Part 1 - Visioning Diversity & Inclusion

Legal Standards

Canadian legislation outlines minimum legal requirements regarding anti-discrimination, employment equity, and disability accommodation.  Federal and provincial legislation cover different aspects.

Provincial legislation includes:
Ontario Human Rights Code ensures equal rights and opportunities in five social areas including the workplace without discrimination or harassment on a number of grounds.  Almost all non-profits fall under provincial jurisdiction for human rights legislation.  Employees, independent contractors and volunteers are covered by this protection.

Specifically, the right to “equal treatment with respect to employment” covers applying for a job, being recruited, training, transfers, promotions, terms of apprenticeship, dismissal and layoffs. It also covers rate of pay, overtime, hours of work, holidays, benefits, shift work, discipline and performance evaluations.  People with disabilities have the right to be provided with equipment, services or devices that will allow them to do their job.

Federal legislation includes:
The Employment Equity Act which ensures that no person is denied employment opportunities for reasons other than ability. It aims to achieve equality and correct conditions of disadvantage in the workplace for four specific groups: women, Aboriginal Peoples, members of visible minorities and people with disabilities. The Employment Equity Act applies to federally regulated industries, Crown corporations and other federal organizations with 100 employees or more, as well as portions of the federal public administration.  Compliance requires detailed data management – assistance can be found here.

The Canadian Human Rights Act entitles all individuals to equal opportunities without regard to race or colour, national or ethnic origin, religion, age, family or marital status, sex (including pregnancy or childbirth), pardoned conviction, disability (either physical or mental or as the result of dependency on alcohol or drugs) or sexual orientation. Organizations are required to ensure that their policies and practices are fair and equitable, and that they help prevent discrimination, harassment or retaliation towards people who work for your organization.  The Canadian Human Rights Act applies to only federally regulated businesses.  Compliance assistance can be found here.

Ontario has a specific act dealing with accessibility:
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) makes building accessible organizations mandatory in Ontario.  All employers must comply, but only those with 20 or more employees must report on their compliance. The Act includes accessibility standards in customer service, information and communications, employment, transportation, and built environment.  In terms of employment, organizations must:

  • let job applicants know that recruitment and hiring processes will be modified to accommodate their disabilities, if requested
  • build the accessibility needs of employees into their human resources practices
  • create a written process (this is a requirement for organizations with 20 or more employees)  for developing and documenting individual accommodation plans for employees with disabilities
  • help employees stay safe in an emergency by providing them with individualized emergency response information when necessary

Additionally, the duty to accommodate refers to the legal obligation of an employer, service provider or union to take steps to eliminate disadvantages to employees, prospective employees or clients resulting from a rule, policy, practice, behaviour or physical barrier that has or may have an adverse impact on individuals or groups protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act, or identified as a designated group under the Employment Equity Act. This includes the hiring process, as well as the accommodation of an individual once employed. 
However, while legislation facilitates equal access and opportunity in the workplace, it takes a full cultural and attitudinal shift to ensure full and lasting diversity and inclusion within an organization.


Dig Deeper

Accessibility Laws – The Ontario government has an easy to follow overview of the obligations, reporting requirements and standards for workplaces of different sizes.
HR Council legal considerations – overview of legal issues for human resources in the whole not-for-profit sector
Accessibility Ontario – excellent Ontario-based source of consultation and training for Ontario organizations about accessibility requirements, templates and resources