Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, every person has a right to equal treatment in the provision of services and facilities, occupation of accommodation, contracts and in employment. Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, all employers are required to have a workplace harassment policy, program, to provide information, instruction and to protect workers from workplace harassment.
The City of Toronto, its Agencies, Corporations and citizen advisory committees/bodies are committed to respectful, equitable service delivery and employment practices. Every person has a right to equal treatment in the provision of services and facilities, occupation of accommodation, contracts and in employment. This policy articulates the City’s commitment to prevent and address harassment and discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The goal of this Policy is to recognize the dignity and worth of every person (whether resident, service recipient or employee) and to create a climate of understanding and mutual respect.
The City of Toronto will not tolerate, ignore, or condone discrimination or harassment and is committed to promoting respectful conduct, tolerance and inclusion. All employees are responsible for respecting the dignity and rights of their co-workers and the public they serve. The City’s Human Rights and Anti Harassment/Discrimination Complaint Procedures provide a range of dispute resolution options for employees, service recipients and Members of Toronto City Council who believe that they may have experienced discrimination and/or harassment. All complaints shall be treated confidentially and there shall be no reprisal.
This policy applies to all City of Toronto employees, volunteers, Accountability Officers and their staff, elected officials and their staff, and to all aspects of the employment relationship. Toronto Public Service (TPS) staff are expected to abide by this policy, the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Occupational Health and Safety Act and any other relevant City Policy and legislation. This policy should be read in conjunction with the Complaint Procedures.
Citizen advisory committees/bodies, members of the public, service recipients, visitors to and users of City facilities/public space and individuals conducting business with, for or with support from the City of Toronto, are expected to adhere to this policy. This includes refraining from discriminating and/or harassing City of Toronto employees, elected officials and persons acting on behalf of the City of Toronto. If such discrimination and/or harassment occur, the City of Toronto will take action to ensure a harassment/discrimination-free workplace, facility and service provision, including barring a harasser from its facilities, limiting services, discontinuing business and/or revoking contracts with consultants or contractors.
Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to City services and facilities, without discrimination or harassment because of one or more of the following prohibited grounds:
Every person has a right to equal access with respect to the occupancy of City-owned accommodation, without discrimination because of one or more of the following prohibited grounds:
Every person having legal capacity has a right to contract on equal terms without discrimination because of one or more of the following prohibited grounds:
All City contracts, agreements or permits for programs and services delivered by a third party individual or organization that has been (i) contracted under the City’s Purchasing Bylaw, (ii) awarded a grant under the Toronto Grants Policy, (iii) is receiving financial support from the City or (iv) using City facilities through a permit, will include a signed copy of the Declaration of Compliance with Anti-Harassment/Discrimination Legislation and City Policy, and be subject to contract provisions regarding consequences for non-compliance.
Every person has a right to equal treatment in employment without discrimination or harassment because of one or more of the following prohibited grounds:
* These grounds are included in the City’s policy, but are not explicitly covered by the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
** Workplace harassment as defined in the Occupational Health and Safety Act includes harassment based on sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation and non-Code harassment, i.e., harassment that is not based on a prohibited ground listed above. The HRAP addresses this type of harassment in section 4.10-4.13.
All Toronto Public Service employees, volunteers, Accountability Officers, elected officials and their staff are responsible for:
The Human Rights Office (HRO) will provide confidential advice and/or assistance to Toronto Public service recipients, facility users and employees regarding their rights and to management regarding their obligations to appropriately address harassment and discrimination. HRO staff will impartially explore complaints/allegations of harassment and discrimination and undertake independent investigations for any Toronto Public Service staff person or recipient of municipal service(s). HRO staff do not advocate, act on behalf of, or represent any party in dispute (complainant, respondent, management). All complaints to the HRO will be dealt with in an unbiased manner.
The focus of the HRO is to prevent, correct and remedy harassing and/or discriminating behaviours that are contrary to this Policy. When investigating allegations, HRO staff may explore the conduct of parties beyond the complainant and respondent (including management) to ensure compliance with the policy. Staff in the HRO report to the City Manager through the Chief People Officer.
