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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. Policy on height and weight requirements

    June 1996 - Standards for height and weight are sometimes used to screen or evaluate job applicants. In the OHRC's experience, this tends to occur in recruitment for occupations that traditionally have been male dominated. These standards or selection criteria are based on the average physical stature of men in the majority population group. Women and members of racialized groups are, on the average, physically smaller than members of the majority population group. Consequently, these groups tend to be disadvantaged by height and weight criteria. The policy of the OHRC with regard to such recruitment practices is set out below. This policy applies to all height and weight criteria used in the context of employment.
  3. 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.

  4. 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.