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Anti-discrimination And Anti-harassment Policies

Explanation and justification

Anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies make it clear that harassment and discrimination will not be tolerated, and they establish behavior norms and expectations. An anti-harassment or anti-discrimination policy should define what constitutes discriminatory or harassing behavior, as well as send the sense that these issues are taken seriously. Roles and responsibilities should also be defined in the policy. These human rights policies should be linked to current organizational policies and woven into the organization’s everyday operations.

Points to Think About

Discrimination in the form of harassment is a specific type of discrimination. Some companies have separate policies for harassment and other forms of discrimination because harassment creates specific difficulties.

Furthermore, because harassment and discrimination based on the various Code grounds can take many forms, some organizations have policies in place to address discrimination and/or harassment based on sexual orientation, race and race-related grounds, sex, gender identity and gender expression, and other factors.

Anti-harassment and anti-discrimination rules establish expectations and standards, while complaint procedures outline how any violations of these policies will be dealt with. Many businesses opt to merge their anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies and procedures into one document.

Additionally, businesses might design a competing rights policy to manage circumstances when workplace rights may conflict. This policy can be included in a larger anti-discrimination/anti-harassment policy or it can stand alone. The OHRC’s Policy on Competing Rights outlines what should be included in this type of organizational policy.


Note: The sample wording in the sections below is for employment, but it can easily be changed to address housing or services. Only as an example, the sample wording is presented. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to policy or practice. Policies and procedures must be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that they comply with current human rights law and policy and are relevant for your company.

1. The dedication of the organization

A policy should include a clear expression of the organization’s commitment to promoting equality and inclusion, as well as generating and preserving respect for human rights.

XYZ Organization is dedicated to creating an atmosphere free of discrimination and harassment, in which all individuals are treated with decency and respect, and have equal opportunity to contribute fully.

Every person has the right to be free of harassment and discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code. At XYZ Organization, harassment and discrimination will not be allowed, condoned, or disregarded. If a charge of harassment or discrimination is established, disciplinary sanctions, including termination of employment, will be implemented.

XYZ Organization is committed to a comprehensive anti-harassment and anti-discrimination strategy, which includes:

  • providing education and training to ensure that everyone understands their rights and obligations
  • checking organizational systems for impediments related to Code grounds on a regular basis
  • establishing a fair and effective complaints procedure
  • encouraging appropriate conduct norms at all times

2. The policy goals

The policy should state its goals, which should include supporting human rights within the organization, eliminating harassment and discrimination, and outlining behavior rules and standards.

The policy’s goals are as follows:

Ensure that XYZ Organization’s members, clients, and associates are aware that harassment and discrimination are unacceptable activities that are incompatible with the organization’s standards and are also illegal.

Set forth the forms of conduct that may be offensive and are forbidden by this policy.

3. Putting the policy into action

The policy should specify the activities that will be undertaken and who it will apply to. In the workplace, for example, Code safeguards have been broadened to include temporary, casual, and contract employees, as well as volunteers. Employees are protected from harassment and discrimination by their coworkers, managers, and superiors, as well as from the behavior of others who enter the workplace, such as suppliers or clients. Employees may be protected while off the job or during non-working hours if their activities are related to their job. Employees have the right to work in an atmosphere free of harassment and discrimination from clients, suppliers, and others who come into contact with them. Post the policy or make it available to the public.

Organizations must also prevent harassment and discrimination in their public services, according to the Code. Dealings with consumers, potential customers, and business associates such as suppliers fall under this category.

Both renters and applicants in rental housing have the right to be free of harassment. Landlords may be held accountable if they fail to take reasonable efforts to safeguard renters from harassment by other tenants or visitors, such as maintenance and other support employees.

All employees, including full-time, part-time, temporary, probationary, casual, and contract employees, as well as volunteers, co-op students, interns, and apprentices, have the right to be free of discrimination and harassment.

When interacting with clients or others with whom they have professional contacts, such as suppliers or service providers, it is likewise inappropriate for members of XYZ Organization to participate in harassment or discrimination.

This policy covers all aspects of the workplace environment and employment relationship, including recruiting, selection, promotion, transfers, training, salaries, benefits, and termination, at all levels of the company. Rates of compensation, overtime, hours worked, vacations, shift work, discipline, and performance assessments are all covered.

This policy also applies to events that take place outside of the office, such as company parties or business travels.

4. Make a list of protected areas and explain why they are protected.

Discrimination is prohibited in five areas of society, known as “social areas”: employment, housing, services, contracts, and membership in trade, vocational, and professional groups. Protection is provided on the basis of 17 grounds (see below). Set out the applicable Code grounds in your policy, together with any appropriate definitions. It’s worth noting that the Code reasons differ based on the social area in question. The ground of “record of offenses” is only applicable in the social area of employment, whereas the ground of “receiving of public assistance” is only applicable in the social area of housing.

While the Code forbids discrimination on the basis of sex because of pregnancy, it may be beneficial for policy to specifically mention pregnancy-related discrimination and harassment, as many people are unaware of this protection.

People may be subjected to discrimination and harassment as a result of the intersection of numerous grounds of discrimination, according to the policy (intersectionality). A person who is harassed because she is a Muslim lady, for example, can submit a complaint based on both sex and creed.

Organizations may opt to provide additional protection beyond what the Code requires. Some organizations, for example, prohibit psychological harassment as well as discrimination and harassment based on political beliefs.

Discrimination or harassment on the basis of any of the following grounds, or any combination of these grounds, is prohibited under this policy:

  •  Age

  • Religion (religion)

  • Sexuality (including pregnancy and breastfeeding)

  • Sexual preference

  • Gender identification

  • Gender identity

  • Relationship status (such as being in a parent-child relationship)

  • Relationship status (including married, single, widowed, divorced, separated or living in a conjugal relationship outside of marriage, whether in a same-sex or opposite-sex relationship)

  • Incapacity (including mental, physical, developmental or learning disabilities)

  • Race

  • Ancestry

  • Origination location

  • Origins of ethnicity

  • Citizenship

  • Colour

  • Offenses on record (criminal conviction for a provincial offence, or for an offence for which a pardon has been received)

  • Affiliation or a link with a person who has been identified by one of the reasons listed above

  • Perception that one of the grounds listed above applies.