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Respect in the Workplace: Grounds for Discrimination

Organizations must ensure that their employees work in a respectful environment – one that is free of discrimination and harassment.

The Respectful Workplace

  • A respectful workplace is safe and welcoming. It is one in which workers are treated fairly and with respect and dignity. Workers are valued and supported by the organization, their supervisors, and their co-workers.
  • A respectful workplace is an inclusive one and does not tolerate any type of harassment or discrimination.
  • A respectful workplace is one in which everyone feels part of the community and can contribute fully.

Discrimination in the Workplace

A workplace that permits discrimination is everything a respectful workplace is not. Discrimination can be driven by several factors, such as race, creed, gender, and disability, among others. Workplace discrimination is any action that:

  • Discrimination is usually based upon personal prejudices or stereotypical assumptions.
  • Can be intentional or unintentional. Even discrimination that is not meant can still have a negative or adverse impact.
  • Excludes or restricts an individual or group of individuals in any aspect of the employment relationship based on one or more of the prohibited grounds listed below:


The Human Rights Code lists the following human rights grounds that one must not discriminate against  in Ontario

  • Age – 18 years or more
  • Ancestry
  • Citizenship
  • Colour
  • Creed (religious beliefs)
  • Disability
  • Ethnic origin
  • Family status
  • Gender identity, gender expression
  • Marital status
  • Place of origin
  • Race
  • Record of offences (of which a pardon has been granted)
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation


Language is not a legislated ground. However, Ontario accepts language complaints on the grounds of ancestry, ethnic origin, place of origin and race.

Duty to Accommodate

  • Organizations must accommodate people with disabilities who face difficulties performing certain tasks as a result of their disability.
  • The accommodation process is a shared responsibility between the worker, the employer (and unions, if appropriate).
  • The accommodations must be provided in a way that most respects the dignity of the person, as long as it does not create undue hardship for the organization.
  • If the accommodation costs so much it would change the nature of the business, or if it would substantially affect the ability of the business to survive, it would be considered undue hardship. In this case, the business would not be required to make the accommodation. However, it would still have to look at less expensive alternatives.


It is every worker’s responsibility to treat their co-workers, supervisors, clients and members of the public with respect, regardless of the level of assistance they may need.

This means that employees are expected to:

  • treat  co-workers with dignity and in a way that you want to be treated.
  • encourage each other to be  accountable for any discriminatory or disrespectful behaviour.
  • when required, report observations or concerns to your supervisor or any member of Human Resources immediately so that the proper course of action can be taken.


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