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I identify as transgender or non-binary. What are my rights at work?

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I identify as transgender or non-binary. What are my rights at work?

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I identify as transgender or non-binary. What are my rights at work?
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Reviewed: 
December 13, 2018
Answer

Ontario's human rights laws say that everyone has the right to be treated equally and not be discriminated against at work. This means that your employer cannot discriminate against you because of your gender identity or gender expression.

Your employer can't treat you differently because of how you express your gender or because:

  • you're living as a gender that is different than the one you were assigned at birth, or
  • you identify as transgender or non-binary.

Discrimination

Some discrimination can be very obvious. This is sometimes called direct discrimination. For example:

  • Your employer tells you they can 't keep you in a certain role because they can't have someone who doesn't look like a "normal" man or woman dealing with customers.
  • During a job interview, an employer tells you that to get the job, you will have to dress and behave like the gender you were assigned at birth.

Sometimes discrimination can only be noticed when looking at the circumstances. For example:

  • You identify as male and you attend a job interview wearing make-up and jewellery. The person interviewing you seems uncomfortable, doesn't make eye contact with you, and rushes through the interview. You don't get the job and the employer doesn't explain their decision.

Sometimes a rule that is applied to everyone in the same way might affect you differently and can lead to unequal treatment. This is called constructive discrimination. For example:

  • Your workplace has separate washrooms for male and female employees, and a policy that people must use the washroom for the gender they were assigned at birth.

Harassment

Human rights laws do not allow someone to be harassed in the workplace because of their gender identity or gender expression. For example:

  • A co-worker refuses to refer to you using "he", "him", "his", even though you have made it clear that these are the personal pronouns you use.
  • Your boss tells people at work that your assigned sex is different than your gender identity without your permission

The law says that employers must prevent and respond to harassment in the workplace.

Accommodation

To make sure everyone is treated equally, your employer might have to change workplace rules to accommodate everyone's gender identity or gender expression. For example:

  • Your employer adds a "gender neutral" washroom and also changes its policy to allow people to use the washroom that matches the gender they identify as.
  • Your employer updates its employee database system to recognize your chosen name and gender even if this does not match your legal identification documents.
  • Your employer changes its uniform policy to give employees the choice to wear pants or a skirt regardless of the gender they were assigned at birth.

You have to co-operate with your employer to find a solution that works for both of you. The accommodation you get might not be the same as what you asked for.

An employer might not have to accommodate you if they can prove that it will cause undue hardship.

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