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Do I Have a Human Rights Case in Ontario?

In Ontario, human rights are governed by Ontario’s Human Rights Code (“OHRC”) and the Canadian Human Rights Act (“CHRA”), depending on whether the individual is provincially or federally regulated.

Both the OHRC and the CHRA provide individuals with equal rights and opportunities in five different social areas including employment, housing and services. The legislations protect individuals from harassment and discrimination based on the various protected grounds such as age, disability, race, and origin, among others. It should be noted, however, that a general unfair treatment not based on a protected ground would likely not be considered discrimination under the OHRC or the CHRA.

This article goes over some of the ways of assessing whether you have a human rights case in Ontario.

Do I have a Human Rights Case in Ontario?

If your human rights are violated based on a protected ground in an area that is covered by the applicable legislation, then discrimination has occurred. It is important for you to consider the grounds and determine which rights have been violated.  

To determine if discrimination did in fact occur, consider the meaning of discrimination and whether it applies. Discrimination is an action or a decision that results in the unfair or negative treatment of the individual or group based a protected ground. Actions that are based on a prohibited ground include harassment, lack of accommodation or employment, and others.

To determine if there has been harassment, consider whether the action:

  •         offends or humiliates you physically or verbally.
  •         threatens or intimidates you.
  •         makes unwelcome remarks or jokes about your race, religion, sex, age, disability, etc.
  •         makes unnecessary physical contact with you, such as touching, patting, pinching or punching – this can also be assault.

Employers have a duty to accommodate, where they are required to take steps to make it possible for people to work, up until the point of undue hardship. This can include providing pregnant women with maternity leave, allowing employees to observe their religious holiday, and modify work duties if needed due to a physical or mental disability.

What To Do If Your Human Rights Are Violated in Ontario?

If you think that your rights have been violated in the workplace, the first step should be to talk to your employer regarding the issue or the discrimination which has occurred. Often the employer may be able to resolve or address the issue without having to proceed to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (“HRTO”). If the employer is not responsive, the next step is typically to seek legal advice and determine what your options are.

The next step is to look if you fall under federal or provincial jurisdiction.

If you fall under provincial jurisdiction, then you can file your complaint with the HRTO. Once you file the application, the tribunal will review the complaint and see whether your rights were violated or not. It is important to note that most applications to the HRTO must be filed within 1 year of the incident.

If you fall under federal jurisdiction (e.g. chartered bank, airlines, etc.) then you can file a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which has the authority to investigate the complaint and can then refer the case to CHRT for a hearing if applicable. The CHRT has the authority to hear witnesses and other evidence and it then decides whether discrimination has occurred or not.

The remedies provided by the tribunal can be monetary compensation, such as damages, non-monetary, such as a positive letter of reference or a promotion, or public interest remedies, such as donating to a charity or a mandatory posting of the OHRC in the workplace.

It is advisable to consult a legal professional which can assist in determining whether there has been discrimination, and help with drafting the application to the applicable tribunal.

Contact Us

If you are an employer and are facing human rights complaints or an employee who believes your human rights have been violated, our team of experienced workplace 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.