Canada has a lot of laws aiming at protecting people who experience workplace sexual harassment. To know which ones apply to you, you need to know whether you are a provincially regulated worker or a federally regulated worker.

The vast majority of workers in Canada—about 93%—are covered under provincial laws. Those people are protected by the employment laws and human rights laws of the province or territory where they work. Most people are provincially regulated because everybody is provincially regulated by default, unless their industry has been officially designated as federal.

About 7% of Canadians work in federally regulated industries. Those people are protected by the Canada Labour Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act. Some people think that the Canada Labour Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act cover everybody in the country, but that’s not true. They only cover people who work in federally regulated industries.

What are the federally regulated industries?

There are two categories of workplaces that are federally regulated—the private and public sectors.

Federally regulated private sectors are:

  • banks, including authorized foreign banks
  • airports, air transportation (for example, Air Canada, WestJet)
  • interprovincial/international transportation (for example, railways, trucking companies, marine shipping, interprovincial buses)
  • fisheries
  • telephone, cable systems, and telegraph companies
  • television and radio broadcasting
  • uranium mining and processing
  • grain elevators
  • First Nation band councils (including certain community services on reserves)
  • Crown corporations (for example, Canada Post, Royal Canadian Mint)
  • private-sector firms and municipalities in Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut

Federally regulated public sectors are:

  • the federal public service
  • Parliament (Senate, House of Commons)

If you work in one of these sectors, you’re most likely a federally regulated worker. If you’re not sure, you can contact the federal Labour Program.

What legislation applies to federally regulated workers?

The Canada Labour Code

The Canada Labour Code covers all federally regulated workplaces. It sets out federal labour laws, and defines the rights and responsibilities of workers and employers in federally regulated workplaces. Federal workplace laws apply to all employers and workplaces that are the responsibility of the federal government.

Part II of the Canada Labour Code, Occupational Health and Safety, talks about harassment and violence in the workplace. The code defines workplace harassment and violence as “any action, conduct or comment, including of a sexual nature, that can reasonably be expected to cause offence, humiliation or other physical or psychological injury or illness to an employee, including any prescribed action, conduct or comment.”

This definition includes sexual harassment, sexual violence, and domestic violence in the workplace.

The Canadian Human Rights Act

The Canadian Human Rights Act protects people who are employed or getting services in workplaces under federal power from discrimination. These workplaces are:

  • the federal government
  • First Nations governments
  • Federally regulated private sectors

Under the Canadian Human Rights Act, it’s against the law for a federal service provider or employer to discriminate on the grounds of:

  • race
  • national or ethnic origin
  • colour
  • religion
  • age
  • sex
  • sexual orientation
  • gender identity or expression
  • marital status
  • family status
  • genetic characteristics
  • disability
  • having been pardoned of a criminal conviction