Your rights and responsibilities as an employee
The Alberta Human Rights Act (AHR Act) prohibits discrimination in employment based on the protected grounds of race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religious beliefs, gender, age, physical disability, mental disability, marital status, family status, source of income, and sexual orientation. (You can read more about the protected grounds.) Employers are expected to create an inclusive workplace that respects the dignity of every individual. Employees can play an important role in creating an inclusive workplace by understanding their rights and responsibilities under the AHR Act.
Employees have the right to:
- work in a respectful, inclusive work environment free of discrimination
- be accommodated based on their needs related to the protected grounds in the AHR Act
- make a complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission if they believe discrimination occurred based on a protected ground under the AHR Act
Employees are responsible for:
- carrying out the duties of their position
- complying with workplace rules, regulations, policies and legislation
- informing the supervisor or manager of any discriminatory behaviour
- treating clients, coworkers and the public with respect and dignity
- ensuring that they do not participate in discriminatory conduct based on a protected ground
- informing the employer of their needs for accommodation based on the protected grounds under the AHR Act
The AHR Act works to ensure that the workplace is free of discrimination in all aspects of the employment process, including recruitment, promotions, assignments, and the termination of employment. Employers have the primary obligation under the AHR Act. Employees have a responsibility to help employers create a workplace free of discrimination, and to cooperate with and participate in the employer's attempts to accommodate the employee's needs that are protected under the Act.
Employers, jointly with employees (and unions, if applicable), are responsible for taking reasonable steps to accommodate employees' needs related to the protected grounds. Employers are required to provide accommodation to the point of undue hardship. You can read more about accommodation and undue hardship.
Employees requiring accommodation need to cooperate with the employer to find a workable option. Employees are expected to cooperate with the employer in accommodating coworkers. For example, if an employee is on light duties because of a disability, other employees may be asked to carry out certain tasks that the employee with the disability is unable to do.
Employers are responsible for ensuring that the work environment is free from discrimination based on the protected grounds. Employees are responsible for ensuring they do not participate in discriminatory behaviour. For example, employees should not make offensive jokes or comments based on a coworker's race, gender or any other protected ground under the AHR Act.
Employers cannot require employees to "sign away" their human rights.
An employer's liability for discrimination is not necessarily limited to the workplace or work hours. Employers may be liable for discrimination that occurs outside normal work hours and that has implications or repercussions in the workplace. Employees must ensure they do not indulge in offensive behaviour at the workplace or away from the physical workplace. For example, an employer may be held liable for discriminatory incidents during business trips, company parties or other company-related functions.
It is important that employees who make complaints of harassment or discrimination keep detailed notes of the discriminatory action(s) or behaviours. Names of witnesses should be recorded in the event the complaint proceeds to an internal workplace investigation or a formal human rights complaint at the Alberta Human Rights Commission.
Human rights issues arising in a workplace must be afforded an employer's utmost attention and diligence. Employers have a responsibility to promptly investigate an allegation of discrimination. If an allegation is substantiated, the employer needs to take appropriate action to ensure the discrimination stops. Employees may need to participate in the investigation. It may be useful for an employee who is making an allegation of discrimination to wait for the results of an internal employer investigation before taking other steps, such as making a complaint under the Act. Calls to the Commission's confidential inquiry line to discuss a particular situation are welcome.
All employees, together with employers and unions, have responsibilities under the Act and only by working together can they create a respectful, inclusive workplace free of discrimination.
Revised: February 5, 2010