Friday, December 17, 2010

Ontario Employment Law: Jurisdiction of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal

In a recent decision, Gothard v. Clowater, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal provides us with an important reminder: Its jurisdiction is limited by the Ontario Human Rights Code itself.

The Tribunal only has the power to decide an applicant's claim where that claim alleges discrimination on the basis of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, record of offences, marital status, family status, or disability.

The fact that an applicant has been treated "unfairly" by the employer is not enough; without a factual underpinning that brings a workplace matter within the ambit of the Code, the Tribunal may not provide compensation or relief.

As Adjudicator Judith Keene aptly notes in Gothard:

Clearly the applicant feels that he has been treated unfairly, but he does not allege that the actions to which he objects were taken because of an attempt on his part “to claim and enforce his or her rights under this Act”. The Tribunal does not have a general power to inquire into claims of unfairness outside the areas and grounds listed in the Code.
In order to establish a claim under the Code, an Applicant must provide information showing that his or her right to be free from discrimination, as provided by the Code, has been violated through the conduct of his or her employer. Only then will the Tribunal have the power to decide the matters raised and award a remedy if appropriate.

If you feel that you have been are are being discriminated against by your employer, contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code, seek legal advice from a lawyer to determine your rights and entitlements.

- Robert Tanha, Toronto
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