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Advancement in the workplace refers to career progression to a more senior role. Advancement is the upward trajectory of an individual's career and typically means getting promoted, receiving an increase in compensation, or being assigned more responsibilities by an employer.


Discrimination means any form of unequal treatment based on human rights legislation grounds, whether imposing extra burdens or denying benefits. The Ontario Human Rights Code grounds include: race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, record of offences, marital status, family status, or disability*.

Discrimination may be intentional or unintentional. It may involve direct actions that are discriminatory on their face, or it may involve rules, practices or procedures that appear neutral, but have the effect of disadvantaging certain groups of people.

Discrimination may take obvious forms, or it may occur in very subtle ways. In any case, even if there are many factors affecting a decision or action, if discrimination is one factor, that is a violation of human rights legislation.

* There are some licensees whose legal workplaces may be subject to the Canadian Human Rights Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. H-6. The prohibited grounds of discrimination set out in section 3(1) are slightly different from Ontario legislation: race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.


The Supreme Court of Canada has held that equality is an “elusive concept” that “lacks precise definition.” * Equality does not mean treating all people the same for all purposes. In Canada, court decisions at all levels make it clear that both the Charter of Rights and Freedoms** and human rights legislation aim to achieve “substantive” rather than a “formal” equality.

Whereas “formal equality” involves “equal treatment for those in similar situations and different treatment for those in dissimilar situations” (‘treating likes alike’),” *** “substantive equality” does not always require treating all people the same.

Substantive equality, rather, is aimed at “recognizing and responding to difference and remedying discrimination and stereotyping.” **** It requires “acknowledgment of and response to differences that members of a particular group might experience” in order to be treated equally.*****
To be clear, it is substantive equality that human rights/diversity policies in legal workplace should be aiming for.

*Andrews v. Law Society of British Columbia, [1989] 1 S.C.R. 143 at p. 164.
** Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11.
*** Ontario (Disability Support Program) v. Tranchemontagne, 2010 ONCA 593 at para. 78.
**** Vandervelde v. Goodlife Fitness Centres Inc., 2012 HRTO 1042 at para. 13.
***** Patricia Hughes, "Supreme Court of Canada Equality Jurisprudence and “Everyday Life”." The Supreme Court Law Review: Osgoode’s Annual Constitutional Cases Conference 58. (2012) at pp. 246-47. 


The Ontario Human Rights Code defines “harassment” as: engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known, or ought reasonably to be known, to be unwelcome. It is directed at a person who identifies by the Code grounds listed above.

Harassment can involve words or actions that are known or should be known to be offensive, embarrassing, humiliating, demeaning, or unwelcome.

Human Rights Code

The Ontario Human Rights Code (The Code) is a provincial law that gives everybody equal rights and opportunities without discrimination in specific social areas such as jobs, housing, services, facilities, and contracts or agreements. The Code’s goal is to prevent discrimination and harassment because of race, sex, disability, and age, to name a few of the 17 grounds. All other Ontario laws must agree with the Code.


Inclusion is a state of being valued, respected, and supported. Workplace inclusion means creating an environment that accepts each individual's differences (as set out in Workplace Diversity below) embraces their strengths, and provides opportunities for all people in the workplace to achieve their full potential.

Inclusion should be reflected in an organization’s culture, practices and relationships that are in place to support a diverse workforce.*


Legal Workplace

A place of work in Ontario where legal work is being done, such as providing legal advice, guidance or opinions.


Recruitment is the process of discovering, attracting and hiring an individual for a job position.  The recruitment process includes documenting the requirements of a job, attracting individuals to the job, screening, interviewing, and selecting applicants, and finally making a job offer and hiring the new employee.


Retention in this application refers to employee retention which is defined simply as the ability of an organization to maintain its number of employees.  A number of factors contribute to employee retention including but not limited to corporate culture, compensation, career development, opportunity, satisfaction, rewards, and recognition.

Workplace Diversity

Human diversity means differences among people that can be used to distinguish groups and people from one another. As a concept in the workplace, it means respect for, and appreciation of, differences between people and groups of people, based on:

grounds under the Ontario Human Rights Code, such as: race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, record of offences, marital status, family status, or disability;

and/or other distinctions between people, such as: education, work experiences, cultural differences, income, geographic location, appearance, communication style, or political ideology.