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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. Letter to MCSCS regarding data on the use of segregation

    June 15, 2016 - Dear Minister Orazietti, Congratulations on your appointment as Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.  The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) is looking forward to working closely with you, especially as you continue to review the use of segregation within provincial jails, as well as the treatment of immigration detainees held in provincial custody.

  2. Dress Code checklist for employers

    From: OHRC policy position on sexualized and gender-specific dress codes

    Removing barriers based on sex and gender

    This checklist can help organizations make sure that their dress codes and uniform policies are consistent with Ontario’s Human Rights Code protections relating to sex and gender, as set out in the OHRC’s Policy position on sexualized and gender-specific dress codes.

    Dress codes/uniform policies should:

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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:

  6. Sexual harassment & sex discrimination at work

    From: OHRC policy position on sexualized and gender-specific dress codes

    March 8, 2016 - The OHRC recognizes the severe impacts of sexual harassment on working women and trans people. It can reduce employees’ morale, decrease productivity and contribute to physical and emotional effects such as anxiety, depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. The United Nations’ Declaration of the Elimination of Violence Against Women specifically recognizes that sexual harassment is a form of violence against women.

  7. OHRC policy position on sexualized and gender-specific dress codes

    March 8, 2016 - Some Ontario employers require female employees to dress in a sexualized or gender-specific way at work, such as expecting women to wear high heels, short skirts, tight clothing or low-cut tops. These kinds of dress codes reinforce stereotypical and sexist notions about how women should look and may violate Ontario’s Human Rights Code.

  8. 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.

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