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In Ontario, the Human Rights Code (the “Code”) prohibits the creation of a hostile/poisoned work environment. The Code defines this as an environment that has become intolerable in a way that the discriminatory conduct or attitude spreads throughout the workplace entirely. In the context of human rights, a poisoned work environment can be found in two circumstances:

  1. If there has been a particularly egregious incident; or
  2. If there has been a series of wrongful behaviour that has created a hostile/poisoned work environment that is persistent or repeated.

To give this some further meaning, to determine whether a poisoned work environment exists, relevant factors include the number of comments or incidents; the nature of the comments; the seriousness of the comments and whether, if taken together, the comments or incidents create an environment where an individual endures discriminatory behaviour.

As mentioned above, it is important to note that a poisoned work environment can be found even if there is a single or “stand-alone” incident, if the incident is particularly egregious, as was decided by the Court of Appeal for Ontario in General Motors of Canada Limited v. Johnson, 2013 ONCA 502.

If you believe that you may be working in a poisoned and therefore intolerable work environment, seek legal advice. Please contact Toronto employment lawyers Sultan Lawyers at 416-214-5111 or via email at mlahert@sultanlawyers.com.

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