Friday, 16 November 2012

Amendments to the Ontario Human Rights Code

On June 15, 2012, the Ontario Human Rights Code celebrated its 50th anniversary.   On the eve of its Golden Jubilee, the Ontario Human Rights Code expanded the scope of its protection by enshrining  “gender identity” and “gender expression” as a protected ground of discrimination.

What does this mean for employers? This significant amendment expands the scope of an employer’s obligation to ensure a harassment free environment.  As a preliminary matter, employers should ensure they have workplace policies in place that capture the scope of this new protected ground of discrimination.  Additionally, employers should be proactive and consider educating employees on issues relating to gender identity and gender expression.  This includes, but is not limited to what it means to be “intersex”, “transsexual”, or “transgender”.  More importantly, employers should take this opportunity to communicate clear expectations regarding appropriate conduct in the workplace. 

How employers shall exercise their  duty to accommodate gender identity and/or gender expression remains to be seen.  Some issues could include but not be limited to the use of, or membership in gender designated facilities and/or social groups.   

Ontario is the first jurisdiction in North America to afford protection to gender expression and gender identity in human rights legislation.  No doubt, this amendment has the potential to transform most workplace cultures. 

*Please contact the Carvery Law Firm should you have any questions regarding the above.

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