Membership in trade unions, employers' organizations, or occupational associations: What you need to know

This section of the website relates to section 9 of the Alberta Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in the area of membership in trade unions, employers' organizations or occupational associations.

Also see Human rights in the workplace/Information for trade unions when they are representing employees.

The AHR Act defines:

  • trade union: an organization of employees formed for purposes that include the regulation of relations between employees and employers.
  • employers' organization: an organization of employers formed for purposes that include the regulation of relations between employers and employees.
  • occupational association: an organization other than a trade union or employers' organization in which membership is a prerequisite to carrying on any trade, occupation or profession.

While the information and cases discussed below involve trade unions, much of the information and most of the cases also apply to occupational associations and employers' organizations. If you have questions specifically about an occupational association or employers' organization, please contact the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

The term "member" is used below to describe an employee who is a union member.

The AHR Act prohibits discrimination in this area based on the following grounds:

  • race
  • colour
  • ancestry
  • place of origin
  • religious beliefs
  • gender (including pregnancy and sexual harassment)
  • gender identity
  • gender expression
  • age
  • physical disability
  • mental disability
  • marital status
  • family status
  • source of income
  • sexual orientation

Based on these grounds, a union cannot:

  • exclude a person from membership;
  • expel or suspend a member; or
  • discriminate against a person or member.

Harassment is considered to be a form of discrimination under the AHR Act when a person is subjected to unwelcome verbal or physical conduct based on a protected ground. Some examples of harassment that would be considered discrimination under the AHR Act are unwanted physical contact, attention, or demands; and jokes or insults based on a protected ground. More information on sexual harassment and harassment as a form of discrimination can be found in Commission information sheets. Harassment that is not based on the protected grounds is not covered under the AHR Act.

Read more:
The union's role in protecting human rights
Discrimination may be reasonable and justifiable
Duty to accommodate

Revised: April 11, 2017



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.