The Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”) was recently amended to extend protection from discrimination to individuals on account of their gender identity or gender expression. The amending Bill, officially titled the Right to be Free from Discrimination and Harassment Because of Gender Identity or Gender Expression, 2012, but more commonly known as Toby’s Act, also expressly extended protection from harassment in employment on the basis of sexual orientation.
Many human rights adjudicators have struggled to protect individuals from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression, and have typically done so on the basis of an expanded definition of what constitutes one’s “sex”.
While the amendments to the Code provide some degree of clarity on this issue, the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” are not defined. The Ontario Human Rights Commission has defined gender identity as linking to one’s “intrinsic sense of self” and particularly “the sense of being male or female”, and includes transsexuals, transgenderists, intersexed persons, transvestites and cross-dressers.
However these concepts are ultimately applied, these additions to the Code will undoubtedly affect the way many employers currently do business, as it is now explicitly unlawful to deny or restrict employment opportunities or services on the basis of gender identity or gender expression. To avoid potential liability, employers should turn their mind to how these amendments may impact their organization, including taking steps to ensure that all policies and practices are in compliance.
If you have any questions about how these changes may affect your organization, or any other questions relating to workplace law, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer.
For more information on new developments in Workplace Law, please refer to our website at: http://www.mathewsdinsdale.com/news-events/in-a-flash/
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