Human Rights & Discrimination

What is workplace discrimination?

The Alberta Human Rights Act protects people from discrimination by an employer. Common acts of employment-related discrimination include an employer refusing to employ someone or letting an existing employee go based on any of the following, which are called protected grounds in the legislation:

  • Race

  • Religious beliefs

  • Gender (includes pregnancy)

  • Physical and mental disability

  • Age

  • Marital status

  • Family status

  • Sexual orientation

The Human Rights Act also protects equal pay, regardless of gender identity, for those who perform the same or substantially similar work for an employer.

The clearest definition of discrimination in Canada to date comes from 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?

Whether an employer intended to discriminate or not doesn’t affect a finding of discrimination.  It only matters if the effect of the treatment is discrimination.

What are the consequences of discrimination and human rights issues?

If an employer is found to have discriminated, the consequences can include financial compensation and/or non-financial orders, such as:

  • Up to two years of wage replacement

  • Reinstatement of employment

  • Reimbursement for financial losses

  • Damages for psychological harm or loss of dignity

In some cases, a breach of human rights legislation may also constitute a constructive dismissal.

Employers also must accommodate employee needs based on the protected grounds to the point of “undue hardship”. When an employer becomes aware or should have reasonably become aware that accommodation is required, the employer is expected to make further inquiries to explore the accommodations required.

Navigating a situation of potential discrimination isn’t easy, so we work closely with our clients every step of the way to determine whether their human rights have been violated and what options they have to move forward.

Frequently asked questions about discrimiation

Discrimination laws are complex. By consulting with a lawyer, you can gain a clear understanding of your rights as an employee and the specific protections afforded to you under relevant anti-discrimination laws. They can explain the legal standards that need to be met to prove discrimination and advise you on the best course of action.

Discrimination cases often require a thorough analysis of the facts and evidence. A lawyer experienced in employment law can review your case, assess the strength of your claims, and provide an objective evaluation of the potential outcomes. They can help you understand the legal elements you need to establish to prove discrimination and advise you on the viability of pursuing legal action.

It is important to consult with a lawyer as soon as you think you have been subject to discrimination. There are strict timelines that apply when asserting your rights regarding discriminatory conduct.

Discrimination consultations reviews can generally be completed within a week. Subject to our availability.

Our standard fee for discrimination consultations is $425, plus GST, although the fee may be higher if the facts of your case are particularly complicated. This fee includes reviewing of all materials provided in advance of the consultation, reviewing relevant precedents, attending the consultation, and answering follow up questions you have after the consultation.

Alberta’s Human Rights Act is a provincial law that protects individuals from discrimination and harassment on the basis of various personal characteristics, including race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religious beliefs, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, and disability. The act applies to all employers, employees, and job applicants in Alberta.

An employer can only fire an employee who is on sick leave or maternity leave if they can prove that the termination occurred because the employee’s position was eliminated.

Contact us

Sometimes, you just need to take the next step.

If you’ve been struggling with a workplace issue, you’re in the right place and we’re here to help. Booking a consultation is the first step.