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rightsand responsibilitiesGuide to yourunder theHuman Rights Code

ContentsUsing this guide . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4Preamble . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6Part I – Freedom from discrimination . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7Services . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8Housing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9Harassment in housing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10Contracts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10Employment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11Harassment in employment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13Vocational associations and unions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14Sexual harassment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14Sexual harassment in housing and workplaces . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14Sexual solicitation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15Punishment for exercising rights . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15Part II – Interpretation and application . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17Definitions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17Pregnancy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21Constructive discrimination . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22Discrimination because of association . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23Announced intention to discriminate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23Special programs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23Canadian citizenship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24Disability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24Special interest organizations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26Solemnization of marriage by religious officials . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26Guide to your rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code1

Separate school rights preserved . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26Restrictions of facilities by sex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27Recreational clubs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27Restrictions for insurance contracts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27Employment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27Special employment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29Employee benefit and pension plans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29Discrimination in employment under government contracts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30Appendix A – Purpose of OHRC’s policies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31Endnotes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 322Guide to your rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code

Using this guideThe Guide to your rights and responsibilitiesunder the Human Rights Code gives abasic overview of Parts I and II of theOntario Human Rights Code (the Code),and offers explanations about theseparts of the Code .The guide uses examples to showhow the Code would apply in differentsituations . Many of these examplescome from real cases or are basedon facts from human rights claims thathave been filed.Guide to your rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code3

IntroductionThe Ontario Human Rights Code is foreveryone . It is a provincial law that giveseverybody equal rights and opportunitieswithout discrimination in areas such asjobs, housing and services . The Code’sgoal is to prevent discrimination andharassment because of race, sex,disability and age, to name a few ofthe 17 grounds . All other Ontariolaws must agree with the Code .The Code was one of the first lawsof its kind in Canada . Before 1962,various laws dealt with different kindsof discrimination . The Code broughtthem together into one law and addedsome new protections .In June 2008, major changes designed torenew Ontario’s human rights systemcame into effect . Ontario’s human rightssystem now consists of three separateand independent parts:llthe Human Rights Tribunal of Ontariollthe Human Rights Legal SupportCentrellthe Ontario Human RightsCommission .4The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario(the Tribunal) decides if someone’shuman rights have been violated . If youthink your rights under the Code havebeen violated, you can file a complaint –called an application – directly with theTribunal . The Tribunal will decide thebest way to deal with your situation . Itmay also decide that your rights havenot been violated or that it does nothave the power to deal with your case .The Human Rights Legal SupportCentre (the Legal Support Centre) helpspeople who file applications with theTribunal . Services may include advice,support and legal representation .The Ontario Human Rights Commission(the OHRC) works to identify the rootcauses of discrimination, and to bringabout broad, systemic change to removethem . It develops policies and providespublic education, monitors humanrights, does research and analysis, andconducts human rights public interestinquiries . While it does not deal withindividual human rights complaints,the OHRC may take its own cases,Guide to your rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code

or intervene in human rights casesbefore tribunals or courts on issuesof broad public interest .The Code is divided into an introductorysection, or “preamble” followed by sevenmain parts . Part I sets out basic rightsand responsibilities . Part II explains howthe Code is interpreted and applied .Part III explains the role and structureof the Commission . Part IV explainshow the Tribunal works and how theCode is enforced . Part IV .1 explains therole of the Legal Support Centre . Part Vdeals with general matters, such asthe power to make regulations . Finally,Part VI deals with transitional matters .Guide to your rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code5

