Yes, they can, and they have options of how to pursue a legal claim. In order to pursue a civil claim (a lawsuit), an employee will claim that they were the victim of an employer’s wrongdoing, and will claim for money they believe they have lost because of this wrong. Discrimination is often added to a wronful dismissal claim if an employee believes that they were terminated for a discriminatory reason, such as marital or family status. Their lawyers will often recommend adding a human rights claim onto their claim and will seek damages for the discrimination as well as the main wrongdoing.
The other, and more common option for pursuing a claim for discrimination is before a human rights tribunal. Each province has its own legal framework for human rights, and the federal government has its own as well, where employees can claim damages for workplace discrimination. Some provinces, such as B.C. and Ontario, allow individuals to make a claim as individuals, whereas other tribunals require you to have legal representation.
These human rights tribunals are bodies that are specifically designed to deal with allegations of discrimination. Employers should not take them lightly – they are often sympathetic to employees, and employers will be left to defend themselves and disprove any allegations. In Ontario for example, the Human Rights Tribunal often awards damages not only for the wrongdoing itself, but for damages for ‘injury to dignity, hurt feelings, and self respect.’ Aside from monetary damages, tribunals may also incorporate other remedies such as renewed workplace training.