In Canada, all employees have the right to a workplace free from discrimination. This right is enshrined as law in the Canadian Human Rights Act. While it’s important to know that you have this right, it’s also important to know exactly what it means to experience discrimination under the law and what you can do about it if it happens to you.

Discrimination is not simply the act of being treated differently from others in your workplace—it requires being treated differently based on certain grounds. Section 3 of the Canadian Human Rights Act states that discrimination is being treated differently based on grounds of:

  • race,
  • national or ethnic origin,
  • colour,
  • religion,
  • age,
  • sex,
  • sexual orientation,
  • gender identity or expression,
  • marital status,
  • family status,
  • genetic characteristics,
  • disability, or
  • a conviction for which you have been granted a pardon.

If the reason that you or a co-worker are being treated differently from others at work is not listed here, it is not discrimination according to the law.

While being treated differently from your co-workers is not always discrimination, some forms of differential behaviour could be harassment or could be in breach of the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector. This code outlines the values and expected behaviors of public servants, and if breached, could result in disciplinary action.

If someone experiences discrimination at work, the employer is obligated to make accommodations for the employee by adjusting its rules, policies or practices. For example, an employee with a physical disability may be given ergonomic equipment for their office or an employee with obligations to a dependant family member (such as a child or an elderly relative) could be permitted to work flexible hours. In both of these examples, the employee is being treated differently from their co-workers in order to stop discrimination from occurring. Accommodations ensure that the workplace is a safe, healthy and equitable place for all employees to do their jobs with dignity and respect.

If you believe that you are experiencing discrimination at work, please reach out to for advice and assistance from our Labour Relations team.