What is the Alberta Human Rights Act?

In Alberta, individuals are protected from discrimination pursuant to the Alberta Human Rights Act (the “Act”). The purpose of the Act is to provide Albertans with protection of their human rights. The Act allows people to make a complaint if they feel that they have experienced harassment or have been discriminated against in the specific protected areas and the specific protected grounds protected under the Act.

What are the Protected Areas under the Act?

The Act prohibits discrimination in the following areas:

  • statements, publications, notices, signs, symbols, emblems or other representations that are published, issued or displayed before the public;
  • goods, services, accommodation or facilities customarily available to the public;
  • tenancy;
  • employment practices;
  • employment applications or advertisements; and
  • membership in trade unions, employers’ organizations or occupational associations.

What are the Protected Grounds under the Act?

The Act protects against discrimination that occurs based on a number of protected grounds in connection with several protected areas. Under the Act, it is illegal to discriminate against an individual on the basis of:

  • Race ;
  • Religious beliefs;
  • Colour;
  • Gender (including pregnancy and sexual harassment);
  • Gender identity and expression;
  • Physical disability;
  • Mental disability;
  • Age;
  • Ancestry;
  • Place of origin;
  • Marital status;
  • Source of income;
  • Family status; and
  • Sexual orientation.

Direct Discrimination vs Indirect Discrimination?

People have argued that the difference between direct and indirect discrimination is plainly spelled out in the names. But this argument has flaws and needs to recognize all the possible ways people may face discrimination.

Direct discrimination is less subtle than indirect or adverse discrimination. It is often made to feel personal, maybe even resulting in the form of in-your-face harassment. If a victim with a legally protected ground can show that they were treated worse because of it, this is unlawful direct discrimination.

Indirect discrimination is more subtle, hidden in hiring practices, systemic issues, and personal biases. These cases can be more challenging to prove, as the ones violating human rights protections may hide their reasoning. Illegal indirect discrimination can be shown if you or your minority group are disadvantaged in the workplace. Suppose the employer makes no attempts to rectify the problem. In that case, they could be guilty of indirect discrimination in the workplace because they are explicitly making things harder for a protected group of people. Policies and rules have to change to reflect a changing workforce. If workplace policies put you at a disadvantage because of a protected ground, you may have a case for indirect discrimination.

What Are Examples of Direct Discrimination?

Examples of direct discrimination include:

  • Biases informed by racial stereotypes that negatively affect the workplace.
  • Creating a toxic work environment for an employee to make them feel unwelcome because of their sexual orientation.
  • Declining to hire an otherwise capable applicant because of their age.
  • Terminating a woman because she is pregnant.
  • Harassing an employee because of race, ethnicity, creed, or gender.
  • Refusing to give work to an employee because the employee is a woman.
  • Sexual harassment targeting a woman in a workplace full of men.
  • Treating an employee with a disability without respect.

What Are Some Examples of Indirect Discrimination?

Examples of indirect discrimination include:

  • Employees getting passed over for promotions they deserve because of a bias against their race, gender, sexuality, etc.
  • An employer not considering accommodations for an employee who is pregnant.
  • Jobs that do not welcome disabled employees.
  • Silent refusal to employ job candidates of a certain age, race or gender.

Do You Need a Lawyer?

Discrimination can cause significant life setbacks to a person’s employment, housing status, relationships, financial stability, and mental health. Violations of an individual’s protected human rights should be taken seriously.

If you believe you’ve been discriminated against by an employer or other authority figure, you should speak to a lawyer immediately. At Getz Collins and Associates, our lawyers have experience representing clients who have been the victims of discrimination. Under our legal guidance, we will assist you in filing an official complaint and attempt to get you the outcome you deserve.

Call our firm today to schedule your initial consultation at 587-391-5600.