PreambleWhereas recognition of the inherent dignityand the equal and inalienable rights ofall members of the human family is thefoundation of freedom, justice and peacein the world and is in accord with theUniversal Declaration of Human Rightsas proclaimed by the United Nations;And Whereas it is public policy in Ontarioto recognize the dignity and worth ofevery person and to provide for equal rightsand opportunities without discriminationthat is contrary to law, and having as its aimthe creation of a climate of understandingand mutual respect for the dignity andworth of each person so that each personfeels a part of the community and ableto contribute fully to the developmentand well-being of the community andthe Province;The Preamble to the Code was inspiredby the 1948 Universal Declaration ofHuman Rights, an international statementof rights agreed to by many of the world’snations . It is the basis for many of ourhuman rights protections in Canada andaround the world . The Preamble sets thetone and spirit for the Code’s basic aim:to create a climate of understandingand respect for all persons, withoutdiscrimination .The courts have said that because ofthe importance of the principles set outin the Code, it should be given a broadand generous interpretation . Whenthere is a difference or conflict betweenthe Code and another Ontario law, theCode has priority unless the other lawspecifically states otherwise.And Whereas these principles have beenconfirmed in Ontario by a number ofenactments of the Legislature and itis desirable to revise and extend theprotection of human rights in Ontario;6Guide to your rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code

Part IFreedom fromdiscriminationThe Code protects people fromdiscrimination in specific situations.Under the Code, you have the right tobe free from discrimination in five partsof society – called social areas – basedon one or more grounds .The five social areas are: employment,housing, services, unions and vocationalassociations and contracts .Discrimination based on 17 differentpersonal attributes – called grounds –is against the law under the Code . Thegrounds are: citizenship, race, place oforigin, ethnic origin, colour, ancestry,disability, age, creed, sex/pregnancy,family status, marital status, sexualorientation, gender identity, genderexpression, receipt of public assistance(in housing) and record of offences(in employment) .Your rights under the Code are notviolated unless the discrimination occursin one of the social areas based on oneor more of the protected grounds . Forexample, the Code does not apply if astranger on the street insults you bymaking a racist comment, because thisdid not happen in a specific social area,such as at your job or in a restaurant .1The Code will also not apply if you feelyou were treated differently in your jobdue to a personality conflict with yourmanager, because the treatment is notrelated to a ground such as your age,sex or race .To establish discrimination underOntario’s Human Rights Code, aclaimant must show that:1. they have a characteristic protectedby the Code (e .g . race)2. they experienced adverse treatment/impact within a social area (forexample, in accessing a service,housing or employment)3. the protected characteristic wasa factor in the adverse treatmentor impact .Guide to your rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code7

A person discriminates “directly” whenthe action itself is discriminatory andwhen the person acts on his or herown behalf . For example, a buildingmanager who refuses to rent anapartment because he prefers torent to someone of his own ethnicbackground is discriminating directly .“Indirect discrimination” is discriminationcarried out through another person . Forexample, a building manager tells hersuperintendent not to rent to peopleof a certain ethnic group because theirfood “smells too much .” The managercan be named in the human rights claimbecause she used the superintendentindirectly to discriminate against peoplebecause of their ethnic origin .Sometimes a rule or practice unintentionally singles out particular peopleand results in unequal treatment . Thistype of unintentional discrimination iscalled “constructive” or “adverse effect”discrimination . The Code also protectsagainst this type of discrimination . Forexample, an employer has a rule thatemployees are not allowed to wearhats or head coverings . The rule is notintended to exclude people who wearhead coverings for religious reasons,but it may have this effect . Unless anemployer can show that a change orexception to the rule would be toocostly or create a health and safetydanger, the employer should agree tochange the rule .8ServicesYou have the right to be free fromdiscrimination when you receive goodsor services, or use facilities . For example,this right applies to:llstores, restaurants and barsllhospitals and health servicesllschools, universities and collegesllpublic places, amenities and utilitiessuch as recreation centres, publicwashrooms, malls and parksllservices and programs provided bymunicipal and provincial governments,including social assistance and benefits,public transit and policingllservices provided by insurancecompaniesllclassified ads in a newspaper.This section also applies to businesses,government, community agencies andother organizations in Ontario .Services and ageYou must be at least 18 years old to filea human rights application based on ageunder this section . Parents or guardianscan file applications on behalf of childrenand youth under 18 .The Code permits special discounts forolder persons,2 “golden age” passes andother benefits for persons over 65 yearsold . Limits on selling tobacco and alcoholto people under 19 are also allowed .Guide to your rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code

