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Human Rights at Work 2008 - Third Edition

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I. Introduction

This is the third edition of Human Rights at Work. Since it was first launched in 2000, Human Rights at Work has been seen as an essential tool for employers and all partners in the workplace. This edition includes an expanded section on how to create a workplace that promotes the values of the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code).[1]

The book has also been re-organized and expanded to guide employers in their efforts to proactively comply with the Code at all stages of employment, from advertising to discipline right through to retirement and termination. Human Rights at Work helps employers create an environment where each employee’s rights are respected and human rights complaints are prevented or fairly resolved.

This kind of human rights compliance is not just a legal requirement. It is also a wise business practice.

First, this book is geared to the needs of employers, including executives, managers and supervisors, because they have the primary responsibility for making sure the rights of their employees, and people in the workplace, are upheld. But, this book is not only an “employer’s resource.” The Commission has heard that human resource professionals rely on this book as an authority when advising supervisors and managers on human rights. This book is also a valuable tool for people trying to implement enhanced human rights practices such as staff of internal human rights offices, accommodation specialists, unions and other employee representatives. Individual employees can refer to sections of the book when talking with their unions, managers or supervisors about their own rights and the corresponding duties in a specific situation.

Human Rights at Work is written by the Ontario Human Rights Commission (the Commission) and published by Carswell Thomson Publishing (Carswell), in partnership with the Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario (HRPA of Ontario). HRPA is the premier human resources association in Canada, providing knowledge, innovation and leadership to 16,000 members in Ontario. HRPA and Carswell are included in the contact list in Appendix C.

This book does not replace the legal authority of the Code. The full text of the Code is available on the provincial government’s “e-laws” website at:

The Commission has developed policies and guidelines on many specific human rights issues, such as racism and racial discrimination, sexual and gender-based harassment, disability accommodation, pregnancy and breastfeeding, age discrimination, gender identity, sexual orientation, and family status. A list of the Commission’s policies is included in Appendix A. This book highlights and expands on the main elements of these policies and guidelines. It does not replace them. We encourage you to carefully review the policies and guidelines that apply to your situation, to develop a deeper understanding of your human rights obligations.

The information in this book is not intended to replace legal advice. For help with a human rights matter, seek expert advice. If you have questions about the Code or the Commission’s policies, contact the Commission at:

Phone: 416-326-9511 (Toronto area)
Local TTY: 416-326-0603
Toll Free: 1-800-387-9080
Toll Free TTY: 1-800-308-5561

Or visit us on the web at, for more information about the Code and human rights law in Ontario, including Commission policies and plain language documents. You can also e-mail Commission staff through this site.

Written decisions of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (the Tribunal) are available free of charge online from CanLii’s website at Paper copies are also available from the Ontario Workplace Tribunals Library, which is open to the public and located at 505 University Avenue, 7th floor, Toronto. The decisions provide information about the Code as it applies to specific fact scenarios, including remedies ordered by the Tribunal.

This book was written and published after amendments to the Code were passed that led to major changes in the human rights system in Ontario. At the time of writing (March 31, 2008), the details of the transition were just unfolding, and future editions will better reflect the new system. However, this will not affect the basic messages and information this book contains. The principles included here reflect the Commission’s position on key human rights issues and will continue to apply even after the transition period is completed. The term “human rights claim” is used throughout this book to reflect the broad range of ways that human rights issues could be raised, both in the old system and in the new system:

  • human rights complaints filed with the Commission up to June 30, 2008
  • applications directly filed with the Tribunal on or after June 30, 2008
  • human rights allegations raised before labour arbitrators or other administrative tribunals
  • allegations of human rights violations made before the courts (where this is part of another claim – for example, a wrongful dismissal action).

For more information about the human rights system, see Section IV-12i) – “Dealing with formal human rights complaints or applications” and “Dealing with discrimination claims in courts and administrative tribunals.”

[1] R.S.O. 1990, c. H. 19, as amended (“the Code”).

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