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Sex

The Code does not specifically define the ground of “sex,” but the OHRC considers it to be related to a person’s biological sex, male or female. Men and women receive equal protection under this ground. The ground of “sex” also includes a broader notion of “gender,” which can be described as the social characteristics attributed to each sex.

The Code protects men and women from harassment and discrimination, including assumptions about their abilities that result from stereotypes about how men and women ”should” behave, dress or interact. The right to equal treatment without discrimination because of sex also applies to pregnancy.

Relevant policies: 

  1. Policy on preventing discrimination because of pregnancy and breastfeeding

    October 2014 - This policy sets out the OHRC’s position on discrimination based on pregnancy and breastfeeding at the time of publication. It deals primarily with issues that fall within the jurisdiction of the Ontario Code, and which can form the subject matter of a human rights claim. At the same time, the policy interprets the protections of the Code in a broad and purposive way, consistent with the principle that the quasi-constitutional status of the Code requires that it be given a liberal interpretation that best ensures its anti-discriminatory goals are met.

  2. Human rights obligations related to pregnancy and breastfeeding: Case law review

    October 2014 - This case law review looks at important developments in the law dealing with discrimination based on pregnancy and breastfeeding between 2008 and January 2014.[1] The discussion of the law in Ontario is intended as a resource, to be read along with the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Policy on Preventing Discrimination because of Pregnancy and Breastfeeding (the Policy)[2], about the rights of women[3] who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, who have had a baby or who are breastfeeding. However, it is not legal advice.

  3. Pregnancy

    From: Guide to your rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code

    The Code protects a woman because she is or was pregnant, may become pregnant, has just had a baby or other pregnancy-related situations.[27] Pregnancy includes the process of having a baby from conception up to the period following childbirth. It also includes the post-delivery period and breastfeeding.

    The term “pregnancy” takes into account all the special needs and circumstances of a pregnant woman and recognizes that the experiences of women will differ. Special needs can be related to:

  4. Can I fire a woman whose pregnancy is preventing her from doing the job she was hired to do?

    From: Frequently asked questions

    It is discrimination if you fire, demote or lay off an employee because she is or may become pregnant or she is away on maternity leave or disability leave related to pregnancy. Employers have a duty to accommodate a pregnant woman unless it would cause undue hardship. This may include changing her job duties temporarily or providing time off work.

  5. Restrictions of facilities by sex

    From: Guide to your rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code

    This section allows separate washrooms, examination areas, change rooms and other services that are men-only or women-only. Trans people should be provided access to facilities that are consistent with their lived gender identity.[34]


    [34] For more information, see the OHRC’s Policy on discrimination and harassment because of gender identity (2000).

  6. Commission appeals advance human rights law (fact sheet)

    June 2006 - Over the past ten years, the Commission has been involved in 72 judicial review decisions, 32 decisions on appeal at the Divisional Court, 40 decisions from the Court of Appeal, and 17 from the Supreme Court of Canada. As of March 31, 2006, the Commission was litigating 462 cases at the Tribunal, eight cases before the Divisional Court, three in the Ontario Court of Appeal, and two before the Supreme Court of Canada.

  7. Policy on preventing sexual and gender-based harassment

    May 2013 - Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination based on sex. The Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) prohibits all forms of discrimination based on sex, and includes provisions that focus on sexual harassment. The principles set out in this policy will, depending on the circumstances, apply to instances of sexual harassment in any of the social areas covered by the Code. However, to reflect the most important recent developments in the law and in social science research, this policy will focus on the areas of employment, housing and education.

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