Sexual Discrimination in Ontario


Employers and businesses cannot afford to ignore issues of sexual discrimination in Ontario due to the ever-increasing possibility of facing legal action from employees. Expected and continual changes in the law will require employers to take concrete steps for ensuring their workplace is free of sexual discrimination. Employers must also address any sexual discrimination and harassment issues promptly when they arise.

Ontario’s Human Rights Code states that:

Woman and man's hand on shoulder
  • Every person has the right to equal treatment with regards to employment
  • Employees have the right to freedom from sexual harassment by their employer or other employees
  • Every person has the right to be free from sexual solicitation

Bridge Legal & HR Solutions can help employers achieve full compliance with existing sexual discrimination laws. We are a unique professional consulting firm offering human resources consulting, business litigation services, and other services throughout Ontario. Our experienced legal team has decades of combined experience in human resources and employment law and can help you protect your business from potential legal issues. Call us today to find out more at 647-794-5442.

What Is Sexual Discrimination?

Sexual discrimination involves treating individuals differently based on their gender and can include prejudice, harassment, pay gaps, and other unequal actions. Sexual discrimination can occur against any gender. Examples of types of sexual discrimination can include:

Direct Discrimination

Direct discrimination describes treating an employee in less favorable ways because of their sex. Examples can include:

  • Paying an employee less than another who is performing the same work
  • Promoting an employee of the other sex with fewer qualifications or less experience
  • Unfair treatment of a pregnant employee
  • Sexual harassment

Indirect Discrimination

Indirect discrimination generally involves a business rule or practice that applies to both sexes but disadvantages some workers because of their sex. Indirect sex discrimination is occasionally permissible if an employer can show a good reason for the policy or practice.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment describes any unwanted acts and behaviors of a sexual nature and can include both verbal and physical incidents, including but not limited to:

  • Sexual comments and jokes
  • Unwanted touching
  • Sexual assault
  • Sexual emails and texts


Victimization occurs when an employee is treated unfairly after they have reported or complained of sexual discrimination or sexual harassment at their workplace.

The Effects of Sexual Discrimination

Sexual discrimination and harassment can have devastating effects on victims. According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), the impact of sexual harassment in the workplace can lead to reduced morale, decrease in productivity, and detrimental effects on the physical and mental health of those experiencing discrimination. The emotional effects of discrimination can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

It is in an employer’s best interests to keep their workplace free of sexual discrimination in Ontario. Not only will this help to maintain the mental and physical well-being of employees but can also have a positive impact on productivity and loyalty.

The Legal Responsibilities of Businesses in Ontario

Sexual harassment and sexual discrimination in Ontario are unethical as well as illegal. Employers should do whatever possible to prevent sexual discrimination and respond to complaints in a timely and appropriate manner.

People in office

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), employers should:

  • Have written procedures and policies in place dealing with sexual harassment
  • Review their procedures, policies, and programs at least once a year
  • Respond to incidents and reports of harassment quickly and comprehensively
  • Inform the involved parties of the results of any investigations in writing

Awareness of sexual harassment and sexual discrimination has grown steadily in the last few years with extensive media coverage of high-profile cases. Employers should pay close attention to discrimination rules and regulations and ensure compliance at their workplace. It is important to note that harassed or discriminated employees can potentially file human rights claims against their employers at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

In the future, employers in Ontario could face a flood of legal claims and should aim to protect their businesses now, before issues or legal actions force their hands. Consider contacting the experienced sexual discrimination attorneys at Bridge Legal & HR Solutions today to find out how we can help your business.

Addressing Ontario’s Gender Pay Gap

In many instances, sexual discrimination appears as an inequitable pay gap among workers in their place of employment.

The Pay Equity Act

All for one one for all

Ontario has had pay equity legislation in place since the late 1980s with the Pay Equity Act (PEA). The PEA applies to employers in the private and public sectors, provided they have ten employees and more. According to the act, employers have certain responsibilities that are aimed at ensuring employees are paid the same for the same work regardless of sex.

The PEA requires an employer to assess all jobs and compare the work carried out by women to the work carried out by men to determine whether compensation is fair. If an employer fails to show pay equity, they may be forced to issue back payments to past employees who suffered from sexual discrimination. Employers may also have to pay steep fines if they retaliated against employees who reported unequal pay in their workplace.

The Pay Transparency Act

In addition to the PEA, Ontario also enforces the much more comprehensive Pay Transparency Act, 2018 (PTA). PTA requires employers with 100 employees or more to track and report pay gaps based on gender on an annual basis as well as make such reports publicly available. Other requirements under the PTA include:

  • Salary rates must be shown for all advertised job postings
  • Candidates should not be asked about their past salary and benefits
  • Employers may not take reprisals against employees disclosing their salary and benefits

Bridge Legal & HR Solutions Can Help Your Business

Preventing sexual discrimination involves many complex rules and regulations and can be a minefield for businesses of all sizes. Non-compliance with current laws carries the danger of having to face costly legal issues and potential lawsuits from employees and former employees.

Bridge Legal & HR Solutions can ensure that your business is fully compliant with current sexual discrimination and harassment laws in Ontario and protect your organization from any legal issues that could arise from being non-compliant. Meanwhile, you are free to concentrate on what you do best, which is running your business.

We care about our clients and offer tailor-made and flexible solutions working within your budget, whether your business is large or small.  The dedicated and experienced team at Bridge Legal & HR Solutions offers support to organizations throughout Ontario. Call us today to discuss your requirements: 647-794-5442.

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