Workplace Harassment and Workplace Discrimination Lawyer Toronto
WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION VS WORKPLACE HARASSMENT
Difference Between Workplace Discrimination and Workplace Harassment
Workplace discrimination can be described as adverse treatment by your employer based on a protected personal characteristic as set out in the Ontario Human Rights Code. Protected grounds include: age, race, disability, gender, family status and record of offences. If the treatment is not based on one of the prescribed grounds, it is not discriminatory.
Workplace harassment is different from discrimination. These can be vexatious comments or behaviour that is known or ought to be known to be unwelcome such as: teasing, offensive jokes, sexual harassment, spreading rumours or unwelcome physical contact.
What Are the Signs That You Are Being Discriminated Against or Harassed by Your Employer in Toronto?
Workplace discrimination can happen in a variety of ways. For example, if a company bases their hiring or promotion decisions on gender, race, age, disability, etc. While workplace discrimination is usually subtle, it can be overt. An obvious example of this would be an employer having a written policy of promoting only those under the age of 50. A more discrete example would be an employer requiring job candidates to complete a specific task that isn’t necessarily related to the job during the interview but might be impossible for someone with a disability to complete.
Like discrimination, workplace harassment can be difficult to identify. Most workplace harassment cases may involve ongoing conduct. For example, the harasser may not realize the numerous comments he or she is making are unwelcome. On the other hand, the harassment will be overt with actions such as unwelcome physical contact (pushing, grabbing forcefully, etc.).
What You Can Do if You Are Facing Workplace Discrimination or Workplace Harassment in Toronto
If you are experiencing either workplace discrimination or harassment, approaching your employer is typically the first place to start. It is commonplace for employers to have workplace policies on such issues. Employers have a duty to protect their employees from both discrimination and harassment under Ontario legislation. If you are experiencing harassment, your employer has a duty under the Ontario Health and Safety Act. If it is a discriminatory issue (or sexual harassment), you have protection under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
If the workplace harassment is so severe that it makes your employment unbearable, this may constitute a constructive dismissal.
If the workplace discrimination problem is with a co-worker, speaking to a superior is the first step. If the discrimination is coming from your manager, then seek out an even higher superior. If the organization policies are discriminating against you, speaking to executives or senior management is a good place to turn to. Ensuring you are protected from discrimination is important, so do not be anxious about speaking to the relevant person to seek a solution.
Remember, employees have the right to a work environment that is free from harassment and discrimination. Likewise, employers have a duty to protect its employees under Ontario legislation.
What if an Employer Ignores Your Harassment or Discrimination Complaint?
If your employer does not help you, legal action should be considered. If you are terminated due to complaining about harassment or discrimination, this would constitute a reprisal under either the Ontario Health and Safety Act or the Ontario Human Rights Code.
For a harassment issue, you can make a reprisal complaint to the Ontario Labour Relations Board, which can award damages for lost wages, or potentially reinstate an employee. If the harassment is so significant that the work environment is no longer tolerable, constructive dismissal may be an option.
For a discrimination issue, you can make a reprisal complaint under the Human Rights Code.
Every employee has a right to a workplace free of discrimination, as per the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act,and employers are required to provide that safe work environment
Ontario Human Rights Code
Despite this fact, many employees have experienced discrimination or harassment either in the job application process or in the workplace. This can have a devastating impact on an employee’s sense of self-worth, dignity and enjoyment in their work. As an employee, you have rights if you have been discriminated against or harassed on a ground that is protected by legislation. These grounds are; age, race, citizenship, ethnic origin, place of origin, creed, disability, family status, marital status, gender identity or gender expression, record of offences, sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding) and sexual orientation. If you have been discriminated against or harassed because of any of the above grounds, it is possible to file an application at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario or to include the claims as part of a civil lawsuit such as wrongful dismissal or constructive dismissal. To prove discrimination at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, you must demonstrate that there is a connection between the negative treatment you experienced and one of the prohibited grounds of discrimination. The negative treatmentonly needs to be partially caused by the prohibited ground in order to count as discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
It is possible that the negative treatment you experience is a result of the employer treating everyone the exact same, such as when you have a disability that requires accommodation. With respect to harassment based on a protected personal characteristic, harassment means “engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.” With both harassment and discrimination, it is always important to keep detailed records of any offending behaviour. Keep records of the parties involved, any witnesses, what was said or done, dates, times, locations and any other relevant information. This will help strengthen your position if the case progresses to the Tribunal or to court. Please note that the above information does not constitute legal advice. It is general information about the law. If you require legal advice with an employment issue, please contact the experts at Ball Professional Corporation.
Canadian Employment Law
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