Services and religionYou have the right to education,community and other services thatrespect your sincerely held religiouspractices and beliefs .3Housing4Every person has the right to be freefrom discrimination in housing becauseof Code-protected grounds . You havethe right to equal treatment whenbuying, selling, renting or being evictedfrom an apartment, house, condominiumor commercial property . This right alsocovers renting or being evicted from ahotel room .The Code applies to terms and conditionsin contracts and leases such as theamount of rent, security deposits, theneed for guarantors, occupants’ rules andregulations, ending a lease and eviction .Your right to housing without discrimination also includes suitable access todoors, laundry rooms, swimming pools,other common areas, repairs and otheraspects of housing .Housing and ageYou must be at least 18 years old tofile a human rights application basedon age, or 16 or 17 years old whenyou have legally withdrawn from yourparents’ authority . If you claim this rightwhen you are 16 or 17 years old, youhave the same legal responsibilities youwould if you were 18 years old .Housing and public assistanceA landlord cannot discriminate becauseof a person’s income source, suchas social assistance, family benefits,disability pension, or other forms ofpublic assistance .Shared housingThe right to be free from discriminationin housing does not apply if you sharehousing and a bathroom or kitchen facilitywith the owner or the owner’s family .Same-sex residencesThe right to be free from discrimination based on sex does not applyto residences that are male-only orfemale-only . An owner of a residencecan restrict access to that residence tomen only or women only . Trans peopleshould be provided access to theseresidences in accordance with theirlived gender identity .Lease applicationsand tenant screeningLandlords can use income information,credit checks, credit references, rentalhistory, guarantees or other similarbusiness practices for selecting tenants,as long as they do so in a way thatis consistent with the Code and itsregulations .Guide to your rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code9

Regulation 290/98 under the Codeallows landlords to request incomeinformation from a prospective tenantonly if the landlord also requests creditreferences, rental history, and creditchecks . The landlord must considerincome information together with allthe other information obtained .The Regulation specifically reaffirmsthat none of these assessment toolsmay be used in an unfair way to screenout prospective tenants based on Codegrounds . The criteria must be used ina genuine and non-discriminatory way .Adult-only buildingsIt is discrimination, under the ground offamily status, if you are denied housingbecause you have children . 5 Adult-onlybuildings are not permitted in Ontarioexcept for specific situations such assubsidized seniors’ residences or carefacilities .Harassment in housingEveryone has the right to be free fromharassment in housing because ofCode-protected grounds . “Harassment”means comments or actions that areunwelcome to you or should be knownto be unwelcome . You have the rightto be free from humiliating or offensiveconduct that is based on one or moreof the Code grounds . Harassmentrequires a “course of conduct,” whichmeans that a pattern of behaviouror more than one incident is usuallyrequired . For example, a landlord’srepeated demeaning comments abouthow a tenant uses a wheelchair could beharassment in housing . However, oneincident may be enough to support afinding of harassment where the incidentcreates a poisoned environment .Poisoned environmentYou might feel that your housing ishostile or unwelcoming to you becauseof insulting or degrading comments oractions that have been made aboutothers based on a ground in the Code .When comments or actions of thiskind have an influence on others andhow they are treated, this is known asa “poisoned environment .” A poisonedenvironment cannot, however, be basedonly on your personal views . You musthave facts to show that an objectiveperson would see that the commentsor conduct would make a person feelunwelcome based on Code grounds .ContractsEvery person having legal capacity hasa right to contract on equal termswithout discrimination because of anyCode ground .A contract is a legal agreement . It canbe a written or verbal agreement .10 Guide to your rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code

