What is workplace discrimination?
Workplace discrimination is described as adverse treatment by your employer on the basis of a protected personal characteristic.
What are protected personal characteristics?
Employees are only protected from discrimination based on certain specific personal characteristics, which are set out in human rights laws. In Ontario, for instance, no employer may discriminate against an employee on any of the following protected grounds: race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex (including pregnancy or breastfeeding), sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, record of offences, marital status (including single status), family status or disability.
How do I know if I am being discriminated against by my employer?
Discrimination can take many forms in the workplace. It can be seen, for instance, in hiring practices that favour younger candidates, sexist workplace cultures, promotions that are based on race instead of merit, absenteeism policies that disproportionately affect workers with disabilities, or an employer's failure to protect employees from workplace harassment or sexual harassment.
Workplace discrimination is never easy to identify. It is often subtle, organizational, or even unintentional. Employers will seldom discriminate openly; their discriminatory decisions and practices will almost always be disguised by "legitimate" considerations, but human rights laws recognize these difficulties and provide powerful protection to affected employees. For instance, even if your employer's decision is found to be 99% legitimate and 1% discriminatory, it will still be considered a human rights violation.
What does not qualify as workplace discrimination?
While discrimination can take many forms, it is important to understand that unfair or even unlawful treatment is not necessarily discriminatory. It may be wrong for your employer to fire you, or require you to work excessive overtime, or dock your pay. However, it is not discriminatory unless it is linked to a protected personal characteristic. If you cannot prove this connection, you may have your human rights complaint thrown out - even if you have an otherwise legitimate claim.
What can I do about workplace discrimination?
In most cases, your first line of defence is your employer. If the problem is with your co-worker(s), you can speak to your manager. If the problem is with your manager, you can speak to your manager's manager. If the problem is with an organization, consider going to the executives. You have a right to work in an environment free from discrimination, and your employer in turn has a duty to uphold these standards in the workplace. Do not be afraid to insist on your rights.
What if my employer does not help? Or worse, what if my employer punishes me for complaining about workplace discrimination?
Your employer might ignore your complaint. Worse, you may be punished or fired for making a complaint. This is known under the Human Rights Code as a "reprisal". If your complaint of workplace discrimination has fallen on deaf ears, or you have been reprised against, your next step is to take legal action and proceed with a human rights claim.
What can Hyde HR Law do for me?
The employment lawyers at Hyde HR Law are experts in identifying, analyzing, and pursuing resolutions to workplace discrimination. We can help you determine whether you have been subject to workplace discrimination or reprisal. If your employer is unresponsive or hostile, we can attempt to negotiate an agreement with your employer on your behalf. Should those negotiations fail, we have the experience and knowhow to represent you through the human rights claim process, from filing an application through to a hearing before the human rights tribunal. We understand that employment issues cause a great deal of financial strain. We are therefore willing to discuss contingency fee arrangements where appropriate, in order to ensure that our clients obtain proper legal representation. Contact us today.