VIII. Preventing and Responding to Discrimination Based on Family Status

Organizations and workplaces can take a number of steps to prevent and appropriately address human rights complaints. Important elements of an organization’s strategy to address human rights issues related to family status include:

1. Anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies and complaint procedures

Anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies are valuable tools in promoting equity and diversity within an organization. Adoption, implementation and promotion of these policies can help to limit potential harm, and reduce the organization’s liability in the event of a complaint. These policies should explicitly address discrimination based on all grounds of the Code, including family status.

These elements should be developed in co-operation with workplace or organization partners where they exist, such as unions. Unions are important partners in the creation of a non-discriminatory workplace. As part of a "best practices" initiative, they should work with employers in the development of internal policies and procedures.

A detailed description of best practices for developing and implementing such policies and procedures can be found in the Commission’s publication, Human Rights at Work.[43]

2. Barrier review and removal programs

Organizations should take proactive steps to ensure that policies, programs, rules and requirements are not having an adverse impact based on family status. Organizations should undertake regular reviews, and based on their findings, develop and implement barrier removal strategies. Examples of common barriers are found in the sections on Employment, Housing, and Services.

As well, organizations should ensure that whenever new policies, procedures, rules and requirements are developed, their possible impact on persons identified by family status is considered, and that the most inclusive options are selected, short of undue hardship.

3. Education and training

Education and training are essential components of any organization’s human rights strategy. Both management and staff should have a solid understanding, not only of the requirements of the Code and of the organization’s own human rights policies and procedures, but also of the common barriers and stereotypes facing persons identified by Code grounds, including family status.

Education and training are not a panacea for all human rights issues: they will work most effectively when partnered with strong and effective policies and procedures, and a proactive strategy for developing an inclusive organization.

[43] Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario and Ontario Human Rights Commission, 2004, at chapter V. See also the Commission’s publication, Developing Procedures to Resolve Human Rights Complaints within Your Organization (1996), available online at

Organizational responsibility: