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Determining whether harassment violates human rights

When you took a job with your employer, you expected that your new workplace would be free from harassment and discrimination. That may have happened for a while, but before long, you realised that you were not receiving the basic protections you deserve. 

The harassment may have started small, but now, the thought of even going to work may cause you anxiety, stress and frustration. You need to know what to do next and may wonder whether the treatment you experience at work violates your human rights under Ontario law.

What the Ontario Human Rights Code says

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code that all employers in the province are required to follow, harassment violates your human rights under the following circumstances:

  • When it targets your religious beliefs
  • When it's because of your age
  • If it targets your colour, race, citizenship, ancestry, ethnic origin or place of birth
  • When it's due to your marital status
  • When it's due to your mental or physical disability, including if you suffer from an addiction
  • If you are pregnant, planning to have children or have children
  • When it targets your gender or sex
  • When it targets your sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity

You should know that if you work for an airline, a bank, in broadcasting or in some trucking companies, your employer must follow the federal law set forth by the Canadian government under the Canada Labour Code.

What can you do?

If you suffer from harassment at work that falls under the above guidelines, the first step would be to keep records of the harassment, including any notifications you gave to or conversations you had with your superiors. These notes will come in handy if you need to file a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

Most employers have policies and procedures in place for handling harassment and discrimination. If you have gone through the process outlined by your employer but nothing has changed or your employer retaliated against you for making a complaint, then you may want to consider taking additional steps and file a complaint. Your employer should never tolerate harassment, and you certainly shouldn't be punished for exercising your rights.

Don't go it alone

Taking on harassment and discrimination in the workplace can be a frightening and stressful experience. It can often be difficult to discern what steps to take next. Fortunately, you do not have to go through this alone. A competent and compassionate lawyer experienced in employment law could prove invaluable. Before you even discuss the matter with your employer, it would most likely help you to gain an understanding of your rights and legal options.

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