Human Rights in Ontario
The Ontario Human Rights Code is a quasi-constitutional law that applies to certain social and business interactions. These areas include:
- Accommodation (housing)
- Goods, services and facilities
- Membership in unions, trade or professional associations.
Therefore, in situations such as being screened by a landlord for rental housing, when being served by an employee of a business and when being interviewed for a new job or promotion, you are afforded protections under law.
There are numerous protected grounds under which you are protected. These grounds are:
- Ancestry, colour, race
- Ethnic origin
- Place of origin
- Family status
- Marital status (including single status)
- Gender identity, gender expression
- Receipt of public assistance such as ODSP (in housing)
- Record of offences (in employment only)
- Sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding)
- Sexual orientation.
It is important to note that just because the discrimination you are facing might not fit squarely into one of the above categories, you may still have recourse under the Ontario Human Rights Code. There are also many situations where you may not be aware that you are facing discrimination based on a protected ground. The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has interpreted on many occasions, certain conduct as being a result of an “unconscious bias” on the part of the respondent, or even treatment that is based on the simultaneous intersection of numerous protected grounds.
Discrimination, Accommodation and Undue Hardship
Under the Human Rights Code, businesses, employers, landlords and others are required to provide accommodations so that their services are fully accessible to everyone, despite a disability or limitation.
These accommodations can be as simple as an employer providing more scheduling flexibility for a single parent (accommodating for family status) or a restaurant installing wheelchair ramps at their entrance (accommodating for disability). It can also include the requirement of an employer to intervene if one of their staff members are facing discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace.
The Human Rights Code and decisions of the Human Rights Tribunal also set out the extent to which a party must provide code-based accommodations. The standard that must be met is accommodation to the point of “undue hardship”.
One could imagine a business not wanting to install electronic door-openers because it could be expensive. Alternatively, an employer may not want to discipline or fire a popular employee at their business when that employee is found to be harassing another employee. A corporation may not want to create a separate schedule for a single parent to accommodate their childcare needs because it may be time consuming and burdensome. However, none of these reasons are valid when deciding not to accommodate for a protected ground.
“Undue Hardship” is a high threshold to meet in order to excuse a party from accommodating another. It is not simply inconvenience or financial hardship. Making your services and employment opportunities accessible is a factor that must be built into any business model and hiring system. It allows individuals from all walks of life to attain the enjoyment and liberties that many others take for granted.
What should you do? Protection from Retaliation
The Human Rights Code also provides protections for asserting your rights under the Code. If you have asked for an accommodation, or you have brought an issue to the attention of an employer, it is illegal for them to fire, discipline or deny service to you as a form of retaliation.
This protection doesn’t only apply if you file a formal complaint against a party, it also covers situations where you assert your Human Rights, formally or informally. For example, if you verbally let an employer know that you are being harassed and they fire you because of it, you are protected. If a bus driver refuses to serve you because they have to kneel the bus so you can safely board, you are protected.
If you are facing harassment or discrimination in your workplace; if you are being refused services due to a disability; if you are being refused scheduling flexibility due to your family status, call Prevail Paralegal today!
Consultations are confidential and FREE. Prevail Paralegal can work with your employer to resolve the matter, or advocate for you before the Human Rights Tribunal, seeking damages and compensation for injuries to your dignity.
Are you facing harassment or discrimination? Let's Talk about your Rights and what Prevail Paralegal can do for you!
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