The right to enter into a contract onequal terms covers all steps in thecontract, including the offer, acceptance,price or even rejection of a contract .The Code covers all types of contracts,including contracts to buy a house,condominium or other type of residentialaccommodation, and contracts for buyinga business, such as office or retail space.The right to “equal treatment withrespect to employment” coversapplying for a job, being recruited,training, transfers, promotions, termsof apprenticeship, dismissal and layoffs .It also covers rate of pay, overtime,hours of work, holidays, benefits,shift work, discipline and performanceevaluations .For example, an automobile manufacturercannot refuse to enter into a contractwith the owner of a car dealershipbecause the owner is gay .People with disabilities have the right tobe provided with equipment, servicesor devices that will allow them to dotheir job .8Employment6Every person has the right to equaltreatment in employment withoutdiscrimination based on Code grounds .In Ontario, about three-quarters ofall human rights claims come fromthe workplace .Employment is used in a very general wayin the Code . Employees, independentcontractors7 and volunteers are covered .Human rights applications can befiled against employers – and alsoagainst contractors, unions or boardsof directors . Employers and unionshave a joint duty to make sure thatworkplaces are free of discriminationand harassment .Employment and ageIn employment, you must be at least18 years old to file a claim stating thatyou were discriminated against becauseof your age . There is no age maximumon the right to freedom from discrimination in the workplace because of age .This means that older persons, whofeel that they have discriminated againstbased on their age, may file a humanrights claim .9Employment andrecord of offencesWhen you apply for a job, you cannotbe asked if you have any kind of criminalrecord . However, employers can askwhether you have been convicted of afederal offence for which you have notreceived a pardon . You may be askedduring an interview whether you arebondable, if that is a requirement forthe job .Guide to your rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code11

Employment and unionsIf you are a member of a union, you mayhave the right to file a grievance underyour collective agreement . Check withyour shop steward or representative .would likely be found discriminatory .11Providing several alternatives andchoices is always preferable .Height andweight requirementsEmployers cannot come to an agreementwith a union or an employee that someor all of the Code does not apply tothem . Also, if a union does not supportan employer’s efforts to meet itsobligations under the Code, a humanrights application may be filed againstthe union .Minimum standards for height and weightsometimes unintentionally screen outcertain job applicants, such as womenand racialized persons . Such a standardis only allowed if it:Employment and creed102. was adopted in good faith, in thebelief that it is needed to fulfill thepurpose or goalYou have the right to employment thatrespects your sincerely held beliefsand practices . You may have religiousor creed-based needs such as prayerbreaks, religious or creed-based daysoff, and dress requirements . If you askyour employer to meet these needs, theyshould be met unless your employercan show that it would prevent youfrom doing the essential duties of yourjob, or would cause undue hardshipbased on costs or health or safety risks .In Ontario, employers can meet theirduty to accommodate time off forreligious holy days by searching forsolutions that allow time off withoutadverse employment consequences,including a loss of pay . However, forcingan employee to use vacation timeinstead of exploring other options1. was adopted for a purpose or goalthat is rationally connected to thefunction being performed3. is reasonably necessary to accomplishits purpose or goal, in the sense thatthe person cannot be accommodatedwithout undue hardship .The ultimate issue is whether the personresponsible for accommodation hasshown that accommodation has beenprovided up to the point of unduehardship .Employment, languageand accent12If you believe you have been discriminated against because of your languageor accent, you can make a human rightsclaim based on a number of grounds,such as ancestry, ethnic origin, place oforigin and race .12 Guide to your rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code

An employer can require that youspeak English fluently if it is a genuinejob requirement . An employer cannotuse language or accent as a way toscreen out racialized people or people ofparticular ethnic origins where languagefluency is not essential to the job.For example, an employer refuses tohire a person from Spain as a schoolbus driver because he does not speakfluent English. However, being fluentin English is not essential to the job .This could be discrimination becauseof place of origin .Employment, medicalexaminations and drugor alcohol testing13If an employer cannot show that it hasan effect on job safety and performance,drug and alcohol testing has been foundto be a violation of employee rights .Employment agenciesEmployment agencies cannot discriminate .They also cannot discriminate at therequest of a client . For example, anemployer asks an agency to sendthem a young, attractive woman fora receptionist position . This would bediscrimination based on age and sex .Section 23 of the Code talks aboutother issues in employment, such asjob applications, medical examinationsor inquiries, and interviews .Drug and alcohol dependencies, as wellas perceived dependencies, may beconsidered a form of disability underthe Code . While not all people withdrug and alcohol dependencies seethemselves as having a disability, theyare protected under the Code againstdiscrimination in the workplace basedon the ground of disability .Harassmentin employmentTesting for alcohol and drug use is a formof medical examination . Employmentrelated medical examinations orquestions, as part of the job screeningprocess, are prohibited . Medical examinations to determine the ability to doessential job duties should only be usedafter a conditional offer of employmenthas been made, preferably in writing .Harassment requires a “course ofconduct,” which means that a patternof behaviour or more than one incidentis usually needed . It doesn’t matterwhat type of business or employment itis – harassing behaviour based on Codegrounds in any employment setting isprohibited under the Code .14 Harassmentin the workplace is also prohibited underthe Occupational Health and Safety Act .15“Harassment” means comments oractions that are unwelcome to you orshould be known to be unwelcome .You have the right to be free fromhumiliating or annoying behaviour thatis based on one or more Code grounds .Guide to your rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code 13

Poisoned environmentYou might feel that your workplace ishostile or unwelcoming to you becauseof insulting or degrading comments oractions that have been made aboutothers based on a Code ground . Whencomments or conduct of this kindhave an influence on others and howthey are treated, this is known as a“poisoned environment .” A poisonedenvironment cannot, however, be basedonly on your personal views . You musthave facts to show that an objectiveperson would see the comments orconduct resulting in unequal or unfairterms and conditions .Vocationalassociationsand unionsThis section deals with your right tojoin and be treated equally in a union,professional or other vocationalassociation .This applies to membership in tradeunions and self-governing professions,including the terms and conditions ofmembership, rates of pay and workassignments . It would include employees’,employers’ and managers’ associations .Sexual harassment16Sexual harassmentin housing andworkplaces“Harassment” in this section meanscomments or actions based on sex,sexual orientation, gender identity orgender expression that are unwelcometo you or should be known to beunwelcome . They may include humiliatingor annoying conduct . Harassmentrequires a “course of conduct,” whichmeans that a pattern of behaviouror more than one incident is usuallyrequired for a claim to be made to theTribunal. However, a single significantincident may be offensive enough tobe considered sexual harassment .Women and men have the right to befree from sexual and gender-basedharassment . Sexual harassment includesunwelcome sexual contact and remarks,leering, inappropriate staring, unwelcomedemands for dates, requests for sexualfavours, spreading sexual rumours(including on-line) and displays of sexuallyoffensive pictures or graffiti. For example,an employer’s repeated and vulgarsexual comments to an employee couldconstitute sexual harassment .The comments or conduct do nothave to be sexual in nature . Someonemay tease or bother you because ofgender-based ideas about how men or14 Guide to your rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code

women “should” look, dress or behave .If you are a trans person, you areprotected from degrading comments,insults or unfair treatment becauseof your gender identity or genderexpression .17Poisoned environmentYou might feel that your workplace ishostile or unwelcoming to you becauseof insulting or degrading comments oractions that have been made aboutothers based on the ground of sex .When comments or conduct of thiskind have an influence on others andhow they are treated, this is known asa “poisoned environment .” A poisonedenvironment cannot, however, be basedonly on your personal views . You musthave facts to show that an objectiveperson would see the comments orconduct resulting in unequal or unfairterms and conditions .Sexual solicitationYou have the right to be free fromunwelcome advances or requests forsexual favours made by a boss, supervisoror other person in a position of authority .Example: A supervisor makesunwanted sexual advances to anemployee . In this situation, it may beimplied, directly or indirectly, that apromotion is at risk of being denied ifthe person does not agree to acceptthe advances .If the supervisor punishes the personbecause he or she rejected the advance,this is called a “reprisal” . This kind of“getting even” is not allowed underthe Code .Example: A female employee is firedor demo

Guide to your rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code The Ontario Human Rights Code is for everyone . It is a provincial law that gives everybody equal rights and opportunities without discrimination in areas such as jobs, housing and services . The Code 's goal is to prevent discrimination and harassment because of race, sex,

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