It’s your duty as a business in Ontario to be aware of the laws against discrimination in the workplace. Armed with the proper knowledge, you can ensure that all of your decisions are both legal and ethical. Knowing the laws will also help you to properly enforce the laws among your employees.

What is discrimination in the workplace? This refers to discriminating against individuals based on their race, sex, age, religion, disability, pregnancy, and place of origin.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission defines discrimination as including the following:

  • not individually assessing the unique merits, capacities and circumstances of a person
  • making stereotypical assumptions based on a person’s presumed traits
  • having the impact of excluding persons, denying benefits or imposing burdens.

In this blog post, we’ll go over the laws against discrimination in the workplace in more detail. This will provide you with the knowledge needed to act against discrimination. In some instances, you may need to hire a private investigator team to perform a workplace investigation. Learning the laws will equip you with the resources to take the necessary measures.

1. Ontario Human Rights Code

The Ontario Human Rights Code “is a provincial law that gives everybody equal rights and opportunities without discrimination, harassment and reprisal with respect to employment, trade, self-governing profession, services, goods, contracts and facilities”.

The Ontario Human Rights Code “prohibits actions that discriminate against people based on a protected ground in a protected social area”.

According to the Code, the protected grounds are:

  • Age
  • Ancestry, colour, race
  • Citizenship
  • Ethnic origin
  • Place of origin
  • Disability

In addition, the following fields are also under coverage:

  • Family status
  • Marital status (including single status)
  • Gender identity, gender expression
  • Receipt of public assistance (in housing only)
  • Record of offences (in employment only)
  • Sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding)
  • Sexual orientation.

Protected social areas are:

  • Accommodation (housing)
  • Contracts
  • Employment
  • Goods, services and facilities
  • Membership in unions, trade or professional associations.

2. Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA)

The main purpose of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) is to protect employees from both health and safety hazards while on the job. The Act outlines the duties of everyone in the workplace, as well as outlining workers’ rights. The Act also outlines proper procedures for handling workplace hazards and “provides for enforcement of the law where compliance has not been achieved voluntarily”.

The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development’s goal in creating the OHSA is to have all workplaces in Ontario achieve self-compliance and enforce the act at their place of business as well as having businesses “take initiative on health and safety issues and work to solve problems and make improvements on an ongoing basis”.

3. Employment Standards Act (ESA)

The Employment Standards Act (ESA) outlines the standards for workers employed in Ontario. More specifically, the ESA sets out the rights and responsibilities of both workers and employers in Ontario workplaces.

The ESA is imperative to employers as it explains the legalities of running a business in Ontario. The Act provides minimum employment standards for the following (taken directly from the Act):

  • Hours of work, eating periods and rest periods
  • Payment of wages
  • Overtime pay
  • Tips and gratuities
  • Minimum wage

The ESA also covers a number of personal occasions:

  • Pregnancy and parental leave
  • Sick leave
  • Bereavement leave
  • Family responsibility leave
  • Family caregiver leave
  • Family medical leave
  • Critical illness leave
  • Crime-related child disappearance leave

In addition, the ESA will have the following coverage areas:

  • Public holidays
  • Vacation
  • Termination of employment and temporary layoffs
  • Severance of employment
  • Equal pay for equal work
  • Temporary help agencies
  • Enforcement and compliance

Becoming familiar with the Act will ensure that you are acting within the legal limits and that all of your decisions are fair and ethical.

4. Bill 168

Bill 168 is an amendment to the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act. This Bill came into effect on June 10, 2010. The goal of Bill 168 is to protect workers from violence and harassment in the workplace.

According to the Bill, workplace harassment takes place when a worker “is the victim of a course of vexatious comments or conduct that is known, or ought reasonably to have been known, to be unwelcome”. Also, according to the Bill, workplace violence takes place when a worker “is the victim of the exercise of physical force that causes or could cause physical injury”. In this context, violence in the workplace includes attempts to exercise force or an action that is interpreted as a threat to exercise force.

Once this Bill came into effect, employers became responsible for assessing the risks of workplace violence. Employers are also required to institute proper policies, review these policies as needed, and ensure that they are enforced.

Now that you are aware of the laws against discrimination in the workplace in Ontario, you’ll be able to act knowledgeably to ensure all of your decisions are both ethical and legal. Knowledge of these laws will also help you make sure your employees are not acting in a way that goes against these laws. It’s essential to have proper policies and procedures in place based on these laws to prevent discrimination in the workplace.

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