Part of the function of an HR Department is to resolve personnel complaints ranging from harassment to discrimination and even violence. But what happens when you file a complaint and it seems that HR simply does not have your back?
Sadly, this is a scenario that many Canadian workers face. The good news is that you have options.
Employers have the responsibility to protect workers from harassment and discrimination.
According to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), employers have a duty to respond to discrimination complaints. At minimum, an employer should:
- Have a complaint process in place;
- Ensure there is a corporate understanding as to what constitutes discrimination;
- Take complaints seriously and act promptly; and,
- Communicate to the complainant as to what actions have been taken as a result of their complaint.
Possible outcomes to a complaint might include an apology, employee training, transfer or termination of the violating employee, or mediation.
When an employer or HR department fails to or inadequately meets these standards, the employee’s next course of action should be to seek outside help.
Filing a Human Rights Claim
If you believe that your human rights have been violated at work, one of your options is to file a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. If both parties agree, the Tribunal will attempt to settle the dispute through a mediation. If the other party does not agree to a mediation, they will hold a hearing to determine what, if any, measures should be taken and what compensation should be awarded.
Grievances Under Collective Agreements
Some unionized employees may also be able to make complaints under their collective agreements. Because the rights and responsibilities of the Human Rights Code are typically worked into collective agreements, a violation of the Code would also likely constitute a violation of the collective agreement.
According to the Supreme Court of Canada, grievance arbitrators in Ontario are required to enforce Human Rights Code statutes as if they are a part of the collective agreement.
Contact an Employment Lawyer
While it is possible to file a human rights complaint or a grievance under your collective agreement on your own, it is always best to consult with an employment lawyer, as there may be additional factors to consider. These factors may impact the outcome of the complaint and in some instances justify bringing a lawsuit against your employer.
Is Filing a Complaint or Lawsuit Really Worth it?
Seeking legal help for a problem at work may sound stressful, but the truth is that your lawyer will do everything they can to make the process as simple for you as possible. It may also be the only way to hold your employer accountable.
In the recent case of Bassanese v. German Canadian News Company Limited et al, a 73 year old employee who was terminated after she made repeated complaints (to no avail) about another employee’s harassment of her and eventually filed a police report when the situation turned violent, was awarded nearly $200,000 in damages by the Ontario Superior Court.
In some cases, taking legal action is necessary to ensure that employers take issues of harassment and human rights seriously.
If you are facing these types of issues in your workplace and your HR team is not acting in an appropriate manner, it may be time to take additional steps. Contact us today for a consultation.
Minken Employment Lawyers is your source for expert advice and advocacy on today’s employment law issues.
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