If an employer discriminates against you in a way that goes against Ontario's human rights laws, you might be able to make a claim against the employer. You do this with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
The Tribunal could order the employer to pay you money or even offer you a job.
What human rights laws say about discrimination
Employers aren't allowed to discriminate for reasons that go against human rights laws.
This means that, in most cases, an employer can't decide not to hire you because of:
- your race, colour, ancestry, ethnic origin, citizenship, or where you were born
- your religious beliefs
- a physical or mental disability, including an addiction
- having children, planning to have children, or being pregnant
- your marital status, for example, married, divorced, single, or living common-law
- your sex or gender
- your sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression
- your age if you are at least 18
- being convicted of a crime if you have a pardon or record suspension
Some employers say they have rules that apply to everyone and they can't hire you if you can't follow them. But what the employer is doing might be discrimination if you can't follow a rule for a reason that goes against your human rights.
For example, an employer might have a dress code or rule about what people have to wear at work. And this rule might apply to everyone. But the employer might have to let you dress differently if you wear something for religious reasons.
Asking about experience in Canada
An employer should not ask if you have "Canadian experience", unless they can show that you need it to do the job.
An employer can ask you if you're allowed to work in Canada. But, for most jobs, it's difficult for an employer to show that work experience in Canada is necessary.
If an employer refuses to hire you because you don't have experience working in Canada, you might be able to make a human rights claim. Find out more about this in the Next Steps below.
Hiring people from specific groups
You may see some job postings that say that the employer is hiring people who belong to a specific group or groups.
The law lets employers do this for specific reasons. These might be to help groups that are often discriminated against or because an organization works with a specific group of people and needs to hire someone from that group to do some types of work.
Here are some examples:
- A big company might have a special hiring program to try to make their workforce more diverse by including more people from a variety of racial communities.
- An organization that serves a specific group, like young people, might be allowed to hire younger workers to do community outreach work.
Most employers in Ontario must follow the Ontario Human Rights Code. The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario deals with complaints against these employers.
But some industries are covered by federal laws. These are laws made by the Government of Canada and they apply throughout the country. These industries include banks, airlines, some trucking businesses, and broadcasting. The Government of Canada website has a more complete list.
Employers in these industries must follow the Canada Labour Code. The Canadian Human Rights Commission deals with complaints against these employers.
If you think an employer discriminated against you by not hiring you, you can get free legal advice and information from the Human Rights Legal Support Centre.
The Centre can help you figure out:
- whether to make a claim with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario
- what might help you prove that an employer discriminated against you
The Centre also helps people when they apply to the Tribunal and, in some cases, at the Tribunal.
You can also check out the Centre's online tool Can We Help You? to see if you might be able to make a claim.
If you think an employer didn't hire you for a reason that goes against your human rights, you can apply to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
The Tribunal can decide if an employer has discriminated against you. You start the process by making an application to the Tribunal.
What the Tribunal can do
If the Tribunal decides that your employer broke the law, they can order that the employer:
- pay you money
- give you a job
- change its hiring practices so they follow human rights laws
You can ask for money to cover costs that you had or to replace money that you were forced to spend because of what the employer did.
You can also ask for money because of how the employer's actions affected you. When an employer does not respect your human rights, this can hurt you. The Tribunal can order the employer to pay you money for the hurt they caused you. You don’t have to show that their actions cost you money.
What to say in your application
In your application, you say:
- what happened
- why you think the employer's decision is against your human rights
For example, an employer's decision is against human rights laws if:
- they won't hire a woman because she's pregnant
- they won't hire anyone who speaks English with an accent that's not Canadian
- they refuse to consider making any changes to the workplace for someone in a wheelchair
- they won't consider anyone who wears a hijab or other type of head covering
Sometimes employers won't say why you didn't get the job. But you might have other evidence that shows why they didn't hire you, such as:
- questions that they asked you
- rules that the employer applies to everyone even if they go against someone's human rights
For example, an employer might say they have rules about wearing a uniform. But you might need to wear something different because of your religious beliefs.
The deadline to apply to the Tribunal is one year from the date you were discriminated against.
If you miss the deadline, you can still apply. But in your application, you need to explain why you're applying late. If you have a good reason, for example, you couldn't apply because you were in the hospital, the Tribunal can decide to let you apply late.
Learn more about starting a claim at the Tribunal in How to complete an Application form to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.