Before Filing a Complaint

Look at Other Options First

Prepare and Keep a Detailed Record

Back to Filing Your Complaint

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A Look at Other Options

Filing a formal human rights complaint is a serious matter. Always remember that discrimination is not your fault and that changing the attitudes and behaviours of others is sometimes a long and hard process. If you choose to file a formal human rights complaint, there are supports in place to assist you through the process. Remember that a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal has to be filed within 12 months of the last incident. At times however, an informal approach may work to resolve your issue.  The following suggestions and general guidelines are for your consideration. 

If you need information about your legal rights as protected in human rights legislation, call us directly.

At Work

Human rights law protects you from discrimination and harassment in your workplace. It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against you on the basis of your age, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, gender or sex, gender identity or expression, race or colour, marital or family status, ancestry or place of origin, or because of a criminal record that is unrelated to your employment. This protection extends through hiring or firing, job assignment, pay rates and conditions of work.

The law requires an employer to provide a workplace that is free from discrimination and harassment and many employers carry out this responsibility through establishing human rights / harassment policies. A good policy will have a clear statement of intent, examples of what is covered in the policy, a complaints process that is fair and efficient, and remedies that focus on the person experiencing the discrimination and on future preventative strategies.

Find out whether your workplace has an internal complaints policy and learn how to access it.

  • If you are unionized a good starting point is your union steward or copy of your collective agreement,
  • In a non-unionized workplace, contact the personnel department or the person responsible for human resources.

If your workplace doesn’t have a policy, you may want to suggest they consider one.  Further suggestions to consider include: 

Speak out and make it clear that you do not approve of what is happening.

Sometimes a simple statement such as, “I find that remark (that action, that behaviour, or that policy) unacceptble and don’t appreciate it” might work. If you confront your situation in this manner, consider having a trusted colleague, a union steward, or a friend with you for support. Never confront a harasser if you’re at all intimidated.

Tell your supervisor or someone higher up about your concern
and ask them to help.

Remember, employers have a legal obligation to provide a workplace free from discrimination and harassment and it’s in everyone’s best interest to take steps to resolve problems as they arise. If you’re not happy with a result, you are free to file a formal complaint of discrimination.

If you require an accommodation or supports at work because of a disability, 
make your employer aware of your needs.

An employer has an obligation to explore options and you have a corresponding duty to cooperate with efforts to accommodate and communicate specific needs, unless those needs are obvious. If you don’t require any accommodation or supports, there may be no reason why you would need to disclose information related to your disability. See our links page for further resources or call us if you need more information or assistance.

Using or Accessing Public Services

Service providers, such as restaurants, movie theaters, public libraries, colleges and universities are responsible for providing their services in a manner that is free from discrimination and harassment. In many cases this means ensuring services are accessible to all. However, some services may have valid eligibility criteria that exclude certain people, while other services have customer service policies that address issues related to discrimination and harassment.

Ask the staff if they have a policy in place and talk to the people involved to
see if the issue could be resolved.

You may find it more helpful to speak with a supervisor or manager.

Make sure you understand any eligibility criteria that may exist.

If you don’t understand the criteria, or are unsure that it’s valid, contact us, or view the exceptions and exemptions section on this website for more information.

Whatever alternatives you pursue, make sure you’re provided with appropriate solutions. View our remedies section for general guidelines on appropriate remedies.

Prepare and Keep a Detailed Record

Whether you choose an informal or a formal approach to resolve your issue, it’s important to keep track of what happened. Try to write down everything that happened such as:

  • The date(s) of the incident(s).
  • The place where the incident(s) occurred.
  • The name, address, and other details of the person, or place that discriminated against you.
  • A description of the incident(s)
  • How you felt about the incident both when it happened, and after it happened.
  • Did anyone witness the incident? Have others been treated in the same discriminatory manner? If so, make a record of this information. Ask for written statements from these people and include names, addresses and phone numbers.
  • If you’ve contacted others for help keep a written record of whom you called, what was said, and what if any action was taken.

Remember, it’s always easier to gather information at the time the problem is happening rather than later on. If your complaint is not dealt with immediately, continue to keep detailed written records until it’s resolved and try to keep track of possible witnesses for future use.