An allegation is an unproven assertion or statement based on a person’s perspective that the policy has been violated
The person alleging that discrimination or harassment occurred. There can be more than one complainant in a human rights complaint.
A complaint is a written or verbal report by a complainant alleging that they have experienced or witnessed harassment and/or discrimination based on one or more of the grounds identified in section 2.1-2.4 of this policy.
Discrimination is any practice or behaviour, whether intentional or not, which has a negative impact on an individual or group protected in the Ontario Human Rights Code (e.g., disability, sex, race, sexual orientation, etc.) by excluding, denying benefits or imposing burdens upon them. Discrimination may arise as a result of direct differential treatment or it may result from the unequal effect of treating individuals and groups in the same way. Either way, if the effect on the individual is to withhold or limit full, equal and meaningful access to goods, services, facilities, employment, housing accommodation or contracts available to other members of society and their membership in a prohibited ground was a factor, it is discrimination.
The legal obligation to take steps to eliminate disadvantage caused by systemic, attitudinal or physical barriers that unfairly exclude individuals or groups protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code. It also includes an obligation to meet the special needs of individuals and groups protected by the Code unless meeting such needs would create undue hardship. Failure to accommodate a person short of undue hardship is a form of discrimination (for service provision accommodation obligations, refer to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act; in the area of employment, refer to the City’s Accommodation Policy, Accommodation Procedures and Accommodation Guidelines.
For the purpose of this policy, the term employee includes: City of Toronto employees, job applicants and individuals performing services directly on the City’s behalf whether with or without compensation or benefit, excluding individuals providing services by way of service provision/third party contracts – see section 2.3
Equal treatment is treatment that brings about an equality of results and that may, in some instances, require different treatment. For example, to give all employees equal treatment in entering a building, it may be necessary to provide a ramp for an employee who requires the use of a wheelchair.
An incident is an event or occurrence in which discriminatory and/or harassing behaviour is exhibited in the workplace. An incident includes situations where an individual knows or ought to have reasonably known that the behaviour is contrary to this policy. An incident may not have to be raised to management directly by a complainant (e.g., a manager is aware of sexualized banter between workers through observation or this information is raised to the manager by a third party but no one has come forward to complain).
Incivility refers to conduct that is not harassment. It is subtle or overt, deviant behaviour where intent can be ambiguous. It is characterized by rude, discourteous interactions that display a lack of regard for others. Refer to Resolving Conflict: Addressing Incivility and Preventing Workplace Harassment.
Provisions regarding harassment are included in both the Ontario Human Rights Code, referred to as “Code-based Harassment”, (see 4.11) and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, referred to as “Workplace (non-Code) Harassment”, (see 4.12). It is a form of discrimination if it is Code-based Harassment. Harassment may result from a single significant incident or a series of incidents. Harassment can occur between co-workers, between management and employees, between employees and Members of Council, between employees and vendors, between employees and recipients of municipal services, between employees and members of the public, between Members of Council and members of the public, between Members of Council and their staff.
This policy is not intended to interfere with normal social interaction between employees.
Code-based Harassment is defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code means engaging in a course or conduct that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome based on one or more of the prohibited grounds listed in the Ontario Human Rights Code, that a person knows or ought to know would be unwelcome, offensive, embarrassing or hurtful – see section 2.0 for a list of the prohibited grounds. See section 4.13 and 4.14 for examples
There is no legal obligation for an individual to tell a harasser to stop. The fact that a person does not explicitly object to harassing behaviour, or appears to be going along with it does not mean that the behaviour is not harassing or that it has been consented to.
(Non-Code) Workplace Harassment is harassment that is not related to a prohibited ground identified in the Ontario Human Rights Code. Workplace harassment, defined in the Occupational Health and Safety Act means engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome. It also includes Workplace Sexual Harassment – see section 4.13
Workplace harassment often involves a course or grouping of behaviours. However a single serious incident of such behaviour that has a lasting harmful effect on an employee may also constitute workplace harassment.
