An employee in Canada is protected from discrimination in the workplace on the basis of ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, illness or disability, gender, place of origin, colour, age, race, family status, and from any form of harassment, especially sexual harassment.
An employer who takes a prejudicial action against an employee on the basis of any or a combination of the above commits a crime punishable under the laws of Canada.
But should you find yourself being a victim of any of the above forms of discrimination, there are a number of options at your disposal for pursuing justice.
1. Speak About It to Someone Close to You
Should you feel discriminated against, talk to someone close to you, preferably a non-work friend, a lawyer, spouse, or a counsellor. Lay the facts of your perceived discrimination before them and ask for their opinion. You will need to clear your head and rationally look at the situation from someone else’s perspective. Once you have laid out the facts as you know them, listen carefully to the advice of the employment lawyer before making a decision on what steps to take next.
2. Confront the Offending Person
There is no law against being a snob, and some people are just plain jerks. Directly confronting and warning such people may nip further discrimination in the bud. Let them know that you will file a complaint against them if they don’t stop their offending behaviour.
3. Talk to Your Supervisor about the Discrimination
The first thing you need to do is to bring to the attention of your supervisor the fact that you feel your rights have been violated. In an ideal situation, your supervisor should initiate investigations to establish the veracity of your claims. Technically, this action should be able to forestall further discrimination.
4. Record or Document Everything
If you sense you are being discriminated against, start documenting incidences of discrimination right away. Proving a discrimination case can be a Herculean task if you don’t have documented evidence. Document both direct and circumstantial evidence to build a water-tight case should you decide to escalate your complaints. Such documentation should include emails, conversations, memos, texts, etc. Note as much details about these episodes as possible since you may have to rely on circumstantial evidence.
5. Lodge an Official Complaint with the HR Department
If after talking to your supervisor you still feel your complaints have not been properly addressed, you might want to consider filing an official complaint of the discrimination with the company’s HR department. The report should feature detailed circumstantial and direct evidence of the discriminative incident. The HR department should look into your complaint and compile a report after evaluating your claims. Should the HR report dismiss your claims, or in case you are not in a position to file a complaint right away, you might want to contact the relevant government body or union to have your grievances heard and appropriate action taken.
6. Seek Legal Redress
If all the above options fail, consider seeking legal redress. In the doctrine of constructive dismissal, an employee can sue for damages after leaving work. If you feel your continued stay at your workplace further increases discrimination against you, you can leave and then sue for damages and human rights violations away from work. Should your case be successful, you may be reinstated or receive compensation for lost wages, pain and suffering.
7. Get Legal Representation
The last thing you want is to represent yourself in a workplace discrimination case. You will need the services of an advocate who completely knows the applicable laws and has had experience handling cases such yours. Such an advocate should have a track record of demonstrable results in workplace discrimination claims.
While you may feel uncomfortable or intimidated, keeping silent in the face of workplace discrimination only makes matters worse.