Violations for workplace discrimination are addressed under Ontario’s Human Rights Code and handled by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. In June 30, 2008, the process for filing a human rights complaint in Ontario became more tightly regulated.
Limitations of the Former Process
Prior to Bill 107, an application (previously referred to as a complaint) had to be filed with the Ontario Human Rights Commission within six months from the last discriminatory incident. Although there were time limitations and processes for filing, there was neither a deadline nor an established format for the respondent to file a response to the application.
Under the former process, once the Ontario Human Rights Commission received the application, mediation was available. If no agreement was reached between the parties, then the Commission would conduct an investigation and either dismiss the application or refer it to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario for a hearing. At the hearing, the Tribunal would supply a decision and a corresponding remedy to the applicant, but the parties had broad rights to appeal this decision.
The New Process under Bill 107
Bill 107 has altered the process so that applications are filed directly with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario within twelve months of the last discriminatory incident. Thus the process bypasses the Commission altogether.
Mediation will now be available directly from the Tribunal. The Tribunal may now dismiss or defer an application and may order an investigation into an application if necessary.
Additionally, the Tribunal now uses a number of different adjudicative and alternative dispute resolution methods to render a decision prior to the hearing, such as:
- a summary hearing to decide the preliminary issues;
- integrated mediation; and,
- a pre-hearing assessment of the application.
Both parties to the application must now complete necessary forms related to their matter, provide a list of witnesses, and meet the following deadlines:
- The respondent to the complaint must file a response within 35 days after receiving a copy of the application from the Tribunal.
- If the applicant for the complaint wishes to file a reply to the respondent’s response, this must be done within 14 days of the respondent’s filing.
- A list and copies of all relevant documents must be delivered to the opposing party within 21 days of receiving the Tribunal’s confirmation of the hearing.
- All relevant documentation that will be relied on at the hearing must be delivered to the opposing party and filed with the Tribunal 45 days prior to the application being heard.
Benefits of the New Process
Bill 107 now limits a party’s ability to appeal a Tribunal’s decision. A party may only request judicial review of a Tribunal’s decision if the decision is patently unreasonable.
For related case studies and more information on Bill 107 – Ontario’s New Process for Handling Discrimination Complaints, search our blog.