The University's Human Rights Definition

Our human rights policy at the University of Alberta focuses on three main components: harassment, discrimination and duty to accommodate.

The Discrimination, Harassment and Duty to Accommodate Policy defines the following important key human rights terms: the protected grounds, discrimination, harassment, bullying, sexual harassment, racial harassment and duty to accommodate.

For more information on the processes for staff, faculty members, students and post-doctoral fellows (PDFs) when dealing with any complaint of harassment, discrimination or failure to reasonably accommodate an individual(s) based on characteristics defined in the protected grounds listed below click here

What are the Protected Grounds? 

At the University of Alberta, all members of the campus are prohibited from discriminating against an individual or groups based on the 14 protected grounds listed below (e.g. sexual orientation, gender or race).

  • Race

  • Colour

  • Ancestry

  • Place of origin

  • Religious beliefs

  • Gender (including pregnancy and gender identity)

  • Physical disability

  • Mental disability

  • Marital status

  • Family status

  • Source of income

  • Sexual Orientation

  • Age

  • Political belief 

What is Discrimination?

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.

What is Harassment?

Harassment can include bullying, sexual harassment and racial harassment, which is a form of aggression that may include physical, verbal, or emotional abuse. Harassment is any behaviour that demeans, intimidates, threatens or is abusive in nature. It can be repeated or can be a onetime incident, but it undermines authority and serves no legitimate purpose in the work, study or living environment. 

What is Bullying?

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

What is Sexual Harassment?

Unwelcome conduct or comments of a sexual nature, which affects the work, study or living environment that leads to adverse consequences for the person(s) being harassed. It may consist of unwanted sexual attention, remarks about someone sexually orientation or creating a negative psychological or emotional environment because of an individual’s gender or sexual orientation. This can occur as either an isolated incident or repetitive occurrence.

Those engaged in this act do not need to have the intention to harass someone. Similarly, the individual experiencing harassment need not explicitly object to unwelcome conduct or comments.

An individual’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.

How would a responsible casual observer interpret this situation? This is the best test to determine if a situation constitutes sexual harassment or not.

What is Racial Harassment?

Racial harassment is unwanted comments, conduct or behaviour about an individual or a group that focuses on their race, ethnicity, origin or religion. This behaviour can feel leave an individual feeling humiliated, excluded, intimated or isolated along with undermining their self-esteem. Racial harassment violates the dignity and security of an individual or group(s) that it targets.

What is Duty to Accommodate?

The duty to accommodate obligates the University of Alberta to make reasonable adjustments, to the point of undue hardship (read the definition here) or as required by law, to the delivery of services (including teaching and the method of evaluation) and the conditions of employment in order to reduce or eliminate the impact of discriminatory rules, policies, practices, standards, terms of employment or decisions, which have an adverse impact on an individual or group of individuals based on a characteristic or perceived characteristic referenced in the protected grounds (see above list).

Where can Harassment or Discrimination Occur?

Any member of the University of Alberta’s community (all employees, professors, support staff, clinical staff, students and post-doctoral fellows) can experience discrimination, harassment on or off university campus (e.g. member attending any university related function, work or study assignment outside the university, and any work, training or study conferences, travel and training).

Consult the online toolkits and resources available on the Office of Safe Disclosure & Human Rights website here. If you have questions about how this applies to you or someone you know, please contact our office at 780.492.7325 or 780.248.1894