What Qualifies as Workplace Discrimination in Alberta?


Posted by heritagelaw on Aug 15, 2019 in Blog, Employment Law

Workplace discrimination is an unfortunately gray area for employees when it comes to how they are treated in the workforce. While laws such as the Alberta Human Rights Act exist to protect individuals, knowing what constitutes as discrimination can be difficult.

Thankfully, our team of experienced lawyers can help you determine if you are experiencing unfair treatment in your workplace.

The Alberta Human Rights Act

The Alberta Human Rights Act is a form of law that prohibits discrimination based on personal characteristics. These characteristics include:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Ancestry
  • Place of origin
  • Religious beliefs
  • Gender/gender identity/gender expression
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Marital status
  • Age
  • Physical disability
  • Mental disability
  • Family status
  • Source of income

This act protects employees and those seeking employment from being treated differently based on any of these characteristics.

Discrimination, Bullying and Harassment

Many tend to use these terms interchangeably but they are actually completely different occurrences.

Bullying refers to unreasonable and repeated behavior that affects someone’s mental and/or physical health. An example of workplace bullying is spreading malicious or false rumors about someone.

Harassment is defined as any offensive, intimidating, threatening or humiliating acts or comments. Sexual harassment falls under this category.

Discrimination, however, is often not as obvious as bullying or harassment. Discrimination involves subpar treatment based on the above protected characteristics.

Examples of Workplace Discrimination

Workplace discrimination exists in many forms. If you’re not sure what discrimination looks like, here’s some examples:

  • Pay gaps between genders.
  • Loss of shifts.
  • Promotions based on favoritism.
  • Having Autism and job qualifications but not being hired.
  • Being made to do undesirable tasks.
  • Not hiring pregnant women or mothers.
  • Not hiring older individuals.
  • Not hiring due to religious or cultural dress (head scarves, etc.).
  • Specify ideal candidate in a job ad based on personal characteristics (such as specifying candidate must be male or white).

Some more broad examples of workplace discrimination include unfair hiring and firing procedures and denial of benefits and leaves (such as maternity leave or retirement).

Dealing with Discrimination

Talk to someone you trust.

Workplace discrimination can too often be a subtle occurrence and not blatently obvious. If you are experiencing any behavior from an employer or coworker that makes you uncomfortable, speak to someone you trust about. They may be able to offer an objective view and help to clarify what is happening.

If there is no one you feel comfortable speaking to, or if you are still not clear on whether or not discrimination is occurring, you can always talk to a lawyer. A quick call can do a lot to clarify the situation.

Document everything.

Be sure to write down what is happening. Describe who is exhibiting the discriminatory behavior and what they are doing, as well as the date, time and location of the behavior.

You may want to also make copies of any evidential emails and reviews. If you can access a copy of your company’s anti-discrimination policy, either from their website or handbook, do so.

Plan your approach.

Depending on the severity of the discriminatory act, you may want to contact a lawyer or deal with the issue yourself.

If the matter involves issues that are affecting your position or your career, the best thing to do is talk to a lawyer. You may feel compelled to communicate with your company’s HR department – speaking to a lawyer first will ensure that your problem is legit and not ignored.

If the person discriminating against you is simply a thoughtless and prejudice individual, you may want to deal with the issue yourself.

In this case, you can discuss the issue with your supervisor/manager or the HR department. Provide them with your documentation and explain in an assertive and objective manner how this individual is affecting you. Remember that you are reporting an issue in order to seek resolve, not trying to change anyone’s opinion about anyone else.

Feel like you’re being treated unfairly at your place of work?

Contact us today and we can help you clarify your situation and establish the appropriate steps in resolving your workplace situation.