Dealing with workplace harassment, bullying and discrimination to create a respectful workplace

        all forms of


When someone at work faces harassment such as racial harassment, religious harassment, gay harassment or age harassment, not everyone is certain how that is handled.  However, since the courts have ruled that sexual harassment is a form of discrimination based on sex (or gender), they have continued to interpret harassment to include protections on other forms of discrimination covered under human rights legislation. What other types? Depending on the provincial, territorial or federal human rights legislation, your list is made up from a number of the protected grounds noted below:

If an employee is being harassed, but that harassment doesn’t qualify under the protected grounds of discrimination, the human rights commission will not be able to legally assist that employee. The person being harassed and her employer will want to deal with the problem somehow, but it won't be through human rights. Human rights commissions are designed to take care only of issues under their jurisdictions – not all problems that ail us. (but seeing “bullying” below)


If a provincial, territorial or federal commission does not offer all the protected grounds, be aware that a person can argue a new case to forge new ground. In Alberta, Delwin Vriend was fired from his job because he was gay. Since sexual orientation was not a protected ground in Alberta, Vriend was unable initially to secure protection from the province's human rights commission. But after many appeals, the Supreme Court of Canada "read in" protection of sexual orientation to the province's legislation, and the province did not attempt to overturn the decision.  Therefore, due to Mr. Vriend’s case, throughout Canada, heterosexual men and women, gay men, lesbians and bisexual men and women receive protection if they have a complaint based on their sexual orientation.


If I were in charge of a business, I wouldn’t lose sleep over whether an employee might end up influencing the Supreme Court to change laws, but I would make sure employees don't feel they have to go elsewhere to resolve internal matters. Just because harassment based on hair loss is not protected by human rights law doesn't mean you should allow one employee to call another employee "cue-ball."


In fact, most Canadian employees work in provincial jurisdictions that protect bullying, often referred to as psychological harassment, general harassment or personal harassment.  For extensive information about this, and suggestions on how to handle bullying, go to  the Workplace Bullying page.

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