Alberta Disability Workers Association
Building a Valued, Proud & Professional Workforce
Human Rights

Canada – Several pieces of human rights legislation exist in Canada to protect people from discrimination. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is part of the Constitution of Canada. It guarantees that Canadian citizens have the right to believe what they wish and express their opinion, get together with others peacefully, vote in elections, move around Canada and try to make a living, leave and return to Canada, live freely and securely, and have equal protection of the law with other citizens.

The Canadian Human Rights Act bans discrimination by federally regulated employers and service providers against people on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and conviction of a crime that was pardoned or whose record was ordered suspended. The Canadian Human Rights Act only applies to a limited number of people and bodies. Federally regulated employers and service providers include banks, airlines and all levels of government, including First Nations. If you believe you have been discriminated against on prohibited grounds by a government employer, you would make a complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission within 1 year of the event. Complaints of discrimination against others would be made based on provincial human rights law, which must be in line with the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Alberta – The Alberta Human Rights Act protects people from discrimination based on race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, source of income, physical disability or mental disability. People are not allowed to discriminate against you in hiring, continuing employment, or the terms or conditions of employment. Unions cannot discriminate either. Men and women must get equal pay for similar work. Independent contractors and subcontractors are also considered to be in an employment relationship with those who pay them, as far as this law is concerned. If you believe that you have been discriminated against by an employer on one or more prohibited grounds, you may make a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

Is it discrimination? – Sometimes in disability work, a job posting may say the position is only open to males or only to females. While this looks like gender discrimination on the surface, it generally is not. The individual being supported may need support to be from a particular gender for many reasons, including the personal nature of the service they need, past experience with abuse, and respect for their personal preferences.

The law says that an employer is not discriminating against you by failing to hire you or keep you on if you cannot do the job. Each job has required skills, abilities and characteristics that are important to completing the work successfully. These are called bona fide occupational requirements. For instance, many jobs require a certain level or type of education, or having a working vehicle with a safe driving record.

The law also says that employers have a duty to accommodate, as long as the accommodation can be made without too much expense (reasonable accommodation). If you need time off at a particular time each week to meet religious obligations, this may be accommodated by adjusting schedules. If you have been injured and have a disability that requires modified work, (e.g., back injury that prevents you from lifting and transferring individuals), your employer has an obligation to try to accommodate your disability within its means. This could involve a change in position or who you provide support to (assuming you work for an agency supporting multiple individuals rather than a family). If a reasonable alternative is offered and you refuse it, your employer is not required to keep offering you other alternatives.

Note: Please be aware that the Alberta Human Rights Act also bans discrimination in housing, public notices, and access to public facilities and services. ADWA has chosen to focus on workplace issues only.

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Human Rights in the Workplace

If you have questions about whether you have been discriminated against, please contact the Alberta Human Rights Commission. In the northern part of Alberta, phone 780-427-6013 between 8:15 a.m. and 4:30 pm. In the southern part of Alberta, phone 403-297-6571.