Ontario Human Rights Code

Ontario Human Rights Code: What Are The Violations?

The Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) is a provincial law protecting the human rights of Ontario individuals and includes provincially regulated government employees. It provides every individual with equal rights and opportunities in employment, trade, services, goods and facilities, contracts and housing without harassment, discrimination, and reprisal. 

It is essential for everyone to understand Ontario Human Rights Code protections to safeguard their human rights, whether as a customer, an applicant for a job, employee or even tenant. Below are the basics of the Code, when it applies, the prohibited grounds of discrimination, and how our employment and human rights lawyers can help with human rights-related legal issues.  

When Does The Ontario Human Rights Code Apply? 

The Ontario Human Rights Code protects individuals against discrimination in several social areas, including: 

  • Employment
  • Contracts and Service
  • Housing
  • Facilities, Goods and Services 
  • Trade and Vocational Services  

What Does The Ontario Human Rights Code Prohibit?

Discrimination and harassment are prohibited in all employment areas, including application forms, job interviews, work assignments, work environment, job promotions and terminations, job ads, training programs and workshops, volunteer duties, etc. 


Both written and oral agreements between the parties must be free from discrimination and harassment. 


Housing applies to both the tenants and the landlords. Every individual has equal rights and treatment in housing without discrimination and harassment. 

Facilities, Goods, and Services

This area includes schools, hospitals, restaurants, shops, sports facilities, and recreational organizations. 

Trade and Vocational Associations

Under the Code, individuals have the right to join any union, professional association, or other vocational association. This also applies to trade unions and self-governing professions, including issues of pay rate, work assignments, and the terms and conditions of membership. 

What Is Workplace Discrimination?  

The Ontario Human Rights Code prohibits the following grounds of workplace discrimination: 

  • Age
  • Race and other related grounds
  • Disability 
  • Family and Marital Status 
  • Sex, Gender Identity, Gender Expression
  • Record of Offences

Discrimination Against Age 

Age discrimination occurs when individuals are subjected to prejudicial treatment because of their age. Older employees, for example, cannot be subjected to differential and prejudicial treatment in the workplace because they are more senior than the rest of the staff.  

Discrimination Against Race and Other Related Grounds 

Individuals are prohibited under the Ontario Human Rights Code from being discriminated against or harassed due to their race, creed (religion, faith, or other beliefs), ancestry, ethnicity, and place of origin. Despite their practices, faith, and beliefs, every person has the right to have unobstructed access to employment, services, goods and facilities, housing accommodation, contracts, and trade and vocational associations.

However, beliefs and creed do not include moral, ethical, political, or personal opinions. In addition, the Human Rights Code does not cover religions that promote violence or encourage criminal behaviour.

Disability Discrimination

Disability can refer to any wide range and degree of conditions such as physical, mental, and learning disabilities, mental disorders, epilepsy, hearing or vision disabilities, drug and alcohol dependencies, and environmental sensitivities. 

Some disabilities are visible, while some are not. Some are present from birth, while others develop over time or result from an accident. However, regardless of the disability, these individuals must have access to all social areas without discrimination and harassment.

This is possible if individuals with disabilities are reasonably accommodated by those in a position to provide such accommodations. Under the Code, landlords, employers, and other service providers have a legal duty to accommodate disabled people to the point of undue hardship. 

Accommodation is a shared responsibility where everyone involved, including the person asking for the accommodation, should participate and develop solutions. This accommodation provides individuals with disabilities equal opportunity in their respective workplaces and access to housing and other services. 

Discrimination Against Family and Marital Status 

The Ontario Human Rights Code protects people regardless of family and marital status. Marital status refers to being single, married, widowed, or separated. In addition, it also includes living with a person in a conjugal relationship outside marriage, same-sex and opposite-sex individuals. 

On the other hand, family status is the status of being in a parent and child relationship. It can mean a range of relations, including blood, adoptive, and those with similar care, responsibility, and commitment. 

In some cases, similar to disability protections, accommodation must be provided to the point of undue hardship to provide individuals with family care commitments equal opportunities in their workplaces, access to housing, and other enumerated social areas under the Code

Discrimination Against Sex, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, individuals are entitled to equal treatment and protected from discrimination regardless of their sex, gender identity, and gender expression. Sex can refer to the biological sex that a person is assigned at birth. However, this also includes gender, a much broader notion. 

Women, men, transgender, intersex persons, and people of all gender identities and expression must not face any form of prejudice. Discrimination relating to maternity leave and pregnancy, including failure to accommodate to the point of undue hardship in some cases, constitutes discrimination based on sex and gender as well. 

Discrimination Against A Record of Offences 

The Record of Offences is a protective ground that applies to people who have had offences and are looking for employment. A person’s record of violations must not determine whether they are fit for the job. Employers must look at the candidate’s skills and decide if they are qualified. The hiring party can not dismiss an individual based on their history.  

Sexual Orientation Discrimination

The Human Rights Code extends its protection to all people regardless of their sexuality.  It is a breach of the Code to harass or discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation in all social areas.

What To Do In The Case of A Human Rights Violation?

Individuals who believe their rights are being violated under the Ontario Human Rights Code can file a Human Rights Application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Applicants can seek monetary damages and non-monetary damages if their workplace is violating their Human Rights.

It is important for individuals to gather as much evidence as possible relating to their Human Rights claim, and appropriately fill out their Application before filing it with the Tribunal. Human Rights proceedings can be complicated and require a significant legal argument, so it is best for anyone who believes their rights to have been infringed to consult an employment and human rights lawyer. 

Human Rights Lawyers

Learning about and understanding the Ontario Human Rights Code and your rights is necessary to prevent and act against harassment and discrimination. However, commencing any legal proceedings is time-consuming, stressful, and generally more complicated than it may first seem. 

Consulting and retaining an employment and human rights lawyer is a good investment to determine one’s full legal entitlements and best practices for moving forward and resolving the matter as efficiently and effectively. 

Contact Us

If you are being accused of human rights violations or believe that your human rights are being violated. 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]