Toronto Human Rights Employment Lawyer

Employers have an obligation to provide their employees with a workplace free from discrimination and harassment and ensure each employee is afforded the same opportunities as those of their colleagues. These rights are guaranteed at the provincial level under Ontario’s Human Rights Code, and at the federal level under Canada’s Human Rights Act. As part of protecting their employees’ human rights, employers are required to accommodate certain needs to the point of undue hardship. When an employer fails in this regard, an employee will often have a claim for damages, or reinstatement of employment if failure to accommodate resulted in termination or resignation.

At Haynes Law Firm, our team has been representing employees in human rights claims for over 25 years. Focused on employment law since the firm’s inception, we are well-versed in employee human rights claims. If you are facing a potential human rights issue at work, we will provide you with a practical and educated overview of what to expect from your claim, including an honest assessment of the likelihood of success, as well as the spectrum of potential outcomes. We’ll advise you with respect to the best path forward, which may involve negotiation or mediation, or dispute resolution before the appropriate human rights tribunal.

Who is Entitled to Human Rights Protections in the Workplace?

The scope of human rights protection in a workplace is broadly defined in the relevant legislation to include the following groups:

  • Full-time employees;
  • Part-time employees;
  • Temporary or contract staff;
  • Interns and apprentices; and
  • Anyone else who visits a workplace, including clients, customers, and suppliers.

Each of these groups is entitled to attend a workplace free of harassment and to have their essential rights accommodated whenever possible.

Depending on the nature of the workplace, human rights protections may be governed by federal or provincial legislation. Most private workplaces in Ontario will fall under the provincial Human Rights Code; however, certain federal workplaces are governed by the Canadian Human Rights Act. These workplaces include:

  • Banks;
  • Airlines and airports;
  • Other transportation companies with a federal presence, including railways and bus companies;
  • Broadcast organizations, including radio and television stations; and
  • Telecommunications companies.

While protections are similar between the federal and provincial laws, the venue for dispute resolution will change depending on which laws apply to a specific workplace.

The Duty to Accommodate

Employers are required to accommodate their employees’ needs based on the characteristics set out in the relevant legislation. The duty to accommodate refers to an employer’s obligation to provide an employee with certain adjustments to their work environment when required to enable them to perform their job effectively.

The duty to accommodate can affect many areas of an employment relationship, including the methods, location, and times an employee performs their duties, workplace policies relating to dress code, and even the specific function an employee provides.

The duty to accommodate is most commonly associated with disability. If a person has or develops a disability requiring them to change an aspect of their work environment, an employer is obligated to find a suitable accommodation to the point of undue hardship. For example, if a person becomes unable to type due to a chronic or long-term wrist injury, an employer may be required to provide technology that allows the employee to type using voice-activated dictation.

Accommodation may also be required in other protected areas, such as family status. If an employee has children who need to be picked up every afternoon, an employer might accommodate this need by adjusting the employee’s hours or allowing the employee to work from home.

Employees are entitled to modifications of various aspects of their job in order to accommodate the following characteristics:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Family status
  • Marital status
  • Ancestry, colour, or race
  • Citizenship
  • Creed
  • Gender identity or expression
  • Record of offences
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

What is “Undue Hardship?”

“Undue hardship” refers to the lengths an employer is required to go to when exploring possible accommodations. While employers are required to explore all possible options for accommodation, they are not obligated to spend inordinate amounts of money or otherwise negatively impact their business. What qualifies as undue hardship will vary from case to case, however, it will be the employer’s responsibility to demonstrate undue hardship if they are unable to accommodate an employee’s needs.

Proving undue hardship requires evidence that is:

  • Objective
  • Real
  • Direct
  • Quantifiable (when cost is cited as a factor)

Employers must provide specific data to support a claim of undue hardship; merely claiming the cost is too high, or the risk too great will not be sufficient.

Contact Haynes Law Firm in Toronto for Employee Representation in Workplace Human Rights Claims

At Haynes Law Firm, we often represent clients facing human rights issues at work. When possible, we’ll seek to limit the cost and time involved in a formal dispute resolution by making an attempt to resolve a matter through negotiation or mediation. When necessary, however, we are confident and adept advocates, representing our clients’ interests before provincial or federal human rights tribunals. We bring the experience necessary to place our clients on equal footing with their employer in any dispute. To discuss how the employment law team at Haynes Law Firm can assist you in your human rights claim, please contact us online, or by phone at 416-593-2731.