Trans rights have been making progress in Ontario over the past 15 years. One of the most recent steps was the release of a policy by the Ontario Human Rights Commission on preventing discrimination because of gender identity and gender expression. The policy is directed towards organizations that have or may have employees or customers who are transgendered or gender non-conforming.

The policy provides a brief history of trans-rights in Ontario, and clarifies a variety of rights to which people who are transgender or gender non-conforming are entitled. It describes what gender-based harassment can look like, such as threatening to “out” a person or making jokes relating to someone’s gender identity. It also offers definitions of the most commonly used terminology.

Discrimination can be direct, indirect or subtle. People can discriminate without even intending to do so. Rules and policies based on an assumption that everyone’s gender identity matches their gender expression can result in systemic discrimination. It is therefore important for employers and service-providers to proactively take action to ensure people who are transgendered or gender non-conforming are not excluded, harassed or treated in a manner that does not respect their dignity.

Below is a summary of some of the best practices recommended in the policy:

  • Maximize privacy and confidentiality
  • Use the person’s preferred name and gender
  • Refrain from obtaining information about gender identity and sex if there is no legitimate reason to do so
  • Ensure dress code policies are inclusive
  • Develop a plan for washrooms and change facilities
  • Draft transition guidelines before a transitioning person comes forward
  • Work with the customer/employer to individualize an accommodation plan

Organizations that do not sufficiently include and accommodate transgendered and gender non-conforming individuals face a variety of risks, including damaged reputation, loss of customers and/or valued staff, lawsuits and human rights claims.


Photo credit: marsmet472 / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

About the Author

Lisa Feldstein is the principal lawyer at Lisa Feldstein Law Office. She is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School and the University of Guelph. Lisa practices in the area of Family Health Law™, which includes reproductive law, human rights, privacy, mental health and other health law matters. Lisa has presented at the 519 Church Street Community Centre and PFLAG Canada (York Region), and has been interviewed on Proud FM. She has helped many couples build their families through third party reproduction. Lisa has been teaching negotiation at Osgoode Hall Law School since 2010. She was recently awarded a 2014 Canadian Law Blog award for Best Practitioner blog, and a 2015 Precedent Setter Award.