What do I do if I have been discriminated against at work?

If you feel that you are being discriminated against, it can be an incredibly frustrating and upsetting time. Your union is here to help you. Here are some tips to help you resolve the problems you are facing.

What is discrimination?

Discrimination is an action or a decision that treats a person or a group negatively for reasons such as their race, age, disability, etc. These reasons are known as “grounds” of discrimination. 

Human rights legislation sets out all of the “prohibited grounds” of discrimination.  If you work for the federal government or any workplace regulated by the Canada Labour Code, then you are protected by the Canadian Human Rights Act, which sets out 11 grounds of discrimination. 

If your workplace falls under provincial or territorial jurisdiction (for example, a university, territorial government, or municipality), then you are covered by your province or territory’s human rights legislation.

Examples of discrimination at work

Workplace discrimination can take many forms. For example if, on the basis of a prohibited ground, you are:

  • disciplined unfairly,
  • denied benefits or opportunities, such as a promotion, 
  • harassed,
  • denied needed workplace accommodations, or
  • treated differently or disadvantaged at work

Discrimination doesn’t have to be intentional. It can involve direct actions or behaviours, but it can also include policies and practices that disadvantage a group or individual based on a prohibited ground.   

If you are unsure whether your situation involves discrimination, find out more information and speak to your union representative.      

If you believe you have been discriminated against at work:

  • Know that your collective agreement and human rights laws protect you.
  • Keep records. Make sure to keep written records of any incidents that have happened at work and what was done about it. Keep all relevant documents as they could be useful as evidence.
  • Speak to your local union representative about filing a grievance and/or other avenues of recourse.  Your local representative can then get additional assistance, if needed, from your component or PSAC regional office.
  • In the federal public service, if it is a staffing matter, you can file a staffing complaint  rather than a grievance. 
  • You may be able to use the employer’s internal process for dealing with discrimination complaints. Many employers have policies in place that include a recourse process. Before filing an internal complaint, we recommend that you speak to your union representative to determine the best recourse.
  • You may also be able to file a human rights complaint

It is important to remember that there are deadlines for filing a grievance, so contact your union representative as soon as you are aware of the discrimination. 

Human rights complaints

While you may also be able to file a human rights complaint under the human rights law that covers your workplace, it is important to first use the grievance procedure. A human rights complaint process may not be available to you if you have not filed a grievance first to try and deal with the workplace discrimination.

For more information, contact the human rights commission or tribunal that covers your workplace. 



August 27, 2015