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A New Way to Deal with Frivolous Human Rights Complaints Quickly and Cost Effectively

Among the amendments to Ontario’s human rights system in the past few years was the creation of a summary hearings procedure under Rule 19A of the Human Rights Tribunal (the “Tribunal) Rules of Procedure.  This can save employers time and money as it provides a formal mechanism to dismiss frivolous claims early on in the process.

In summary hearing, there are two main issues that the Tribunal will examine: (1) whether the allegations can be reasonably considered to amount to a violation of the Code, or (2) whether there is a reasonable prospect that the applicant can prove, on a balance of probabilities, that his or her Code rights have been violated.

The use of this procedure was highlighted in a recent Human Rights Tribunal decision, Abdul v York University.  In this case, the applicant had made allegations against five organizations alleging discrimination on the basis of race, ancestry and ethnic origin for failing to grant her a job interview contrary to the Human Rights Code (the “Code”).   Applications against all the respondents except York University and the University of Waterloo were withdrawn.  The applications against the two remaining respondents were dismissed at summary hearing by the Tribunal.

The Tribunal held that there was no reasonable prospect that the applicant would be able to prove that her Code rights had been violated.  The application consisted of vague allegations respecting the job descriptions, job postings, grammatical errors, and the lack of testing of applicants. The tribunal dismissed the application as there was no reasonable prospect of success.

As illustrated in this case, the use of this procedure can be very beneficial to employers as it allows the Tribunal to dismiss applications that have no reasonable prospect of success, saving the employer from investing valuable time and resources into groundless claims

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