Workplace Discrimination Lawyers

What is workplace discrimination?

The Alberta Human Rights Act prohibits employers from discriminating by refusing to employ, or to continuing to employ any person, or by discriminating against any person on the basis of a prohibited ground in the legislation.

Protected grounds of discrimination in the Human Rights Act include:

  • race
  • religious beliefs
  • gender (includes pregnancy)
  • physical and mental disability
  • age
  • marital status
  • family status
  • sexual orientation

The Human Rights Act also provides where employees of both sexes perform the same or substantially similar work for an employer in an establishment the employer shall pay the employees at the same rate of pay.

The clearest definition of discrimination in Canada to date is provided by the Supreme Court of Canada:

Discrimination is a distinction which, whether intentional or not but based on grounds relating to personal characteristics of the individual or group, has an effect which imposes disadvantages not imposed on others or which withholds or limits access to advantages available to other members of society.

What if the employer does not intend to discriminate?

Intention to discriminate is not necessary for a finding of discrimination. It only matters if the effect of the of the treatment is discrimination.

What are the consequences of discrimination and human rights issues?

The remedies available to an adjudicating Tribunal of the Alberta Human Rights Commission for implementation are wide-reaching and include monetary and non-monetary orders. A Tribunal has the jurisdiction to reinstate an employee (a remedy not available in the Court of Queen’s Bench) and award compensation for financial losses and psychological harm resulting from the discrimination. It may also award damages for loss of dignity, which can be up to $30,000. The Tribunal can also award wage replacement arising from loss of employment for up to two years of income.

Pursuing a claim through the Commission is not the only remedy available for an individual who is subjected to discrimination. Some Courts have found that a breach of human rights legislation may constitute a constructive dismissal.

Employers also have a duty to accommodate the needs of employees based on the prohibited grounds to the point of “undue hardship”. When an employer becomes aware or ought to have reasonably become aware that accommodation is required, the employer has a duty to make further inquiries.

Cashion Legal can assist you in determining if you have a human rights complaint and what the options are for pursuing a remedy.

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