On January 18, 2011, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice overturned a 2009 decision by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal that found Toronto employer Maxcine Telfer guilty of human rights violations against a former employee. According to the Toronto Star, the decision, which awarded the employee $36,000, could have resulted in the sale of Ms. Telfer’s home to pay for the damages after the complainant’s lawyers obtained a lien against the house to ensure payment.
The action showcases the right to a fair trial for all parties, including not only those claiming to be victims of discrimination, but also those accused of human rights abuses. Ms. Telfer’s lawyer highlighted the importance “particularly in human rights claims where people’s reputations are at stake.”
In April 2008, Seema Saadi began working as an intake worker for Audmax Inc. an organization that uses public funding to administer assistance programs for ethnic and religious populations.
Ms. Saadi claims that although the workplace was fraught with tension and division from the start, the situation deteriorated when she was reprimanded for contravening workplace policies that she believed to be discriminatory. The policies included a ban on using the company microwave to heat certain odorous foods, a prohibition on workers speaking French among themselves, and an office dress code that she claims interfered with her choice of wearing religious headscarves.
Ms. Saadi claims that the policies amounted to discrimination on the basis of the protected grounds of race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, ethnic origin, disability, creed and sex. After less than six weeks on the job, Ms. Saadi was terminated. Ms. Telfer claims that the termination was for cause and was unrelated to the alleged human rights violations.
A “Fatally Flawed” Tribunal Decision
In its review of the decision made by the Tribunal’s adjudicator Faisal Bhabha, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice found the reasoning behind the adjudicator’s conclusions to be inadequate, unsupported, lacking in logic, and legally flawed. It also cited breaches of procedural fairness, such as the adjudicator’s manner of dealing with the absence of a key witness for Ms. Telfer.
The Court concluded that the trial was “fatally flawed” and “patently unreasonable”, and has ordered the case to tried anew by a different adjudicator at the Tribunal.
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To read the source article for this blog, see The Toronto Star (Superior Court rules Ontario Human Rights Tribunal hearing was unfair, by Moira Welsh, February 1, 2011).
Saadi v. Audmax, 2009 HRTO 1627 (CanLII)
Audmax Inc. v. Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, 2011 ONSC 315 (CanLII)