Discrimination at Work – While employment law in Canada is designed partly to protect against workplace discrimination, the sad reality is that discrimination still happens.  Indeed, harassment and discrimination manifest in many ways, but federal law protects everyone in the workplace regardless of ethnicity, nationality, gender, religion, ability, age, sexual orientation, and other identities.  If you are an employee and you feel unfairly subjected to harassment or discrimination, it is important that you take steps to protect your right to a discrimination-free workplace.  So how do you deal with discrimination at work?

Document Inappropriate Acts

Sometimes people are ignorant to discrimination.  They may not feel their actions are discriminatory, but this is not an excuse for the behaviour.  As a victim, you should take care to document your experiences ensuring to include all the relevant details.  Describe the event in question, whether witnesses were present, and include facts such as date, time of day, and even the weather or other conditions that substantiate your account of events.  If there is physical evidence of harassment or discrimination such as photos, emails, or notes, you should keep those as well.

Inform your Employer

The first step in protecting yourself is informing your employer about perceived discrimination or harassment.  In many cases, acts of discrimination can go unnoticed in the workplace either because the perpetrator avoids inappropriate actions where witnesses are involved or because colleagues are ignorant to the acts.  As a victim, it is important to declare that you are experiencing discrimination, and in fact this is your legal responsibility.  Also, make sure your employer knows that you are taking matters seriously and you plan to contact the appropriate legal parties to make a formal complaint regarding the discrimination.

Know Your Rights

Not only should you review local and federal protections regarding harassment and discrimination, you should also review your company’s policies so you know how you are protected.  Most employers will have an official anti-discrimination policy which will support your position so you should retain a copy of that policy in case it is required for future legal action.

You’re Not Alone

Many employees ignore discrimination and/or harassment conducted against them or their colleagues, but this does not mean you are alone.  Whether your colleagues lack the courage to speak up or they are complicit in the inappropriate acts, it is important to know that there is legislation enacted to protect you from harassment and discrimination.  It is also important to know that ongoing discrimination can have a significant negative impact on your health and well-being, so if you’re already experiencing stress and anxiety around what you perceive to be discrimination, don’t ignore it.  Seek help so that at the very least you can establish a safe and comfortable working environment for you and your colleagues.

DISCLAIMER: The content of this article, and this website generally, is not intended as legal advice and cannot be relied upon as legal advice.  To provide legal advice on your problem, a lawyer must first understand your specific situation.

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