How to make a discrimination complaint

Have you experienced discrimination while seeking employment in a strip club? Have you been dismissed or treated unfairly while working in a strip club, and believe that the club’s actions were discriminatory against you?

You can seek justice. You can file a discrimination complaint with your provincial Human Rights Tribunal/Commission.

Even as independent contractors strippers are protected by federal and provincial Human Rights Codes. Strippers have the right to equal treatment with respect to employment, and the right to freedom from harassment in the workplace. According to the Canadian Human Rights Act, refusing to employ or continue to employ someone on a prohibited ground of discrimination counts as a discriminatory practice (s. 7). Prohibited grounds for discrimination include: “race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered…Where the ground of discrimination is pregnancy or childbirth, the discrimination shall be deemed to be on the ground of sex” (Canadian Human Rights Act, s. 2).

This means that club owners and club management CANNOT:

  • deny you employment in their club because of your race, culture, or place of origin;
  • deny you employment in their club due to disability;
  • deny you employment or terminate your employment because of your age;
  • sexually harass or demand sexual acts outside of what you are licensed to do.

If any of these things have happened to you, read on to see how to file a complaint, some things to think about before you do, some examples of successful cases, and finally, who to contact in your province if you want to file a complaint.

Filing a complaint

If you feel that you have experienced discrimination in your workplace, begin by contacting your province’s Human Rights offices. Each province will have an office/department that provides legal information to help your application run as efficiently as possible. This is a free service.

The next step is to fill out an application with your provincial Human Rights Tribunal/Commission. This is the decision-making court that mediates and litigates human rights applications. Filing an application is free.

The filing process will include completing an application detailing:

  • your personal contact information;
  • the contact information of the person(s) and/or establishment(s) that you are filing the claim against (referred to as the respondent);
  • the specific grounds for discrimination and/or harassment;
  • the location and date of the discriminatory event(s);
  • a detailed description of the event and how it affected you;
  • the remedy you are asking for (monetary compensation and/or non-monetary compensation).

As an applicant, you can choose to attempt mediation or conciliation between you and the respondent(s). If both parties agree, the Human Rights Court will attempt the settle the matter outside of court litigation procedures.

Important things to remember when filing a human rights complaint

There is a strict one-year time limit for filing a human rights application. Normally, you must file your application within one year of the last event of discrimination. You must file before 5pm of the 1-year deadline date.

Exceptionally, in the context of COVID-19, provincial Human Rights Courts have extended the deadline date. The length of the extension differs for each province. Any claims for discriminatory events that occurred after March 18, 2020, may be eligible for an extension. Check with your province’s Human Rights office.

Human rights applications require your real personal information. Failure to provide your real information could result in dismissal of your claim. Your information will not be published if your case is settled in mediation. However, if your case is litigated in court, your case, including your name, will be available to the public through legal databases. Consider:

  • Specific case files are generally harder to find online. Your case should not come up on a Google search. It will only be readily available from searches on legal databases such as CanLII.
  • However, if your case is featured in another piece of work about case law, such as in a law journal, your case may be more easily found online.

The Human Rights offices within your province can only provide (free) representation to some applicants. You may have to find (and pay for) your own legal representation. Check out our post on legal aid clinics to see if you are eligible for legal aid (i.e., free legal advice and representation). It is a good idea to get some legal advice – after all, we aren’t lawyers! – for free from Pro Bono Ontario, which deals with civil matters including employment.

Successful cases have supporting evidence and credible witnesses. The best forms of evidence include written (text, email, letters, etc.) proof of discrimination, detailed personal records of interactions with respondent(s), witness statements from those present during the discriminatory action(s), and other people who have experienced discrimination from the same party.

If you are not hired, or if you fired for discriminatory reasons, continue looking for a job and record the time and efforts you make to find a different job as you file your human rights complaint. If your human rights complaint is successful, whether you find another job or not, you can also claim lost wages since you were actively in need of the employment you were originally denied.

Past successful claims

Although we know that it is common practice for strip club management to discriminate against dancers whom they deem unsuitable for their club – for example by refusing to hire or limiting the shifts of Black dancers, or firing strippers who have gained weight – we wanted to know if strippers had ever pursued justice for these management wrongdoings. What we found was that some dancers took their cases to human rights tribunals, and some won damages for wrongful dismissal including for racial discrimination.

In the past, strippers have asked for and won monetary compensation for acts of discrimination they have experienced while working or searching for work in strip clubs:

  • Varma v. G.B. Allright Enterprises Inc., 1988. A stripper in a BC strip club was fired due to racial discrimination. She won $1,500 in compensation for insult to self-respect.
  • Middleton v. 491465 Ontario Ltd., 1991. A waitress working in a strip club in Ontario was fired due to sex discrimination (pregnancy). She won $10,955.60 in lost wages, and $2,500 in compensation for damages to self-respect.
  • Roberts v. Club Expose, 1993. A stripper in a strip club in Ontario was denied employment due to racial discrimination. She won $1,420 in lost wages and tips, and $2,000 in compensation for humiliation.

If you choose to file a human rights complaint, check out our post on Tips for making a successful discrimination complaint to help strengthen your case.

And please let us know how it goes!


Human rights offices in provinces with strip clubs

Ontario

For information: Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC)

Tel: 416-597-4900

Toll Free: 1-866-625-5179

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday: 9:00am to 5:00pm

Thursday: 2:00pm to 6:00pm

To file a claim: Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO)

Tel: (416) 326-1312

Toll Free: 1-866-598-0322

British Columbia

For information: BC Human Rights Clinic

Tel: 604 622 1100

Toll Free: 1-855-685-6222

Email: infobchrc@clasbc.net

Monday to Friday: 8:30am to 4:00pm

To file a claim: BC Human Rights Tribunal

Tel: 604-775-2000

Toll Free (in B.C.): 1-888-440-8844

Email: BCHumanRightsTribunal@gov.bc.ca

Quebec

For information and to file a claim: Commission des Droits de la Personne et des Droits de la Jeunesse

Toll Free: 1-800-361-6477

Email: information@cdpdj.qc.ca

Monday to Friday: 8:30am to 12:00pm (noon); 1:00pm to 4:30pm

Contact once claim is filed with Commission above: Human Rights Tribunal of Quebec

Tel: 514-393-6274

Email: tribunal.personne@judex.qc.ca

alberta

For information and to file a claim: Alberta Human Rights Commission

Inquiry Line Tel: 780-427-7661

Email: AHRC.Registrar@gov.ab.ca (Include a daytime phone number where you can be reached.)

Monday to Friday: 8:15am to 4:30pm

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