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Harassment as a form of discrimination

Harassment occurs when a person is subjected to unwelcome verbal or physical conduct. Where the harassment occurs in a protected area and is based on a protected ground, it is contrary to the Alberta Human Rights Act. Read more about the protected areas and grounds.
For more information on harassment as a form of discrimination under the Act, see the following Commission resources:
Additional resources on harassment in the workplace:
  • Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies (CASHRA) virtual classroom

General workplace harassment

Harassment that is not based on a protected ground is not contrary to the Act. This second kind of harassment is sometimes called general workplace harassment or personal harassment. For example, Bill supervises Joe. Bill and Joe support different hockey teams. Bill constantly insults Joe regarding his team. Whenever Joe responds, Bill gives Joe poor work shifts. As this poor treatment is not based on a protected ground but rather on team loyalties, it is not contrary to the Act.
While a person cannot make a complaint under the Act regarding general workplace harassment, alternatives may be available to the person including through an employer's employment policies, a collective agreement, or the courts. For example, in the Ontario case of Shah v. Xerox Canada Ltd., Shah, a long-time employee, resigned after his supervisor's harassing behaviour made it impossible for them to work together. This was not harassment under human rights law and, therefore, Shah could not make a human rights complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission. He undertook the only option he had, which was to sue Xerox Canada Ltd. for forcing him to resign because of the intolerable work conditions. The Ontario Court of Appeal agreed with Shah that he was forced to resign from his job because of the supervisor's behaviour towards him. The court said that while employers can manage and discipline their employees, they cannot create an intolerable work environment.
Bullying is unacceptable at any time and in any situation. Visit the Government of Alberta bullying page to find links to services and resources designed to help children, youth and, adults prevent and deal with bullying.
Revised: February 20, 2020              

Our vision is a vibrant and inclusive Alberta where the rich diversity of people is celebrated and respected, and where everyone has the opportunity to fully participate in society, free from discrimination.