This policy is not intended to interfere with constructive feedback regarding performance or operational directives provided to employees by their supervisors, managers or directors.
Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination based on the prohibited ground of sex under the Ontario Human Rights Code. It is also prohibited under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Workplace sexual harassment means engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in the workplace because of sex/sexual orientation/gender identity/gender expression, where the course of comment or conduct is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome. It also includes making a sexual solicitation or advance where the person making the solicitation or advance is in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the worker and the person knows or ought reasonably to know that the solicitation or advance is unwelcome.
Refers to the sex/gender of those to whom one is sexually and romantically attracted. Categories of sexual orientation typically have included attraction to members of one’s own sex/gender, attraction to members of another sex/gender, and attraction to people of more than one sex/gender.
Refers to each person’s internal and individual experiences of gender. It is their sense of being a woman, a man, both, neither, or anywhere along the gender spectrum. A person’s gender may be the same as or different from their birth-assigned sex.
Refers to how a person publicly presents their gender. This can include behaviour and outward appearance such as dress, hair, make-up, body language and voice. A person’s chosen name and pronoun are also common ways of expressing gender.
Racial harassment is harassment on the ground of race. It may also be associated with the grounds of colour, ancestry, where a person was born, a person’s religious belief, ethnic background, citizenship or even a person’s language. Racial harassment/discrimination can include:
A confidential dispute resolution process, during which a neutral third party assists two or more parties to resolve conflict. It is a voluntary process where parties in dispute consent to meet with a trained mediator to determine whether the dispute can be resolved in a mutually satisfactory manner. Mediation discussions between parties are treated as private and confidential to the full extent permitted by law.
A poisoned work environment is a form of indirect Code based harassment/discrimination. It occurs when comments or actions ridicule or demean a person or group creating real or perceived inequalities in the workplace. Pornography, pin-ups, offensive cartoons, insulting slurs or jokes, and malicious gossip (even when they are not directed towards a specific employee or group of employees) creating intolerable work conditions, have been found to “poison the work environment” for employees.
Refers to the list of grounds for which a person or group is protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code and Occupational Health and Safety Act. See Application section 2.0 for a list of prohibited grounds. Under the Code, case law and this policy, there are protections where there is a perception that one of the prohibited grounds applies or where someone is treated differently because of an association or relationship with a person identified by one of the above grounds.
This is an objective standard to measure whether a comment or conduct is discrimination or harassment. It considers what a reasonable person’s reaction would have been under similar circumstances and in a similar environment. It considers the recipient’s perspective and not stereotyped notions of acceptable behavior. This standard is used to assess human rights complaints under this policy.
The person who is alleged to be responsible for the discrimination or harassment. There can be more than one respondent in a human rights complaint.
An individual who may be able to provide information about workplace comments/conduct that are alleged to have violated this policy. Witnesses are not entitled to investigation results or complaint details unless the disclosure is necessary for the purpose of investigating allegations.
The workplace includes all locations where business or social activities of the City are conducted. This Policy may apply to incidents that happen away from work (e.g., inappropriate social media posts, phone calls, e-mails or visits to an employee’s home, incidents at luncheons, after work socials).
All staff are expected to be familiar with policy provisions and complaint resolution options. The Human Rights Office has produced a variety of information and instructional training/resources to educate employees about policy expectations.
Human Rights and Anti-Harassment/Discrimination Complaint Procedures
Toronto City Council
July 19, 2022
June 23, 2008
Occupational Health and Safety Act
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
Human Rights and Anti-Harassment/Discrimination Complaint Procedures
Code of Conduct for Members of Council and Members of Local Boards
Toronto Public Service By-Law – Disclosure of Wrongdoing and Reprisal Protection Provisions
Corporate Accessibility Policy
Accommodation Policy, Procedures, and Guidelines