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Poisoned work environment


A poisoned work environment is created when a workplace is hostile or unwelcoming because of insulting or degrading comments or offensive actions aimed at an employee or others. When these comments or degrading behaviour violate the Alberta Human Rights Act, a complaint may be made to the Alberta Human Rights Commission. However, if the behaviour is not based on the grounds protected in the AHR Act, a complaint cannot be made to the Commission. The AHR Act prohibits discrimination based on race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religious beliefs, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, physical disability, mental disability, marital status, family status, source of income and sexual orientation. You can read more about the protected grounds.

For example, an employee who faces racial or religious slurs at work may be able to make a human rights complaint on the grounds of race or religion. An employee who is continuously insulted by a coworker calling them names such as stupid and ignorant will not be able to make a complaint to the Commission if those comments are not based on a protected ground such as mental disability. Although this is rude and offensive behaviour, it is not based on a ground protected under the AHR Act.  Therefore, the employee cannot make a complaint to the Commission.

Revised: January 27, 2010



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