Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 109, Issue 1, pp 79–88 | Cite as

Disability and workplace harassment and discrimination among Canadian federal public service employees

  • Andrea Marie Jones
  • Rodrigo Finkelstein
  • Mieke Koehoorn
Quantitative Research



Policy and legislation that prohibits workplace harassment and discrimination, including that which is disability related, has been in place in Canada for many years. The study objective was to examine associations between disability and workplace harassment and discrimination in the current Canadian context, as well as the intersection of disability with age, gender, and ethnicity.


Cross-sectional data from the 2014 Canadian Public Service Employee Survey was analyzed (n = 175,742) using logistic regression to investigate the relationship between self-reported disability and workplace harassment and discrimination in the last 2 years. Age, gender, and ethnicity were included as potential confounders and effect modifiers. Additive and multiplicative effect modifications were examined using linear binomial and logistic regression, respectively.


Overall, 18 and 8% of the sample of Canadian public service employees reported workplace harassment and discrimination, respectively. The prevalence was higher for workers with disability (37 and 26%). Disability was significantly associated with an increased odds of harassment (odds ratio (OR) = 2.80; 95% confidence interval (CI), 2.68–2.92) and discrimination (OR = 4.97; 95% CI, 4.72–5.23) in models adjusted for confounders. Significant positive additive effect modification was observed for (1) age in the harassment and discrimination models and (2) ethnicity in the discrimination model.


Findings from a 2014 census of the Canadian federal public service suggest that additional efforts are needed to address workplace harassment and discrimination beyond those already in place. Consideration should be given to workers with disability, as well as the intersectional impacts for older workers, visible minorities, and Aboriginal peoples.


Disabled persons Workplace Social discrimination Ethnic groups Gender Age groups 



Des politiques et des lois interdisant le harcèlement et la discrimination en milieu de travail, notamment envers les personnes handicapées, existent depuis de nombreuses années au Canada. Nous avons voulu examiner les associations entre le handicap et le harcèlement et la discrimination au travail dans le contexte canadien actuel, ainsi que les croisements entre le handicap et l’âge, le sexe et l’ethnicité.


Nous avons analysé par régression logistique les données transversales de l’édition 2014 du Sondage auprès des fonctionnaires fédéraux du Canada (n = 175,742) pour examiner la relation entre le handicap autodéclaré et le harcèlement et la discrimination au travail au cours des deux années antérieures. L’âge, le sexe et l’ethnicité ont été inclus à titre de possibles facteurs confusionnels ou modificateurs de l’effet. La modification de l’effet a été examinée par régression linéaire binomiale (interaction additive) et par régression logistique (interaction multiplicative).


Dans l’ensemble, 18% et 8% de l’échantillon d’employés de la fonction publique canadienne ont fait état de harcèlement et de discrimination au travail, respectivement. La prévalence était plus élevée chez les employés handicapés (37% et 26%). Le handicap présentait une corrélation significative avec une probabilité accrue de harcèlement (rapport de cotes [RC] = 2,80, intervalle de confiance [IC] de 95%: 2,68–2,92) et de discrimination (RC = 4,97, IC de 95%: 4,72–5,23) dans les modèles ajustés selon les facteurs confusionnels. Dans le modèle additif, une interaction positive significative a été observée 1) pour l’âge dans les modèles de harcèlement et de discrimination et 2) pour l’ethnicité dans le modèle de discrimination.


Les constatations d’un recensement mené en 2014 dans la fonction publique fédérale canadienne indiquent qu’il faut faire des efforts en plus de ceux qui sont déjà déployés pour contrer le harcèlement et la discrimination en milieu de travail. Il faudrait tenir compte des employés handicapés, ainsi que des incidences croisées sur les travailleurs âgés, les minorités visibles et les Autochtones.


Personnes handicapées Lieux de travail Discrimination sociale Groupes ethniques Genre Tranches d’âge 


Compliance with ethical standards


Although the research and analysis are based on data from Statistics Canada, the opinions expressed do not represent the views of Statistics Canada.

Sources of support

Jones and Finkelstein are supported in part by the Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy. Jones and Koehoorn are supported in part by the Partnership for Work Health and Safety, a research partnership between WorkSafeBC (provincial workers’ compensation system) and the University of British Columbia. Jones is supported in part by the CIHR Bridge Strategic Training Program and WorkSafeBC. This research was supported by funds to the Canadian Research Data Centre Network (CRDCN) from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), and Statistics Canada.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea Marie Jones
    • 1
  • Rodrigo Finkelstein
    • 2
  • Mieke Koehoorn
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Population and Public HealthUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.School of CommunicationSimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada

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