Human Rights Claims
What is a human rights claim?
Human rights laws protect everyone in Canada from discrimination based on certain personal characteristics. Individuals who have been subjected to prohibited discrimination can apply to the Human Rights Tribunal for relief. Very often, human rights claims arise out of employment, including claims for workplace discrimination, workplace harassment and bullying, and workplace sexual harassment.
What is discrimination?
Generally speaking, discrimination is any act, omission, policy or practice based on negative attitudes, stereotypes and biases about protected personal characteristics. Discrimination is often subtle, systemic, and unintended. It cannot be disguised by legitimate considerations - a decision that is even 99% legitimate and 1% discriminatory is said to be "tainted".
What characteristics are protected under human rights laws?
Human rights laws are very specific about the personal characteristics that are protected from discrimination. In Ontario, for instance, everyone is protected from discrimination on the following grounds: age, ancestry, colour, race, citizenship, ethnic origin, place of origin, creed, disability, family status, marital status (including single status), gender identity, gender expression, receipt of public assistance (in housing only), record of offences (in employment only), sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding), and sexual orientation.
It is important to understand that not all personal characteristics are protected from discrimination. There are innumerable personal characteristics that human rights laws may not cover, such as political beliefs, club membership, employment status, occupation, dietary choices, financial means, and many others.
What are some examples of discrimination in the workplace?
An employee is disciplined or fired from work due to excessive absence while on an approved short-term disability leave. This would be discrimination based on disability.
A company adopts a mandatory retirement policy for anyone over the age of 60. This would be discrimination based on age.
A female employee is told by her male boss that she will only receive a promotion if she agrees to go on a date with him. This would be discrimination on the basis of sex and workplace sexual harassment.
A store employee is routinely harassed by the store's customers on the basis of his sexual orientation. He repeatedly complains to his employer, who does nothing about it, and the harassment continues. The employer would have committed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
How do I make a human rights claim?
In Ontario, you can make a human rights claim by filing an application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO). In most cases, your application will proceed to mediation, followed by a full hearing where both parties may present evidence and make legal arguments to a member of the Human Rights Tribunal.
What remedies can I get at the human rights tribunal?
The HRTO has broad jurisdiction to make any award that remedies the discrimination. Where, for instance, you have been discriminated in the workplace, you could receive an award for lost wages, or even reinstatement. The Tribunal typically also grants some award for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect. Such awards range anywhere between $5,000 to $150,000 depending on the severity of the conduct.
What can Hyde HR Law do for me?
The employment lawyers at Hyde HR Law have combined decades of experience litigating and resolving human rights claims. We can help you determine whether you have a human rights case against your employer, and we can use the threat of reinstatement as a powerful bargaining tool to negotiate a settlement on your behalf. Should those negotiations fail, we have the experience and knowhow to represent you through the human rights claim process, from filing an application through to a hearing before the human rights tribunal. We support access to justice for vulnerable individuals and are willing to discuss contingency fee arrangements. Contact us today.