Definitions for Discrimination, Accommodation and Harassment


A distinction made based upon characteristics protected under the Human Rights Act and University of Alberta's revised Discrimination, Duty to Accommodate Policy (e.g race or sexual orientation) including matters that burden limit opportunities or withhold access for either an individual or a group related to advantages available to other members of the University of Alberta community.

A distinction, whether or not intentional, based on a characteristic or perceived characteristic referenced in the protected grounds that has the effect of imposing on an individual or group of individuals burdens, obligations or disadvantages that are not imposed on others, or of withholding or limiting access to opportunities, benefits and advantages available to other individuals in society.


Accommodation is the process of making reasonable adjustments to the delivery of services and the conditions of employment in order to alleviate any adverse impacts on persons that result from the application of rules, policies, practices, standards, terms of employment, or decisions, due to a characteristic or perceived characteristic referenced in the protected grounds. Accommodation is a shared responsibility between the University and the individual in need of accommodation, and is assessed on the unique circumstances of each individual. The process requires reasonable accommodation, not instant or perfect accommodation. The recipients of accommodation (e.g. students, faculty and staff) may be required to try different accommodation options. The University is required to provide reasonable accommodation up to the point of undue hardship. Accommodation neither requires nor implies that the University lower its academic or professional standards. Nor does accommodation relieve students of the responsibility to demonstrate the essential skills and competencies required by programs or staff of the responsibility to meet the performance requirements of a position in which they are accommodated.


A single or repeated incident of objectionable or unwelcome conduct, comment, bullying or action by a person that the person knows or ought to reasonably know will or would cause offence or humiliation to a worker or adversely affects the worker’s health and safety, and includes:

  1. Conduct, comment, bullying or action because of race, religious beliefs, colour, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status, gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation
  2. A sexual solicitation or advance

but excludes any reasonable conduct of an employer or supervisor in respect of the management of workers or a work site.


Harassment includes bullying, which is a form of aggression that may include physical, verbal or emotional abuse. Bullying poisons the work, study or living environment of the person it targets. It can include persistent, offensive, abusive, intimidating or insulting behavior, abuse of power, and/or unfair sanctions which make the individual feel threatened, humiliated and/or vulnerable.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment may be broadly defined as unwelcome conduct or comment of a sexual nature which detrimentally affects the work, study or living environment or otherwise leads to adverse consequences for the person who is the target of the harassment.

It may consist of unwanted sexual attention, sexually oriented remarks or behaviours or the creation of a negative psychological and emotional environment based on gender, gender identity or sexual orientation. It may be an isolated act or repetitive conduct but cannot be trifling. A reprisal or threat of reprisal against an individual for rejecting a sexual solicitation or advance may also constitute sexual harassment.

The person(s) engaged in harassment need not have the intention to harass; it is the objective assessment of the circumstances that matters. How would a reasonable observer perceive the situation? A complainant need not expressly object to unwelcome conduct or comments, although any clear indication that the behaviour is unwanted will satisfy the test. A complainant's apparent passivity or failure to object overtly to sexual advances does not necessarily signal consent or welcomed behaviour, especially where a power imbalance exists between the individuals.

Racial Harassment

Racial harassment involves unwanted or unwelcome comments, conduct or behavior that humiliates, intimidates, excludes or isolates an individual or group by focusing on their race, ethnicity, origin or religion. Overall, racial harassment undermines self-esteem and is a violation of the dignity and security of the individual or group(s) that it targets.

In addition to the Discrimination, Harassment, and Duty to Accommodate Policy, the University of Alberta has a Sexual Violence policy which defines sexual violence as any sexual act or act of a sexual nature, or act targeting sexuality, whether physical or psychological, committed without consent. This includes, but is not limited to sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, indecent exposure, voyeurism, distribution of intimate images, inducing intoxication, impairment or incapacity for the purpose of making another person vulnerable to non-consensual sexual activity, and other analogous conduct.


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