FAQs: Retail stores
- Are chain stores that operate in more than one province covered by the Alberta Human Rights Act?
Yes, all retail stores operating in Alberta, including chain stores, are covered by the Alberta Human Rights Act.
- Can retailers refuse to serve customers based on age?
Yes, since age is not a protected ground under Section 4 of the AHR Act. For example, some retailers choose to limit the number of young people or students in their stores, and this is permissible under the AHR Act.
- Do stores have to be wheelchair accessible?
The AHR Act requires that all retailers not discriminate in the provision of services based on the protected grounds, including physical disability. Like other service providers, retailers have a duty to accommodate customers with disabilities, to the point of undue hardship. For more information about the duty to accommodate and undue hardship, see the Alberta Human Rights Commission interpretive bulletin Duty to accommodate.
- Do retailers have to provide services in Braille for people who are blind and who use Braille?
If a retail store has customers who use Braille and the store does not offer Braille to help customers do their shopping, then the retailer will need to accommodate the customers in some other way. One option could be to provide personal service to the customers while they are shopping. That is, a store employee could accompany the customer while they shop, offering descriptions of items and prices.
- Can retailers restrict access to customers with guide or service dogs?
Certified guide and service dogs are trained to minimize the negative effects of having an animal in public places. Retailers can restrict access to customers using guide and service dogs that are not certified or are not required by the customer because of a disability.
The use of guide and service dogs is only protected by the AHR Act when the dogs are being used to support someone with a physical or mental disability. Note that the use of guide dogs by individuals with serious visual disabilities is also protected under the Alberta Blind Persons' Rights Act.
- Can women breastfeed in public areas?
Yes. Human rights tribunals and courts have determined that breastfeeding is an integral part of being a mother. As a result, retailers must allow women who need to breastfeed their children in a public area the opportunity to do so. Retailers should not ask the mother to cover up or move to a different location. While some retailers may wish to provide a private space for breastfeeding, there is no obligation to provide such space, nor is there an obligation for mothers to use such space.
- Can retailers or mall operators focus their security measures on individual customers on the basis of race, colour, or gender?
No. Undue attention paid to customers or mall patrons by store or security personnel, on the basis of race or any other protected ground, is prohibited under the AHR Act.
- Can a retailer make special offers or promotions available only to specific individuals on the basis of gender or race?
No. Retailers are responsible under the AHR Act to make their services available without discrimination. However, because age is not a protected ground in the area of services, the AHR Act does not prohibit retailers from offering age-related promotions such as seniors' discounts.
Revised: April 24, 2013
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