Your Employment Rights

Ontario Human Rights Code

Every person has the right to equal treatment in employment without discrimination in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code which covers employees, independent contractors and volunteers. The right to “equal treatment with respect to employment” covers:

  • applying for a job
  • terms of apprenticeship
  • hours of work
  • discipline
  • overtime
  • being recruited
  • dismissal and layoffs
  • holidays
  • promotions
  • shift work
  • performance evaluations
  • rate of pay
  • benefits
  • training

Understanding your rights under the code is important because employers and unions have a joint duty to make sure workplaces are free of discrimination and harassment and the more you know, the more you can self-advocate for yourself.

For example, did you know that People with disabilities have the right to be provided with equipment, services or devices that will allow them to do their job? Or did you know that it is against the code for employers to ask you about race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, the record of offences, age, marital status, family status or disability? 

The code covers a lot and it can feel overwhelming at first but do not worry because we've got you covered. Our career services team has highlighted sections of the code below. 

Employment and age

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Anyone over the age of 18 may file a human rights claim if they feel they've been discriminated against because of age in the workplace.

Height and weight requirements

Minimum standards for height and weight are only allowed if it is adopted in good faith, rationally connected to the function being performed, and the employee cannot be accommodated without undue hardship.

Employment and unions

In many instances, in accordance with the collective agreement, union members have a right to file grievances. If an employee is not supported by the union under the cod, employees have a right to file a human rights application against the union.

Employment agencies

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Employment agencies cannot discriminate or discriminate at the request of a client. For example, an employer asks an agency to send them a young, attractive man for a banquet hall serving role. This would be discrimination based on age and sex.

Employment and Creed

Unless employers can show that it would prevent employees from doing the essential duties of their job, employees have a right to have their religious and creed-based needs met without undue hardship based on costs or health and safety risks. This includes accommodating prayer breaks, religious or creed-based days off, and dress requirements. 


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If you have a disability, you have a right to accommodations in the workplace unless it's unduly costly or would create real health or safety dangers. To learn more, visit our Disabilities, Well-being, & Accommodations tab. 

Family Planning and Pregnancy

Women studying

When interviewing, employers cannot ask questions including: “Are you pregnant?”, “Do you have a family?”, and “Do you plan to have a family?” You also have a right to request changes to your job duties or rules that affect you for the sake of your health when you are pregnant. To learn more, review the Ontario Human Rights Commission Guide.

Employment and record of offences

Employers cannot ask if you have any kind of criminal record but they can ask you if have been convicted of a federal offence for which you have not received a pardon. They can also ask if you are bondable if required by your job.

Gender, Race, Sexual Identity and Orientation

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Employers are not allowed to ask questions, directly or indirectly, about race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. If you believe you have been discriminated against because of the mentioned grounds, you can file a human rights claim. To learn more, visit our 2SLGBTQIA tab


Harassment in Employment and Exercising your Rights

You have the right to be free from harassment based on Code grounds in any employment setting under the Code. Harassment in the workplace is also prohibited under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

If you believe your rights under the Code have been violated, you can file a human rights application with the Tribunal or file a grievance under your collective agreement. To learn more, review the Ontario Human Rights Commission Guide.

Employment, medical, examinations and drug or alcohol testing

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People with drug and alcohol dependencies are protected under the Code, based on the ground of disability, against discrimination in the workplace. During the job screening process, employers are not allowed to test for or ask questions about alcohol or drug use.

Once a conditional offer of employment has been made, only then can employers use medical examinations to determine the ability to do essential job duties but only if the employee can show that drug and alcohol use has an effect on job safety and performance otherwise employers can be found to be a violation of employee rights. 

Employment Standards Act

In addition to your Ontario Human Rights, when it comes to your employment rights, it's also important to review and understand your rights and obligations under the Employment Standards Act, which covers minimum wage, hours of work limits, termination of employment, public holidays, pregnancy and parental leave, severance pay, vacation and more.

Learn more


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