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What if I'm being harassed at work for reasons that go against my human rights?

Question
What if I'm being harassed at work for reasons that go against my human rights?

Glossary

Clear language definitions to common legal terms. 

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Reviewed: 
September, 2015
Answer

Human rights laws say that employers must not discriminate against you. And if other workers discriminate against you, your employer must take steps to make them stop.

If harassment goes against your human rights it is a kind of discrimination. This includes harassment because of:

  • your race, colour, ancestry, ethnic origin, citizenship, or where you were born
  • your religious beliefs
  • a physical or mental disability, including an addiction
  • your sex or gender
  • your sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression

Examples of harassment

There are many ways in which people are harassed at work. Here are some examples:

  • workers being told not to speak their own language on lunch breaks
  • sexual comments about a woman's appearance
  • jokes about a worker's sexual orientation
  • insulting remarks about a worker's religion

Harassment can also include:

  • someone touching you without your permission
  • being pressured by a supervisor or co-worker to get together outside of work, if this makes you uncomfortable
  • being bullied because of something that’s a human right, like the right to express your gender

A single comment or event is usually not harassment. Most often, it’s when something is repeated or persistent that it's harassment.

But something that happens once could be harassment if it's serious enough and affects you a lot. For example, touching someone in a sexual way might be harassment, even if it only happens once.

Ontario's laws about harassment

Sometimes people are treated unfairly or badly at work but for reasons that may not go against their human rights. There are other laws about health and safety at work that apply in these situations. There's information about this in a separate question. We aren't dealing with it here.

If the discrimination or harassment is because of something covered by human rights laws, you can make a human rights claim about it. You may also be able to make a complaint to the Ontario Ministry of Labour about harassment that's against the laws on health and safety at work. And, in some situations, you may be able to leave your job with the same rights as if you were fired. This means you might be able to sue your employer.

It's a good idea to get legal advice to help you decide what to do.

Learn more about this topic
Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC)
Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC)

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