The Alberta Human Rights Act (AHR Act) prohibits discrimination in the area of employment based on religious beliefs. The AHR Act states that no individual shall be discriminated against because of their religious beliefs, which include native spirituality. Religious beliefs refer to a system of belief, worship and conduct. Religion has been defined as being "about freely and deeply held personal convictions or beliefs connected to an individual's spiritual faith and integrally linked to his or her self-definition and spiritual fulfillment, the practices of which allow individuals to foster a connection with the divine or with the subject or object of that spiritual faith." (Syndicat Northcrest v. Amselem (2004), 241 D.L.R. (4th) 1, Supreme Court of Canada)
Employers are required to accommodate employees on the ground of their religious belief to the point of undue hardship. Accommodation may mean modifying a rule or making an exception to all or part of it for the employee concerned. You can read more about accommodation and undue hardship.
At times, an employee's religious beliefs may conflict with an on-the-job requirement, standard or practice. The employer may be required to accommodate the employee's religious needs when workplace rules or practices have an adverse impact or create conditions that the employee cannot comply with. For example, when an employee is required to work Saturday but is unable to because it is their Sabbath, the employer is required to accommodate that employee. In O'Malley v Simpson Sears, the Supreme Court of Canada stated that an employer had to take reasonable steps to accommodate an employee who was unable to work because of religious reasons.
Dress codes, work schedules or shift work sometimes adversely affect employees because of the requirements of their religion. In such cases, the law requires an employer to accommodate the employee to the point of undue hardship.
Some religions require daily periods of prayer. When this conflicts with the employee's regular work hours or daily routines, an employer has a duty to accommodate the needs to the point of undue hardship. This could mean providing a quiet space for prayer for a brief period of time during the day.
Revised: January 13, 2012
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