Employees in Alberta are protected from discrimination by the Alberta Human Rights Act (the “Act”) on a number of grounds, including but not limited to gender identity and gender expression. Employers have a legal duty to accommodate employees in these areas up to the point of undue hardship. Here’s what employers should know about these two gender-related protected grounds and some options for accommodation solutions when these grounds are invoked.
What is gender identity and gender expression?
The Alberta Human Rights Commission (the “Commission”) describes gender identity as a person’s individual experience of gender, which may or may not coincide with their sex at birth. A person may view themselves as a man, woman, both, or neither. This is not the same as sexual orientation.
The Commission describes gender expression as a person’s public presentation of gender. This includes their dress, behaviour, and other factors.
Employers must take reasonable steps to accommodate employees’ needs that are covered by the protected grounds under the Act. With respect to gender identity and gender expression, employers must design their dress code in a way that recognizes the diversity of their employees; in addition, they must make reasonable efforts to accommodate requests for an exception to their dress code.
Other types of accommodation related to gender identity and gender expression might include the following:
- addressing employees by their preferred gender label and pronoun;
- allowing employees to change their preferred gender label in their employee personnel records; and
- allowing employees to use their washroom of choice or creating single occupancy and gender-neutral spaces in the workplace.
Employers should have an accommodation policy explaining their commitment to accommodating employees as well as the process for requesting accommodation.
In addition, employers are encouraged to create a workplace anti-discrimination/anti-harassment policy and provide training to all employees on the subjects of respect and inclusivity.
Have questions about gender labels in the workplace?
Call our HR experts for advice on how to accommodate your employees on the basis of gender identity and/or expression.
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