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Workplace Discrimination and Human Rights

Canada has structured federal laws to regulate and protect human rights at the workplace. The Canadian Human Rights Act and Ontario’s Human Rights Code enforce laws to ensure no employee or job applicant faces prejudice on the basis of gender, sex, age, race, family status, etc. Violation of human rights in a professional setting is a serious offence, and it is important for both employees and employers to know what constitutes workplace discrimination. To guide you on the subject, Achkar Law Firm brings you this article regarding the rights of employees, what is harassment and discrimination at work, and what punishment it holds in the law.

What Constitutes Workplace Discrimination in Canada? 

Following are the types of unfair and biased actions that define workplace discrimination and harassment under various federal and provincial laws of Canada:

Workplace Discrimination on the Basis of Sex

There are several aspects of gender discrimination, and the law ensures that all employees and potential candidates are dealt with equally, irrespective of their sex. The law prohibits employers from making stereotypical gendered assumptions about the capabilities of an individual at the time of job assignments. If they do, this action is a form of workplace discrimination. 

In this regard, the law also addresses the dilemma of unequal salaries of employees doing equal work on the basis of gender. Workers can claim wage discrimination between men and women performing equal work in the same workplace. 

Discrimination on the Basis of Race and National Origin

Unequal treatment against race and national origins is a form of workplace discrimination. Canada is home to different cultures and races. Additionally, many people of various national origins come here for jobs. Therefore, we have federal and local laws in place to ensure the workplace provides equal rights and opportunities to people regardless of their ethnicity. 

The Federal Contractors Program protects the employment rights of aboriginal individuals. As for foreign workers, the law lays out some essential rights, which are as follows:

  • To be paid adequately on time
  • Have a safe and helpful working environment
  • To carry their passports and work permits along

Under these laws, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against an employee based on their race. This ensures everyone gets equal professional rights, and no one is a subject of racism at the workplace.

Discrimination on the Basis of Pregnancy

Many local laws prohibit workplace discrimination against pregnant employees. Employees can file a lawsuit if they face a biased, unfavourable environment or termination because of pregnancy.

It is also illegal for hiring managers to reject an otherwise suitable job applicant on the basis of them being pregnant. 

Under these laws, an employee can sue the company if the employer denies you maternity leave. The period of leave and paid/unpaid status also depends on the terms mentioned in the job contract. 

It is also the duty of employers to make reasonable amendments in job assignments of pregnant individuals to make it easier for them to work.

Discrimination on the Basis of Political Affiliation

Workplace discrimination on the basis of political affiliation is protected in federal laws. It is illegal for companies to force employees to participate in any political activity. 

The law also prohibits employers from denying job and promotional opportunities to employees due to their political affiliation.

Discrimination on the Basis of Gender and Sexual Orientation

It is illegal for employers to discriminate against people for their gender and sexual orientation. 

In the 1998 ruling of the Supreme Court, it was declared unlawful for employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. It applies nationwide and prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender. 

Discrimination Against Disabled People

Workplace discrimination against disabled individuals is illegal. The law guarantees equal job opportunities to disabled individuals and ensures they are not denied jobs and promotions on the basis of their physical conditions. 

In Canada, employers are mandated to make a due change to facilitate disabled employees to make it easy for them to perform their duties. This is called the ‘duty to accommodate

Religious Discrimination

Human rights legislation in Canada prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of religion. It also mandates employers to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate employees with different religious beliefs. 

Age Discrimination

In many jurisdictions of Canada, it is unlawful for employers to discriminate against older employees in the process of recruitment, promotion, salaries, job assignments, and termination. 

Running advertisements that specify an age limit of employees is also illegal. Candidates may also refuse to disclose their age in the application process or interview.

Family Status Discrimination

It is unlawful for employers to give unfair preference or restrictions to people based on their family status. Therefore, it is also illegal to discriminate against an employee because of their role as a parent or caregiver. 

However, this law is not applicable all across Canada.

Workplace Discrimination: Retaliation

Workplace retaliation involves punishing an employee for lodging a complaint against a violation of legally protected rights. Federal and Ontario laws ensure no employee faces unlawful retaliation like termination, demotion, transfer, or refusal to hire. 

How to Challenge Workplace Discrimination?

If you are an employee who is facing any form of discrimination at a workplace, here’s how you should go about it:

  • Before making a claim, check where the discrimination stands in terms of state, local, and federal laws and if the law protects against it.
  • Register a complaint with the HR department and follow the employer’s grievance procedures.
  • If your employers refuse to cooperate, take your problem to the Employment Tribunal. They are independent judicial bodies responsible for mediating and resolving issues between employers and employees.

Contact Us

While there are laws to protect employee rights at the workplace, it is not always easy to claim discrimination. Therefore, to obtain justice and due compensation, it is crucial to have experienced lawyers to fight your case.

Achkar Law firm is a group of employment lawyers in Toronto. We have the country’s best and most renowned litigation experts on board who have years of experience up their sleeves. Our lawyers have successfully helped hundreds of clients over the years. 

So, if you are an employee claiming discrimination and retaliation at the workplace, contact us for the best strategic legal advice as well as legal representation. 

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]