What laws govern employment equity?

The Employment Equity Act applies to workplaces with 100 or more employees in the federal jurisdiction only. 

Employers in the federal jurisdiction are:

  • federal government departments, agencies and Crown corporations;
  • chartered banks;
  • airlines;
  • television and radio stations;
  • interprovincial communications and telephone companies;
  • buses and railways that travel between provinces;
  • First Nations;
  • and other federally regulated industries, such as certain mining operations.

In addition, there is a  Federal Contractors Program, which requires that any provincially-regulated organization that has 100 or more employees and a contract with the federal government of  $1 million or more must implement employment equity.  

Only one province, Quebec, has employment equity legislation the covers some of its provincially-regulated employers: the Act Respecting Equal Access to Employment in Public Bodies covers public sector employers in Quebec such as school boards, municipalities, transit authorities, universities and colleges,  health and social services, and other “public bodies”.  Québec also has an an Affirmative Action Contract Compliance Program, which has stronger provisions than the Federal Contractors' Program, but which has similar objectives. Ontario had a short lived Ontario Employment Equity Act, which was repealed in 1995. 

Only one territory, Nunavut, has legislation that governs employment equity, in this case for Inuit peoples.  Article 23 of the Nunvaut Land Claims Agreement  requires the Government of Nunavut to increase Inuit representation in government employment and to develop employment and training programs for Inuit workers..  

Most other provinces and territories have employment equity policies that apply to provincial/territorial government employment.  It is also important to note that all provinces and territories have human rights legislation that prohibits systemic discrimination and provides for "special programs" (employment equity programs) to overcome historic systemic discrimination. Therefore, even if there is no employment equity law in your jurisdiction, nothing prevents unions and management from negotiating or implementing employment equity, as long as it is based on data and evidence.  


November 14, 2013