Information for complainants
The Alberta Human Rights Act ensures that all Albertans are offered an equal opportunity to earn a living, find a place to live, and enjoy services customarily available to the public without discrimination.
The Act allows people to make a human rights complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission if they have a reasonable basis to believe that they have experienced harassment or have been discriminated against in the specific areas and under the specific grounds protected under the Act.
The person who is making the human rights complaint is called the complainant.
What you need to know before making a complaint
Not all complaints made to the Commission are accepted. Complaints must meet specific criteria outlined in the Act.
- Time limit
A complaint must be made to the Commission within one year after the alleged incident of discrimination. The one-year period starts the day after the date on which the alleged incident occurred.
Any alleged incident of discrimination must have occurred in Alberta or with an Alberta employer to be within the Commission's jurisdiction. Most workplaces in Alberta are governed by provincial human rights legislation (the Alberta Human Rights Act). However, certain workplaces are governed by federal law (the Canadian Human Rights Act).
- Protected areas and grounds
Not all negative or unfair treatment is discrimination under Alberta human rights law. It is only considered discrimination if the negative treatment you experienced happened in one of the protected areas and under one of the protected grounds in the Act.
Making a complaint
To make a human rights complaint, complete the self-assessment or access the complaint form.
Please note: If your complaint is not accepted, you can ask for the decision to be reviewed.
Other considerations that could impact your complaint
- Termination, severance agreements, and releases
Employers sometimes negotiate severance agreements with employees when their employment is terminated. Severance agreements often contain a "release." If an employee has signed an agreement that contains a release clause, the Commission must be notified about the release and it will be reviewed as part of the complaint process.
- Actions in another forum
Individuals sometimes take actions in other forums on similar allegations to their human rights complaints, such as grievances and civil actions. Under the Act, the Director may refuse to accept, defer, or dismiss a complaint that is being, has been, will be, or should be mroe appropriately dealth with in another forum or under another Act. The Commission must be notified if there is an action in another forum.
Understanding your rights and responsibilities
- Duty to accommodate
Accommodation means making changes to certain rules, standards, policies, workplace cultures, and physical environments to ensure that they don't have a negative effect on a person because of the person's mental or physical disability, religion, gender, or any other protected ground. Accommodation is a way to balance the diverse needs of individuals and employers.
Harassment occurs when a person is subjected to unwelcome verbal or physical conduct. Not all harassment is discrimination under the Act. Where the harassment occurs in a protected area and is based on a protected ground, it is contrary to the Act.
- Pregnancy, and maternity and parental leave
The Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender, which includes pregnancy.
- Human rights in the workplace
Employers and employees are both responsible for creating respectful and inclusive workplaces. Learn more about your rights and responsibilities as an employee.
- Human rights in providing goods, services, accommodation, or facilities
Section 4 of the Act recognizes that all people are equal in dignity, rights, and responsibilities when it comes to the provision of goods, services, accommodation, or facilities customarily available to the public.
- Human rights in residential and commercial tenancy
The Act covers tenancy situations from the moment a rental unit is advertised, or otherwise said to be available, to the end of the tenancy.
- Human rights in statements, publications, notices, signs, symbols, emblems, or other representations
Section 3 of the Act balances the objective of eliminating discrimination with the right to freedom of expression.
- Human rights in membership in trade unions, employers' organizations, and occupational associations
Section 9 of the Act protects someone from being excluded, expelled, suspended, or discriminated against based on a protected ground by a union or association.
The human rights complaint process
Issues outside of Alberta's human rights law
Your situation may not fall under the protection of the Alberta Human Rights Act.
Revised: May 9, 2022