The Code protects against discrimination when applying for a job, getting a raise or promotion, in your working conditions, or in being disciplined, laid off or fired. It also protects against sexual harassment.
Examples of discrimination in employment include firing an employee because she is pregnant or asking about marital status or racial background on an application form.
The discrimination must be linked to one of the grounds listed earlier, such as race, sex, age or disability.
If your employment problem is not linked to a Code ground – for example, if your employer owes you unpaid wages or overtime pay – you may get help from the Ministry of Labour at 1-800-531-5551.
If you have been harassed at work, or experienced threats of violence that are not related to a human rights ground, you have protection under Ontario’s Workplace Harassment and Violence regulations. For more information contact the Ministry of Labour at 1-877-202-0008.
If you are a unionized employee, your union may be able to help you address a discriminatory incident in your workplace. Talk to your union representative to find out what your union can do to assist you.
If you have questions about your entitlement to benefits for a workplace injury, you can contact the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board at 1-800-387-0750.
You can also contact the Office of the Worker Advisor at 1-800-435-8980 for service in English or 1-800-661-6365 for service in French.
If your income is low, you may qualify for assistance with workers compensation or other employment problems at a community legal clinic. To find the clinic in your area call Legal Aid at 1-800-668-8258 or 416 -979-1446.
With any employment dispute, you may want to contact a private lawyer. You can get a referral to a private lawyer through the Law Society at 1-800-268-8326 or 416-947-3330.
The Human Rights Code protects against discrimination in the place where you live or want to live. You have the right to be free from harassment by your landlord, superintendent or other tenants, if the harassment is because of a ground in the Code, such as ethnic origin, disability or sex.
For example, a landlord cannot refuse to rent an apartment to you because you are an Aboriginal person or harass you because of your sexual orientation.
There are some exemptions to the rules about discrimination in rental housing. For example, the Human Rights Code allows an owner to refuse to rent to someone because of their gender or race if the owner or his or her family would be sharing a kitchen or bathroom with the tenant.
The Human Rights Commission has information for tenants about discrimination in rental housing on its website.
Tenants can get also get information from the Centre for Equality Rights in Housing at 1-800-263-1139.
The Code also protects you against discrimination in buying a condominium, in renting for a co-op or in purchasing a home. For example, a condominium cannot refuse to approve your purchase because you are a recent immigrant. A vendor cannot refuse to complete a house sale because you are a racialized person.
If you are a tenant facing eviction or experiencing harassment that is not related to a discriminatory ground – such as race or disability – you can get help from the Landlord and Tenant Board at 1-888-332-3234 or 416-645-8080.
If you are unemployed or have a low income, you may qualify for legal assistance at a community legal clinic. To find the clinic in your area, call Legal Aid Ontario at 1-800-668-8258 or 416-979-1446.
You have the right to equal treatment and freedom from harassment when buying a product, getting a service, or using a building or facility that is open to the public. This includes public transit, hospitals, schools, public washrooms, police services and privately-owned services or facilities, such as theatres or restaurants.
Unfair treatment must be linked to a ground in the Code. For example, you can’t be discriminated against because you use a wheelchair or other mobility device. You can’t be denied service because of your race, family status or sexual orientation.
For more information about your rights in obtaining services or using facilities visit the Human Rights Commission website.
If you are a person who faces barriers to services or facilities because of a disability, you can get information about Accessibility Standards from the Ministry of Community and Social Services at 1-866-515-2025.
Every person has the right to equal treatment in membership in a union, a trade association or a self-governing profession.
For example, a union cannot refuse you membership because you are a woman.
The Code protects against discrimination in both oral and written contracts. It covers all types of contracts, such as buying a house or business.
For example, a condominium corporation cannot refuse to sell you a condo because you have children.
Grounds of Discrimination
A human rights claim must be directly linked to a ground as defined in the code.
Refers to a group of people of common ancestry, distinguished from others by physical characteristics such as colour of skin, shape of eyes, hair texture or facial features. The term is also used to design social categories into which societies divide people according to such characteristics. Racial, ethnic, religious and regional groups are rarely mutually exclusive, and the degree of discrimination varies from place to place, and over time.
Colour is listed as a ground in the Code but is undefined. A person’s skin colour can be seen as a physical feature that belongs to racialized persons. For the purposes of a Code ground, colour is encompassed by the concept of race.
The term ancestry refers to family descent. In other words, one’s ancestry must be determined through the lineage of one’s parents through their parents, and so on.
Although there are some exceptions, the Code protects you from discrimination because of your citizenship in applying for jobs, housing or services.
The many and varied beliefs, behaviours and traditions held in common by a group of people of a particular linguistic, historical, national, geographical, religious, racial and/or cultural origin.
To do with one’s religion, including beliefs, faith or worship. The belief in a God or Gods is not required within the definition of creed.
Sexual orientation refers to a person’s emotional, physical, and/or sexual attraction to people of their own sex or the opposite sex.
Gender identity is linked to a person’s sense of self, and the sense of being male or female. A person’s gender identity is different from their sexual orientation, which is also protected under the Code. People’s gender identity may be different from their birth-assigned sex.
Gender expression refers to the external attributes, behaviour, appearance, dress, etc. by which people express themselves and through which others perceive that person’s gender.
A person’s marital status describes their relationship with a significant other, such as single, married , separated, widowed and cohabitating (a couple that is living together, yet unmarried with each other). This also includes same-sex couples.
A specific family type relationship protected under the Code from discrimination. The Code defines “family status” as “being in a parent and child relationship”. This can also mean a parent and child “type” of relationship, embracing a range of circumstances without blood or adoptive ties but with similar relationships of care, responsibility and commitment. Examples include parents/grandparents caring for children (also by adoption, fostering and step parenting), adults caring for aging parents or relatives with disabilities, and families headed by lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered persons.
Ontario’s Human Rights Code only applies to pardoned criminal offences in relation to employment. For greater clarity, if you have been charged with a criminal offense and your employer finds out about it, you do not have the protection of the Code because you must have been convicted and pardoned.
Age is a protected ground under the Code, This means that you cannot be discriminated against because of your age where you work or live, or go to get a service.
Age is defined as being 18 years or older, or age 16 or older in housing if you have withdrawn from parental control. Some special programs and benefits, such as seniors’ discounts or youth employment programs, exist to address genuine age-related needs. However, when you are unjustifiably treated differently because of your age, that’s age discrimination.
Any degree of physical disability, infirmity, malformation or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness including lack of physical co-ordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog or other animal or on a wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device. Disability also includes mental impairment or a developmental disability.
A legal status assigned at birth designating a person as either male or female based on their external genitalia and/or reproductive organs.
Under the Code, to be discriminated against on the basis of sex also includes being pregnant, sexual harassment, and gender identity.