Discrimination and harassment

Region: Ontario Answer Number: 830

To discriminate means to make distinctions. Discrimination in itself is not prohibited by human rights laws. Discrimination is prohibited only based on certain grounds in certain situations.

Discrimination does not have to be intentional for it to be against the law. It is the effect on the individual that matters. Discrimination can also come about when a rule applied equally to everybody has a disproportionate effect on a particular group due to their unique needs. For instance, only hiring employees of a certain height may constitute discrimination on the basis of sex since women are generally shorter than men.

Harassment is also a form of discrimination. Harassment means that the ‘harasser’ acts in an annoying or abusive manner that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome by the other person.

Sexual harassment is a particular type of gender or sex based discrimination that occurs in employment settings. Refer to the Employment Law section of Legal Line for more information about sexual harassment.

There are situations which seem to be discriminatory but are not because human rights laws have provided an exception to the rules. For example, an ethnic social club is allowed to restrict its membership to people from its particular ethnic group. Another example is that employers are entitled to discriminate against employees who do not have a certain attribute, where that attribute is a genuine requirement of the job, such as perfect vision, certain height, or strength.

For more information, visit the Ontario Human Rights Commission, or the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Warning, for employment and housing purposes, it is legal to discriminate against someone who has a criminal record. To prevent discrimination, erase your criminal record, call toll-free 1-800-874-2652 or learn more at Parole Board of Canada. It’s easier than you think.

If you live in Ottawa or the surrounding area, and you need help filing a human rights complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO), contact our preferred Licensed Paralegals, AJ Murray Legal Services

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