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Workplace Discrimination in Ontario: Understanding Human Rights Law and Protections

Updated: Apr 11


Discrimination in the workplace is a major concern that affects employees in a variety of industries and sectors. Human rights laws exist across Canada to protect employees from unjust treatment on prohibited grounds. Understanding these laws is crucial for promoting equality, fostering inclusive work environments, and ensuring that everyone has an equal chance to succeed. This article will examine workplace discrimination in the context of Ontario's human rights law, casting light on its legal framework, some protected grounds, and available remedies for victims.

For more information on human rights across Canada, visit Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Ontario Human Rights Legislation:

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (“OHRC”) is the legislation that protects individuals from workplace discrimination. The code specifies the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees, with the overarching objective of promoting equal treatment and opportunities for all people.

Read the full Ontario Human Rights Code here.

Prohibited Discrimination Basis:

Several protected grounds are specified in the Human Rights Code, and discrimination based on these grounds is rigorously prohibited.

a. Race, Ethnicity, and National Origin: It is unlawful to discriminate against people based on their race, colour, ancestry, ethnicity, or nationality.

b. Gender and Gender Identity: It is strictly prohibited to discriminate on the basis of gender, gender identity, or gender expression. This ensures that individuals receive equal treatment regardless of their gender identity or manifestation.

c. Age: Human rights law prohibits discrimination based on age, whether against younger or elderly individuals.

d. Disability: Employers are required to accommodate individuals with disabilities up to the point of undue hardship and are prohibited from discriminating against them on the basis of their disability.

e. Sexual Orientation: Sexual orientation-based discrimination, including heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality, is prohibited.

f. Religion: Employers must respect an individual's religious beliefs and practices, and discrimination based on religion or creed is prohibited.

g. Marital Status: Discrimination based on marital status is prohibited, regardless of whether an individual is single, married, divorced, or in a common-law relationship.

h. Family Status: Employers are prohibited from discriminating against individuals on the basis of their family status, including whether or not they have or intend to have children.

Types of Employment Discrimination:

Discrimination in the workplace can manifest in numerous forms, including:

a. Hiring and Recruitment Practices: Unfair treatment based on a protected characteristic during the hiring procedure constitutes discrimination.

b. Harassment: Any unwelcome conduct, including verbal, physical, or online harassment, that creates an intimidating or hostile work environment may constitute discrimination.

c. Unequal Pay and Benefits: Pay disparities and differential treatment in terms of benefits based on a protected ground are human rights violations.

d. Unfair Termination: Dismissing an employee on the basis of a protected characteristic, as opposed to job performance, can be considered discrimination.

Remedy and Redress:

In Ontario, employees who experience workplace discrimination have options for seeking redress. These consist of:

a. Filing a Complaint: Victims may register a formal complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, outlining the discrimination they have experienced.

b. Mediation and Settlement: Parties involved in a discrimination complaint may choose mediation to reach an amicable resolution and settlement.

c. Legal Proceedings: Individuals can pursue legal action through the Human Rights Tribunal, if mediation fails or the discrimination remains unresolved.

d. Remedies and Compensation: If discrimination is proved, a tribunal or court may order reinstatement, compensation for damages, or modifications to workplace policies and practices.

Discrimination in the workplace undermines the principles of equality and inclusion, impacting the rights and opportunities of individuals. Employers and employees in Ontario must understand the human rights law framework in order to promote equitable treatment and create inclusive work environments. By understanding the protected grounds of discrimination, such as race, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion, family and marital status, creed, record of offences, receipt of public assistance, individuals are better able to recognize and combat discriminatory practices.

Employers must implement policies and practices that promote equality, diversity, and inclusion in order to ensure compliance with human rights laws. This includes providing equal recruitment opportunities, establishing harassment-free workplaces, addressing pay disparities, and accommodating disabled employees.

Employees who believe they have been discriminated against on the job should take proactive measures to address the issue. This may involve collecting evidence, recording incidents, and submitting a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. Mediation or legal action, if necessary, can assist victims in seeking redress and holding those responsible for discrimination accountable.

Employers must cultivate an inclusive culture in which their employees feel safe and respected. This can be accomplished through education and training on diversity and inclusion, the establishment of explicit anti-discrimination policies, and the promotion of open channels of communication for reporting concerns.

In conclusion, discrimination based on protected characteristics in the workplace is rigorously prohibited under Ontario law. By comprehending these laws and promoting equality and inclusiveness, we can create workplaces that value diversity and offer equal opportunities to all. Employers and employees must collaborate to eliminate discrimination, fostering environments in which everyone can flourish based on their skills, qualifications, and contributions, as opposed to external factors.

Need Guidance on Workplace Discrimination? Everton Law is Here for You!

Navigating the complexities of workplace discrimination can be daunting. You don't have to face this challenge alone. Everton Law is dedicated to providing personalized legal advice tailored to your unique situation, helping you understand your rights and the steps you can take to protect them. Whether you're dealing with issues related to unfair treatment, harassment, or any form of discrimination in the workplace, we're here to support you every step of the way.

Everton Law, proudly serving Kanata, Ottawa, Nepean, and Stittsville, stands as your ally in promoting fairness, equality, and justice in the workplace. Our expertise extends across the spectrum of employment law, including discrimination cases, ensuring you have access to the professional legal assistance you need to navigate these matters effectively.

Take the first step towards safeguarding your rights and fostering a more inclusive work environment. Contact Everton Law through our online form today, and let's work together towards resolving your workplace disputes and championing a culture of respect and equality.


The information provided in this blog is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or relied upon as a substitute for professional legal counsel. Every situation is unique, and laws can vary based on jurisdiction. If you require legal advice or assistance regarding workplace discrimination or any other legal matter, it is recommended that you consult with a qualified legal professional who can provide guidance tailored to your specific circumstances.

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The content provided in this blog is based on our understanding of the topic at the time of writing and may not reflect the most current legal developments. Laws and regulations are subject to change, and it is advisable to verify any information independently and consult legal professionals for the most up-to-date guidance.

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Please seek professional legal advice for your specific circumstances and consult the relevant laws and regulations applicable to your jurisdiction.

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