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Nearly 90% of all workers in Canada are protected from discrimination by employment laws established by their province or territory. It is required for employers to follow those laws and to post an Employment Standards Act poster in plain sight for all employeesEven so, many employees who feel they have been wronged often wonder if they are actually protected from discrimination in the workplace.  

What is Discrimination?  

Discrimination is defined as unfair or unequal treatment of an individual or group based on certain characteristics like age, ethnicity, gender, family status and sexual orientation. As previously noted, most Canadians are protected by provincial and territorial laws. Every province and territory has its own laws, and employees should check their local standards or consult with a local lawyer if they are concerned.  The remaining 10% work in federally regulated environments. Those environments are subject to federal labour standards administered by the Labour Program. Federally regulated industries are listed in the Canada Labour Code. 

Who Is Protected? 

According to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, it is unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of race, nationality or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, disability, genetic characteristics, or a conviction for which a pardon has been granted or a record suspended.  

Discrimination comes in all forms. Some is quite blatant while other scenarios are more difficult to identify in the moment. For example, banks making it unreasonably difficult for immigrants to get loans, companies that require employees to work on their religion’s holy days or sabbath, extensive physical requirements that do not align with the requirements of the job, dismissing a well-performing employee when a pregnancy is announced, policies that benefit married couples but not single people, and more.  

What to Do If You Feel You Have Been Discriminated Against  

If you are a protected citizen, you do not have to accept discriminatory behaviour. The first step is to talk to your Human Resources department, and if you are a member of a union, it is wise to have a representative with you. If you are not a member of a union, it can be useful to consult with a lawyer as quickly as possible to fully understand your rights and the steps to take to ensure they remain protected as you work with your employer to remedy the situation.  

If you believe an employer has violated your rights as part of the Human Rights Code and your employer is not offering assistance, you may apply for relief with the Human Rights Tribunal. However, there are strict limitations to applying for such relief, so it is important to move quickly. A lawyer can help you navigate this process successfully.  

Are You Looking for a New Job?  

If you are looking for a new job free from discrimination in Ontario, partner with the recruiters of Employment Professionals Canada. Browse our current job openings or contact our team to learn more.      


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