Human Rights, Discrimination and Accommodation

Every jurisdiction in Canada has human rights legislation in place which prohibits harassment and discrimination based on enumerated grounds. Their purpose is to ensure that minorities and traditionally disadvantaged groups do not suffer from unequal treatment in various contexts, including employment. This applies to all employment-related decisions and circumstances, including:

  • hiring and promotions,
  • accommodation of disability, and
  • termination of employment.

Direct Discrimination

It should be obvious that employers cannot, except in unusual circumstances,

  • refuse to hire, or
  • make termination decisions,

based upon grounds such as

  • religion, or
  • sexual orientation.

That is direct discrimination.

Indirect Discrimination

However, indirect discrimination is also prohibited. For example, a job posting that says “No Jews will be considered” is direct discrimination. A job posting that says applicants must be available to work on Saturdays may indirectly discriminate against the same group, since some Jews cannot work on Saturday since they observe the Sabbath.

Accommodation

Similarly, sometimes individuals need to be accommodated in one way or another. For example, they might

  • be in a wheelchair and need to ensure that the workplace is accessible,
  • be unable to work on certain days due to religious obligations,
  • be physically unable to do certain tasks (like lifting heavy weights standing for extended periods), and/or
  • have child or eldercare obligations.

The law requires that your employer make efforts to accommodate any ground protected by human rights legislation. They cannot simply ignore or reject your request for accommodation without proper consideration.

How we can help

We often work with employees that have been, or suspect they have been, treated unfairly due to a protected ground. Perhaps they were part of a group that were let go, all of whom happen to be over 60. Or perhaps they are off work on medical leave, the insurer has cut off their benefits and their employer is telling them that they will be “deemed to have abandoned their job” if they don’t come back to work, even though their doctor says they can’t. Or they have asked for accommodation and been told that is not how the company works. Or, they may be scared to ask for accommodation for fear they will lose their job.

You need to understand your rights, and also your obligations. Many employees make the mistake of asking for accommodation but refusing to provide sufficient information so that the employer can assess the request. We will guide you through the process and, where appropriate, advocate on your behalf.

We will work with you, and represent you, to ensure that your human rights are not violated or, if they are, that you are compensated. You are not alone in this battle.