Can My Boss Do That? Questions about Discrimination and Bullying

Can My Boss Do That? Questions about Discrimination and Bullying


Can my boss treat me differently from how s/he treats my coworkers?

If your boss is treating you differently it could be discrimination.

The Alberta Human Right Act protects you from discrimination based on your race, colour, gender, gender identity, gender expression, religion, ancestry, where you were born, age, physical or mental disability, family status, marital status, source of income, or sexual orientation.

For more information read our inforgraphic or visit

Also, in december 2017, Bill 30: An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans received royal assent. Many of these changes take effect on June 1, 2018. this Bill provides that:

Employers and supervisors are required to ensure that none of the employer’s workers experience or participate in harassment or violence at the work site. Employers are not permitted to engage in harassment or violence at owrk.

Harassment is defined as follows: any single incident or repeated incidents or objectionable or unwelcome conduct, comment, bullying or action by a person that will or would cause offence or humiliation to a worker, or negatively affects the worker’s health and safety, and includes:

  • conduct, comment, bullying or action because of race, religious beliefs, colour, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place or origin, marital status, source of income, family status, gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation, and
  • 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.

Can my boss yell at me or bully me?

If the bullying you are experiencing includes or threatens behaviour such as physical assault, aggression or harm, it may fall under the provisions of Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Act regarding harassment and violence in the workplace. Under the Act, employers with 20 or more workers must develop a health safety program  about potential workplace harassment and violence and communicate the policy to employees. You can get more information from the Occupational Health and Safety Contact Centre at 1-866-415-8690 toll-free or 780-415-8690 in Edmonton or visit

The Alberta Human Rights Act protects you from harassment based on your race, colour, gender, religion, ancestry, where you were born, age, physical or mental disability, family status, source of income or sexual orientation. If the yelling or bullying you experience is based on one of these protected grounds, then you may make a complaint against your employer under the Act. For more information read our inforgraphic or visit

If your workplace bullying is putting your personal health or safety in danger, leaving you with no choice but to resign you may be able to claim constructive dismissal. You can read more about constructive dismissal and other related legal issues in this Alberta Government publication.

If you belong to a union you may have extra options available to you through your union.


Can my boss bully me or pressure me into doing something that I think is unsafe?

No – It is your legal right to refuse to do work if you think that there is a dangerous condition on the work site, or that the work will threaten your health and safety, or the health and safety of a co-worker, if the risk is beyond what is normal for your job.

This is the procedure you should follow:

  • Report to your employer or supervisor that you are refusing to work and state why you believe that the situation is unsafe.
  • You, your supervisor, and a worker representative will investigate.
  • If the problem is solved, you can return to work. If not, a government health and safety inspector is called.
  • Your supervisor may assign you to reasonable alternative work.

If the dangerous condition or threat to the health and safety is not solved, you or anyone present during the investigation can file a complaint with the officer.

If you have refused to do dangerous work or work that is a danger to you health, you must still be paid your wages and benefits as if you were working.

The Occupational Health & Safety Act protects you from disciplinary action by your employer. You cannot be reprimanded for refusing unsafe work.


Can my boss tell me what I cannot wear at work?


Your employer can require certain dress and appearance standards for safety, health, and aesthetics. The dress code must be applied to all employees equally.

The dress code cannot be used to discriminate against an employee on the protected grounds under the Human Rights Act. If a piece of clothing you wear is based on one of the protected grounds, your employer has a duty to accommodate you to the point of undue hardship.

Last updated: January 2018

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hremf-b-w72dpiAll of the materials on this page were funded by the Alberta Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund (HREMF). This project was a result of a research project funded by HREMF. The research report is available here.

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