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What is discrimination?

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Discrimination is an action or a decision that treats a person or a group negatively for reasons such as their race, age or disability. These reasons are known as grounds of discrimination. Federal employers and service providers, as well as employers and service providers of private companies that are regulated by the federal government, cannot discriminate against individuals for these reasons.

These 11 grounds are protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act

  • race 
  • national or ethnic origin 
  • colour 
  • religion 
  • age 
  • sex 
  • sexual orientation 
  • marital status 
  • family status 
  • disability 
  • a conviction for which a pardon has been granted or a record suspended.

There are several ways that a person could be discriminated against. The Canadian Human Rights Act calls these discriminatory practices. The following seven discriminatory practices are prohibited by the Canadian Human Rights Act when they are based on one or more of the 11 grounds of discrimination:

  • Denying someone goods, services, facilities or accommodation. 
  • Providing someone goods, services, facilities or accommodation in a way that treats them adversely and differently.
  • Refusing to employ or continue to employ someone, or treating them unfairly in the workplace. 
  • Following policies or practices that deprive people of employment opportunities. 
  • Paying men and women differently when they are doing work of the same value. 
  • Retaliating against a person who has filed a complaint with the Commission or against someone who has filed a complaint for them. 
  • Harassing someone.

Federal employers are not allowed to discriminate against their employees. In fact, they are obligated to make every effort to accommodate an employee’s individual circumstances that relate to protected grounds of discrimination. We call this the duty to accommodate.

If you work for or receive services from a business or organization that is regulated by the federal government, and you believe you have experienced discrimination because of one of the 11 grounds, you can file a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Examples of discrimination based on the various grounds:

  • A bank has lending rules that make it unreasonably difficult for new immigrants to get loans. This is an example of discrimination based on two grounds—race and national or ethnic origin.
  • A person is systematically referred to secondary screening at airports due to the colour of their skin. This may be a case of discrimination based on the ground of colour.

More

  • An employer assigns her employees to weekend shifts without recognizing that some employees observe the Sabbath and cannot work on those days. This may be a case of discrimination based on the ground of religion.
  • An employer’s physical fitness requirements are based on the capabilities of an average 25 year old instead of being based on the actual requirements of the job. This imay be a case of discrimination based on the ground of age.
  • A female employee with an excellent performance record announces that she is pregnant. Immediately, her employer begins to identify performance issues that lead to her dismissal. This may be a case of discrimination based on the ground of sex.
  • A policy provides benefits to some married couples but not to others. This may be a case of discrimination based on two grounds—sexual orientation and marital status.
  • After having a child, a woman cannot find childcare to continue working overnight shifts, and her employer does not allow flexibility by scheduling her on day shifts. This may be a case of discrimination based on the ground of family status.
  • An employer requires all employees to have a valid driver’s licence. People who cannot drive due to a disability are not given an opportunity to show how they could still perform the job by, for example, using public transit. This may be a case of discrimination based on the ground of disability.
  • A person is denied a job because of a previous conviction for which a pardon has been granted or a record has been suspended. This may be a case of discrimination based on the ground of pardoned conviction.

 

Chapter 2: What is discrimination?

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