Types of Workplace Discrimination

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Types of workplace discrimination comes in many forms. Fortunately, we live in an era where companies, employers, and even employees are more sensitive to the myriad forms of discrimination and are also more likely to take steps to eliminate this insidious workplace behaviour. Still, despite the very simple definition of employment discrimination, it can be difficult to spot which makes it equally difficult to eliminate. So then, what is employment discrimination and what are the various types of workplace discrimination that may occur?

Basically, employment or workplace discrimination constitutes unfavourable treatment of an individual based on qualities such as ethnicity, country of origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or age. In Canada, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms makes it illegal to discriminate on essentially any individual characteristic or quality with respect to employment. Additionally, it is important to understand that workplace discrimination protections extend beyond hiring and firing practices – though fair and equal hiring practices are fundamental to eliminating employment discrimination. Indeed, laws to prevent workplace discrimination are intended to prevent unfair treatment based on individual differences such as race, religion, gender, nationality, and sexual orientation with respect to promotions, referrals, and a wide range of employment practices.

There are various manifestations of employment discrimination. One common example of workplace discrimination is harassment. Harassment may include unwanted behaviour by an employer or co-worker based on the many individual differences briefly outlined already. The Canadian Human Rights Act outlines several categories (or grounds) that are protected from discrimination and these include race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, disability, genetic characteristics, or a pardoned conviction. Any time a person feels adversely affected by another’s behaviour on these grounds, they would have a case for workplace discrimination.

How then are these types of discrimination encountered in the workplace? Some specific examples of workplace or employment discrimination include, but are not limited to:

  • Describing discriminatory candidate qualities in a job advertisement,
  • Excluding particular candidates during employment recruitment,
  • Denying compensation or benefits to employees based on discriminatory grounds,
  • Disparate pay rates for equally-qualified employees,
  • Discriminatory assignment of leave including disability or maternity leave,
  • Denying certain individuals access to workplace facilities, or
  • Firing/laying-off individuals on discriminatory grounds.

As you can see, though discrimination is a reasonably straightforward practice to understand and identify, there are many different ways it can manifest and it can affect many different people. Organizations and individuals are increasingly more subtle about discriminatory practices so they can be difficult to eliminate entirely.  As such, it is important for everybody to be educated about workplace discrimination, how to spot it, and how to respond to prevent these practice from recurring in the future.

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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