Human Rights

The Ontario Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination and harassment in employment on the basis of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, age, record of offences, marital status, family status or disability.  Discrimination can be direct, or systemic.  Systemic discrimination occurs when a rule or requirement that seems to be fair to all, inadvertently excludes someone in a designated group.  For example, the requirement for all police officers to wear standard head-gear created an environment that excluded some people from working as police officers, because their religion requires them to wear specific headgear; and requiring Canadian experience discriminates against new Canadians.

There is an exclusion for “bona fide occupational requirements” which are requirements without which an employee would not be able to fulfill the essential functions of the job.  The onus is on the employer to demonstrate that such bona fide requirements exist.  A person can perform all the essential functions of a police officer without wearing the standard uniform hat, so that is not a bona fide occupational requirement.  On the other hand, the need for a construction worker to be able to lift and carry a certain weight may be. 

Employers are required to make all reasonable accommodation to help the individual meet the job requirements.  Such accommodation might include providing special equipment for someone with a disability, or rearranging shifts to allow employees to celebrate non-traditional religious holidays.  Funding for special equipment may be available through the Ontario Disability Support Program.

An employee who believes that (s)he has been discriminated against or harassed on the basis of one of the forbidden categories may file a Human Rights complaint.  If the employer is found to have discriminated against the employee, there will be financial penalties, and the Ontario Human Rights Commission may order the employer to reinstate the employee.

Ontario has also included protection from Workplace Violence and Workplace Harassment in its Workplace Health and Safety legislation.

 

Useful Links:

Ontario Human Rights Code: http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_90h19_e.htm

Ontario Human Rights Commission: http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/

Ontario Disability Support Program: http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/programs/social/odsp/

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