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Sex

The Code does not specifically define the ground of “sex,” but the OHRC considers it to be related to a person’s biological sex, male or female. Men and women receive equal protection under this ground. The ground of “sex” also includes a broader notion of “gender,” which can be described as the social characteristics attributed to each sex.

The Code protects men and women from harassment and discrimination, including assumptions about their abilities that result from stereotypes about how men and women ”should” behave, dress or interact. The right to equal treatment without discrimination because of sex also applies to pregnancy.

Relevant policies: 

  1. Can I fire a woman whose pregnancy is preventing her from doing the job she was hired to do?

    From: Frequently asked questions

    It is discrimination if you fire, demote or lay off an employee because she is or may become pregnant or she is away on maternity leave or disability leave related to pregnancy. Employers have a duty to accommodate a pregnant woman unless it would cause undue hardship. This may include changing her job duties temporarily or providing time off work.

  2. Policy on height and weight requirements

    June 1996 - Standards for height and weight are sometimes used to screen or evaluate job applicants. In the OHRC's experience, this tends to occur in recruitment for occupations that traditionally have been male dominated. These standards or selection criteria are based on the average physical stature of men in the majority population group. Women and members of racialized groups are, on the average, physically smaller than members of the majority population group. Consequently, these groups tend to be disadvantaged by height and weight criteria. The policy of the OHRC with regard to such recruitment practices is set out below. This policy applies to all height and weight criteria used in the context of employment.
  3. Discussion paper: Human rights issues in insurance

    October 1999 - The objective of the Paper is twofold: to promote dialogue on protecting human rights in the insurance industry and to examine alternatives to current practices by obtaining input from experts, regulators and consumers. Access to insurance in our society raises significant issues about distributive justice and fairness in the public sphere, issues that have received scant attention in Canada and in Ontario where rate setting has traditionally been viewed as a private matter.
  4. Consultation report: Human rights issues in insurance

    October 2001 - In October 1999, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a Discussion Paper for public consultation entitled Human Rights Issues in Insurance. This Consultation Report summarizes comments and viewpoints that were communicated to the Commission. The Report also examines possible directions to ensure human rights issues in insurance continue to receive attention in the future. A summary of relevant Code sections and selected case law is included in the appendices.
  5. Sexual harassment in education (brochure)

    2011 - The Ontario Human Rights Code prohibits sexual harassment in education. “Education” includes primary, secondary and post-secondary education, and school activities such as sports, arts and cultural activities, school functions, field trips and tutoring. Sexual harassment may also occur as part of school rituals, such as when initiating new students, new players in team sports, or new members of sororities and fraternities. More and more, students are being sexually harassed online. Technology, such as e-mail, blogs, social networking sites, chat rooms, dating websites, text messaging features, etc., provides new frontiers for the sexual harassment.

  6. OHRC Insurance consultation cover letter

    October 14, 1999 - Insurance practices routinely make distinctions based on, among other things, gender, age, marital status and disability. While many of these distinctions are based on valid business practices, others raise questions and concerns. These concerns relate to the existence of non-discriminatory alternatives to current practices and about respect for human rights.

  7. Restrictions of facilities by sex

    From: Guide to your rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code

    This section allows separate washrooms, examination areas, change rooms and other services that are men-only or women-only. Trans people should be provided access to facilities that are consistent with their lived gender identity.[34]


    [34] For more information, see the OHRC’s Policy on discrimination and harassment because of gender identity (2000).

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