The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) recognizes that it is a legitimate goal for employers to have a safe workplace. Safety at work can be negatively affected by many factors, including fatigue, stress, distractions and hazards in the workplace. Drug and alcohol testing is one method employers sometimes use to address safety concerns arising from drug and alcohol use. Drug and alcohol testing has particular human rights implications for people with addictions. Addictions to drugs or alcohol are considered “disabilities” under the Ontario Human Rights Code (Code). The Code prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and perceived disabilities in employment, services, housing and other social areas.
Policies and guidelines
The OHRC’s Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability is intended to provide clear, user-friendly guidance on how to assess, handle and resolve human rights matters related to disability. All of society benefits when people with disabilities are encouraged and empowered to take part at all levels.
March 8, 2016 - Some Ontario employers require female employees to dress in a sexualized or gender-specific way at work, such as expecting women to wear high heels, short skirts, tight clothing or low-cut tops. These kinds of dress codes reinforce stereotypical and sexist notions about how women should look and may violate Ontario’s Human Rights Code.
This policy is a complete revision and update of the OHRC’s original Policy on creed and the accommodation of religious observances first published in 1996. It sets out the OHRC’s position on creed and accommodating observances related to a person's creed. The policy offers Ontario citizens and organizations ways to address and prevent discrimination and conflict based on creed in an informed, proactive and principled way.
October 2014 - This policy sets out the OHRC’s position on discrimination based on pregnancy and breastfeeding at the time of publication. It deals primarily with issues that fall within the jurisdiction of the Ontario Code, and which can form the subject matter of a human rights claim. At the same time, the policy interprets the protections of the Code in a broad and purposive way, consistent with the principle that the quasi-constitutional status of the Code requires that it be given a liberal interpretation that best ensures its anti-discriminatory goals are met.
June 2014 - The OHRC’s Policy on preventing discrimination based on mental health disabilities and addictions is intended to provide clear, user-friendly guidance on how to assess, handle and resolve human rights matters related to mental health and/or addictions. All of society benefits when people with mental health or addiction disabilities are given equal opportunity to take part at all levels.
April 2014 - People who are transgender, or gender non-conforming, come from all walks of life. Yet they are one of the most disadvantaged groups in society. Trans people routinely experience discrimination, harassment and even violence because their gender identity or gender expression is different from their birth-assigned sex. Under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) people are protected from discrimination and harassment because of gender identity and gender expression in employment, housing, facilities and services, contracts, and membership in unions, trade or professional associations.
July 2013 - While the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) recognizes the significance of all of the barriers newcomers potentially face when trying to access the job market, this policy will focus on “Canadian experience” as an employment or accreditation requirement, and as a practice that raises human rights concerns. The OHRC’s position is that a strict requirement for “Canadian experience” is prima facie discrimination (discrimination on its face) and can only be used in very limited circumstances. The onus will be on employers and regulatory bodies to show that a requirement for prior work experience in Canada is a bona fide requirement, based on the legal test this policy sets out.
May 2013 - Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination based on sex. The Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) prohibits all forms of discrimination based on sex, and includes provisions that focus on sexual harassment. The principles set out in this policy will, depending on the circumstances, apply to instances of sexual harassment in any of the social areas covered by the Code. However, to reflect the most important recent developments in the law and in social science research, this policy will focus on the areas of employment, housing and education.
April 2012 - The main goal of this policy is to provide clear, user-friendly guidance to organizations, policy makers, litigants, adjudicators and others on how to assess, handle and resolve competing rights claims. The policy will help various sectors, organizations and individuals deal with everyday situations of competing rights, and avoid the time and expense of bringing a legal challenge before a court or human rights decision-maker. It sets out a process, based in existing case law, to analyze and reconcile competing rights. This process is flexible and can apply to any competing rights claim under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, provincial or federal human rights legislation or another legislative scheme.