FAQs: Information for employees
Applying for work
At a job interview, I was asked to provide information about my date of birth. I was subsequently turned down for the position and feel that it may be because of my age. Can I make a human rights complaint?
If you believe that you were discriminated against on the basis of age, you may be able to make a human rights complaint. Employers are not permitted to ask applicants for information that would reveal their age unless they can establish that age is a bona fide occupational requirement.
For more information about the kind of information it is permissible to request at job interviews, see the Commission information sheet Pre-employment inquiries.
Prior to attending a job interview, I was asked if I had any criminal convictions. I feel that this information may be used to discriminate against me. Can I file a human rights complaint?
No. Inquiries about criminal records or convictions are not protected under the Alberta Human Rights Act. Human rights legislation that applies to federally regulated positions may deal with criminal convictions in a different manner. For information about federally regulated positions, contact the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
Terms and conditions of employment
I have been diagnosed with a serious illness and have been unable to attend work for the last six months. My employer is requesting detailed information about my condition and wants to know when I will return to work. What information do I have to give my employer?
Your employer is entitled to certain medical information, including when you are likely to be fit and ready to return to work and information about your ability to perform the key duties of the job. If your employer is willing to offer modified or light duties, your employer is also entitled to ask for information that would assist in achieving that accommodation. Your employer is normally not entitled to information on your specific diagnosis, treatment or unrelated medical history.
The company I work for has a policy that all employees must look neat and well groomed. I have a beard, which is a requirement of my religion. My supervisor told me that I am not allowed to have a beard. Is this discrimination?
Religious belief is a protected ground under the AHR Act. Your employer is required to accommodate your religious needs to the point of undue hardship. Inform your supervisor of the religious basis for the beard and your need for accommodation.
Related resource: Commission information sheet Appearance and dress codes
Benefits, leave and accommodation
After working for six years as an administrative assistant, I developed carpal tunnel syndrome. I have been unable to perform my job since developing this condition. I am worried that I will lose my job. What can I do?
Your employer must consider how long your position can be held for you without causing an undue hardship to the business.
If you can return to work before you are fully fit, your employer has a duty to determine if your position can be modified so that you can continue to work or if you can be moved to another position. This is called accommodation. It is your responsibility to provide your employer with relevant information about your condition and how it impacts your position. It is your employer's responsibility to consider your needs and to take substantial and meaningful steps to accommodate those needs.
You can read more about medical leave and the duty to accommodate.
Recently, I informed my employer that I was pregnant and that I intend to work as close to the delivery date as possible. Yesterday, my employer advised me that I should start my maternity leave as soon as it becomes obvious that I am pregnant. Can my employer decide when I should begin my maternity leave?
The AHR Act prohibits discrimination based on gender, which includes pregnancy. You may work as close to your due date as you like, as long as your health allows it. Your employer cannot force you to begin maternity leave earlier than you choose. The only exception is when you need accommodation because of your pregnancy and your duties cannot be modified to provide the accommodation without causing the employer undue hardship.
Related resource: Becoming a parent in Alberta: What you need to know about human rights, maternity and parental leave, and benefits
Termination and Severance
I was recently fired from my job. My employer asked me to sign a severance agreement that contains a release clause when I was fired. Will this affect my ability to make a human rights complaint?
Depending upon the wording of the agreement, it may prevent you from making a human rights complaint. However, you may still be able to make a complaint if you believe that the agreement you signed is not valid and you believe that you have been discriminated against by your employer. Individuals in this situation often seek legal advice.
For more information, you can read Alberta human rights tribunal decisions on severance agreements. All decisions released after January 1, 2000 can be accessed free of charge through the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) website. Search the key words "severance agreement."
Making a human rights complaint
Some of my colleagues think I am gay and have been making offensive jokes about gays and lesbians. I told my supervisor, and he said to just ignore it and that they will stop once they realize that I am not gay. Is this discrimination? Can I make a human rights complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission?
Sexual orientation is a protected ground under the AHR Act. Discrimination based on the perception that you are gay contravenes the Act. An employer is expected to take appropriate action to stop discrimination and create a respectful and inclusive workplace. Therefore, you may be able to make a human rights complaint. You can read more about sexual orientation as a protected ground. You may call the Commission's confidential inquiry line for more information.
Can I make a complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission when my Charter rights are violated?
No, the provincial, territorial and federal human rights commissions only deal with violations of their respective human rights legislation and do not deal with Charter rights. If your Charter rights are infringed upon, you can make an application to the courts. You can read more about the Charter.
Revised: March 27, 2013
The Alberta Human Rights Commission is an independent commission of the Government of Alberta.
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