of unfair treatment.
  3. The last criteria that the employee must meet in order to establish discrimination in the workplace is to demonstrate that the protected characteristic – one of the grounds – was a factor in the adverse treatment that the employee experienced.

Direct, Indirect, and Constructive Discrimination 

Employers should be particularly mindful that discrimination does not always involve a direct action in order for discrimination to have occurred. Indirect discrimination can also lead to the same finding by the Courts, where a passive comment carried out through another employee can have the same result. Employers can also be found liable for constructive discrimination, where a rule, practice, or policy singles out or inadvertently results in unequal treatment of certain employees having a protected characteristic. Consulting with an experienced employment lawyer can assist employers in identifying any discriminatory practices within their workplace and reduce liability before facing a Human Rights claim.

Contact Us

If you are an employer facing a Human Rights claim or need assistance with workplace policies or an employee who believes you have been discriminated against, our team of experienced employment lawyers at Achkar Law can help. Contact us by phone toll-free at 1 (800)771-7882 or email us at [email protected], and we would be happy to assist.

If you are a small or medium-sized company looking for full-service support with a same-day response, visit our CLO Program page for our strategic solutions.

Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to serve as or should be construed as legal advice and is only to provide general information. It is in no way particular to your case and should not be relied on in any way. No portion or use of this blog will establish a lawyer-client relationship with the author or any related party. Should you require legal advice for your particular situation, fill out the contact form, call (800) 771-7882 or email [email protected]