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Updated Policy on preventing discrimination because of pregnancy and breastfeeding

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October 28, 2014

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Toronto – The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) released an updated version of its Policy on preventing discrimination because of pregnancy and breastfeeding in an eLaunch today.

An hour-long webinar – available at – provides an overview of the policy, offers a Q&A opportunity, and features several speakers.

“Pregnancy and breastfeeding are health issues, and they’re human rights issues. Women have the right to make personal choices, in a society that is free from discrimination,” said Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall.

It is against the law to discriminate against someone based on sex – which includes pregnancy or breastfeeding – at work or when accessing goods and services.

This means that you cannot discriminate against persons who choose – or choose not – to breastfeed. It is also unlawful to discriminate against women because they had an abortion, miscarriage or stillbirth, are trying to become pregnant, or have complications or specific needs related to pregnancy.

“We continue to see regular reports of women not getting hired or losing their jobs because they are pregnant, or getting fired when they take or return from a maternity leave. These are just a few of the reasons we decided to update our policy – to provide an up-to-date reminder that these rights exist, and that employers, landlords and service providers have a legal obligation to respect these rights,” Ms. Hall said.

“We are delighted to partner with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care in launching this updated policy,” she added.

“I believe that as a society we must make it as easy as possible for women to breastfeed. This will go a long way to ensuring the best possible start for our children,” said Associate Minister of Long-Term Care and Wellness Dipika Damerla.

The updated policy outlines the needs of and barriers faced by women who are or will be mothers and offers a plain-language guide for employers, landlords and service providers on how to address, handle, resolve and prevent any pregnancy or breastfeeding-related discrimination or harassment in their organization.

The policy has been updated to incorporate case law changes since 2008 and make the document consistent with other OHRC policies. The policy:

  • Expands the duty to accommodate to housing and service providers
  • Includes a section on gender identity and gender expression to include trans men’s and gender diverse people’s perspectives
  • Adds new policy positions based on recent case law changes – for example, widening the definition of “pregnancy” to include “trying to become pregnant”

You can review the policy at

A French version of the webinar will be available soon.


For more information, call:
Afroze Edwards
Senior Communications
Ontario Human Rights Commission