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Human Rights

Every employee is entitled to equal treatment with respect to employment without discrimination. The prohibited grounds of employment discrimination and harassment include race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, record of offences, handicap (disability), age, marital status, and family status.

Entitlement to a workplace free from discrimination permeates every area of the employment relationship. Some examples include,

• A right to perform work free from sexual harassment. Sexual harassment includes unnecessary physical contact such as touching, patting, pinching, leering, kissing, and hugging. It also includes verbal harassment. To be considered sexual harassment, conduct need not be directed at a specific person. “A Poisoned Work Environment” may arise where a pattern of sexually oriented remarks, insults, or taunts are reasonably perceived to create negative psychological and emotional work environment.

• Freedom from termination of employment because of handicap. Handicap is broadly defined to include mental disabilities as well as any degree of physical disability or illness. The most relevant exception from discrimination because of handicap is where the handicapped person is incapable of performing or fulfilling the essential duties or requirements of the job because of his or her handicap. However, the burden on an employer which seeks to defend itself against a charge of discrimination because of handicap is onerous. The defence is only available where the handicapped person is prevented by his or her handicap from performing the essential duties or requirements of the job.

• A limitation on drug or alcohol testing before or after hiring. Drug and alcohol testing potentially violates the human rights code where the person's use of drugs or alcohol has reached the stage where it constitutes an illness. Similarly, a drug testing policy could constitute constructive discrimination, because the imposition of a neutral requirement has an adverse and discriminatory effect on a handicapped person. Furthermore, a casual drug user who does not have any drug dependency is arguably being improperly discriminated against if he or she is perceived by the employer to have a disease or illness.

An employer may be held liable for acts of racial harassment carried out by its employees who are in a position of authority, including managers and supervisors.

A person who believes one of their rights has been infringed may file a complaint with the Commission. Complaints are not limited to situations where employment is terminated and may arise during the interviewing stage, job promotion, scheduling of vacation, entitlement to benefits, harassment, employment policies and scheduling of hours of work.

We provide representation at both the Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Commission.