Canada: Take Pride @ Work: 5 Ways Employers Can Support Gender Diversity

Last Updated: August 1 2017
Article by Ryan Baxter and Leah Kutcher

Trans and gender diverse employees face many challenges in the workplace – not the least of which are vulnerability to and fear of discrimination. But there are many ways in which an employer can support gender diversity while meeting its legal obligations to all of its employees. Here are five ways in which employers can support gender diversity in the workplace. 

  1. Educate yourself on the basics.

"Gender diversity" covers a range of gender-related identities and expressions, including transgender, gender non-conforming, gender fluid, two-spirited and intersex people. An employer doesn't need to know everything about gender diversity or about the LGBTQ community. But it should have a basic understanding of key terminology and of the big picture, and be open to learning more. Here are ten of the most commonly referenced terms:

  • Sex identifies the strictly biological description of a male or female.
  • Gender is much broader than sex, encompassing biological, cognitive and social aspects of a person including identity, expression and the expectations of others.
  • A person's gender identity is how that person sees and feels about themself.
  • A person's gender expression is how that person publicly expresses or presents their gender, through things like their behaviour, appearance, name and pronoun.
  • Sexual orientation is a person's sexuality, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and heterosexual.
  • The gender identity for many people corresponds with their biological sex, but gender non-conforming people don't conform with the traditional expectations of their gender. For example, a transgender person is someone whose own gender identity or expression is different from the gender assumption others make based on that person's biological sex.
  • Some, though not all, transgender people will undergo gender reassignment (or transition) to align their sex with the gender role in which they live and to better reflect their gender identity. Transgender people may have already transitioned, just be beginning the reassignment process, or be somewhere in the middle – and may be working at any stage of this transition.
  • A cisgender person is one whose gender identity and biological sex align.
  • An intersex person is one whose biological anatomy fit the stereotypical definitions of male / female.
  • Two-Spirit (or 2-Spirit) is a term that Aboriginal communities use to describe and include the range of gender diversity. 

There are many additional terms that might also be helpful to know; Pride at Work Canada's "Workplace Guide to Essential LGBT Terminology" and the Ontario Human Rights Commission's "Glossary for understanding gender identity and expression" define many terms in understandable language. 

  1. Know your legal obligations.

Human rights laws prohibit employers from discriminating against an employee – treating them differently, directly or indirectly, with an adverse effect – based on certain personal characteristics listed in the human rights law. The personal characteristics (or grounds) that human rights law protects varies depending on which law applies (which province or territory, or the federal law), but they are generally similar: differential treatment of an employee in the workplace because of the employee's biological sex, or because of attributes associated with their gender, regardless of their transition status, constitutes discrimination and is prohibited by law. On June 19, 2017, the Canadian federal government amended the Canada Human Rights Act to expressly prohibit discrimination on the grounds of "gender identity or expression". With this amendment, the human rights laws of every Canadian province and territory, with the sole exceptions of Yukon and Nunavut, now expressly states that discrimination is prohibited on the grounds of some variation of gender identity and/or gender expression However, even if the law doesn't specifically state this ground, Canadian courts, adjudicators and arbitrators have interpreted the grounds of "sex" and/or sexual orientation to include it.

This doesn't mean that an employer must necessarily treat a gender non-conforming employee exactly the same as other employee with their lived gender; as the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has observed, "[i]ssues about what human rights legislation requires in terms of treatment of transgendered, intersex, transsexual and other gender identities in areas that have been divided by sex have been, and doubtless will continue to be, the subject of litigation and analysis under human rights legislation" (see the 2012 Ontario Human Rights Tribunal's decision in Vanderputten v. Seydaco Packaging Corp., as cited in its 2016 decision in Lewis v. Sugar Daddys Nightclub). It does, however, mean that employers must not discriminate against employees on the basis of gender expression or identity, and must accommodate such employees to the point of undue hardship – just as they must in the case of every personal characteristic – such as religion, family status, medical cannabis use and drug dependency, for example – protected by human rights laws. 

  1. Implement – and visibly support – a gender diversity policy.

One of the most important things an employer can do to support gender diversity in the workplace is to implement gender diversity policies and visibly support them. And employers that do so seem to reap hard business rewards: in February 2016, the Harvard Business Review's "LGBT-Inclusive Companies Are Better at 3 Big Things", referenced The Center for Talent Innovation's report, "Out in the World: Securing LGBT Rights in the Global Marketplace," for the proposition that "countering LGBT discrimination makes a corporation competitive on three fronts". Recruitment is one of those fronts. For example, trans employees seek out employers that have a well-implemented gender diversity policy: a 2012 survey by the APLS Group, "Transgender In the Workplace", found that 51% of trans individuals would not work for an employer that does not have a LGBTQ staff policy in place. And there's broader appeal: in The Center for Talent Innovations' report, 72% of all respondents, including non-LGBTQ people, indicated they are more likely to take a job with an employer that supports LGBTQ employees than one that doesn't.

In particular, a gender diversity workplace policy should incorporate transition guidelines for transgender employees. These guidelines should be flexible enough so they can be easily individualized to meet the particular needs of a transitioning employee, while specific enough to provide a consistent framework that eliminates confusion and mismanagement and ensure a collaborative approach. Address issues like these in the guidelines:

  • Who is responsible for helping a transitioning employee manage their workplace transition.
  • What a transitioning employee can expect from management.
  • Management's expectations of transitioning employees and the existing gender diversity or LGBTQ employee group in facilitating a successful workplace transition.
  • The general procedure for implementing transition-related workplace changes, such as adjusting personnel and administrative records, as well as communication plans for co-workers and clients.
  • Answers to frequently asked questions about matters such as dress codes and restroom use.

Employers should also update their employee orientation programs on discrimination and harassment to include gender diversity and LGBTQ policies, and review all existing workplace policies and the environment to ensure they are gender-neutral and satisfy the employer's legal obligations. For example, a workplace dress code policy might appear neutral on its face, but have an adverse effect on gender non-conforming employees; it often takes minimal revision to transform such policies into gender-neutral ones. Employees also have the right to use the washroom facilities of their lived gender, regardless of their birth-assigned sex; depending on the workplace, it may be easy to convert facilities into gender-neutral ones. The Ontario Human Rights Commission's "Best Practices Checklist" offers a useful guide to the matters to address and additional resources into which employers can tap. 

  1. Assist in workplace communications.

One of the most crucial ways an employer can support a gender non-forming employee is by communicating to other employees in the  workplace – but only with the employee's authorization; without it, disclosure of such information might constitute harassment. For example, when a trans employee is transitioning, a message of support from senior management addressed to co-workers, and specifically those who work in direct contact with the transitioning employee, announcing the employee's plan to transition, communicating its values and relevant policies promotes a diverse and harassment-free workplace and can set a positive tone about the transitioning employee.  

  1. Help educate co-workers – and others – in the workplace.

Other employees may express discomfort with a co-worker's gender expression. This sense of discomfort might be attributed to a lack of education, grief surrounding the loss of an existing relationship, uncertainty surrounding the future relationship or religious beliefs. Regardless of the source of the discomfort, it's important for the employer to address those feelings and concerns through education and discussion. The employer should handle concerns based on religious beliefs by referring the employee to human rights legislation and its harassment policy intended to ensure equitable treatment of, and compliance with the employer's legal obligation to, all employees. Additional education and training around workplace respect can often help co-workers' understanding and reduce their discomfort around gender diversity.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions