By Christine Jonathan
Originally published: June 7, 2016
Human rights codes across Canada prohibit discriminatory practices with respect to employment. Ontario's Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed (religion), sex (e.g., sexual harassment), sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, record of offences (e.g., a conviction for which a pardon has been granted), marital status, family status or disability. This prohibition applies to all aspects of the employment relationship, including hiring, discipline, promotion, work assignments and firing. Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy is defined as discrimination on the basis of sex. Employees also have a right to freedom from harassment due to any of the foregoing prohibited grounds in the workplace by the employer, an agent of the employer or by another employee.
Provincial commissions and tribunals may investigate and award damages for loss of income and other damages arising out of a discriminatory practice. They also have the discretion to order non-pecuniary remedies such as training, apologies or changes to workplace practices and policies.
At one time, mandatory-retirement policies were very common across Canada. However, mandatory retirement is increasingly treated as a form of age-related discrimination, unless the employer can establish a bona fide occupational reason why an employee must retire at a certain age as opposed to undergoing individualized fitness or aptitude tests. There is no legislated mandatory-retirement age. In large part, however, pensions are structured around a presumed retirement date of age 65 and it may be financially disadvantageous for an employee not to start retirement at age 65.