Human Rights Legal Support Centre

Human Rights Stories

Negotiating Results in Human Rights Cases

Many clients choose to settle their applications rather than go through a full hearing.  We negotiate settlements at a Tribunal mediation or directly between the parties.  The terms of settlement are usually confidential and may include both individual remedies such as financial compensation, and public interest remedies, such as a revised workplace policy on harassment or on accommodation of disabilities.

Because most settlements are confidential, in the summaries below, we have changed some of the identifying details and anonymized the personal and corporate identities of the parties.  We present the facts as alleged by our clients; in settlement agreements, the applicants do not withdraw their allegations and the respondents do not acknowledge any of the facts as alleged. 


Settlements in the area of Employment

Complaints of racism lead to increased harassment

A university student worked part-time as a server. After a racist comment by a fellow employee, she complained to the management of the restaurant.

The complaint set off a series of incidents involving comments about her hair and braids and “jokes” about her stealing because she is black.Eventually her hours were cut.

The Centre negotiated a settlement that included:

  • Financial compensation for the discrimination;
  • Human rights training for all new and existing managers;
  • A positive letter of reference provided to the employee;
  • Information explaining the restaurant’s harassment policy will be added to the employee orientation package.

Another baby?

A woman had worked at a call centre for 6 years. Two days after she told them she was pregnant with her next child, she was fired. 

The Centre negotiated an agreement that included:

  • Financial compensation for the discrimination;
  • Updating of their human rights policy;
  • Training for managers;
  • Positive letter for reference.

Progressive discipline not applied

A black woman living with Multiple Sclerosis was employed as a Personal Support Worker. She was accused of fraudulent activity when she asked a co-worker to sign off on a document which was due while she was off on vacation. This had been a regular practice between workers in the office so she did not think it would be an issue.

When she returned from vacation, she was terminated without cause. There was no progressive discipline, despite there being a “3 strikes” policy in place.

Our client felt she was fired because it was easier to “get rid of” a person with a disability and that she was now labelled as a “fraudulent black woman”. She provided four examples of white co-workers who were not terminated for similar incidents.

The Centre negotiated an agreement that included:

  • Financial compensation for the discrimination;
  • Human rights training by an external consultant for all managers;
  • A positive letter of reference and matching verbal reference;
  • A mutual non-disparagement clause.

Traumatizing personal event led to termination

A woman had been working in a contract position for almost five years when she was offered a permanent management position. That year, her husband suffered a traumatic injury which permanently paralyzed him. She experienced depression, anxiety and grief, and her performance at work suffered.

Her director started to over-scrutinize her work and would not approve her vacation requests. Her employer eventually asked if she had a disability; she responded “no” and said that she preferred not to talk about it. She was fired shortly thereafter for performance issues.

The termination had a profound impact on our client. She found another job, but developed an overwhelming fear of not being able to financially support her family.

The Centre negotiated an agreement that included:

  • Financial compensation for the discrimination;
  • An amended employment letter stating that she had left to pursue other endeavours;
  • Removal of the termination from her file, so that she could apply to internal job postings for two years.

Truck driver was considered a pain in the back

A truck driver injured his back while on the job. His employer accommodated his disability at first but he was eventually terminated.

The employer claimed that the business was being structured and that many other drivers were affected. The other workers were laid off, however, not terminated.  

The employer told our client that he would not be paid severance because he had initiated a human rights application.

The Centre negotiated a settlement that included:

  • Financial compensation for the discrimination;
  • A letter of reference.

A little harassment is “normal” in the industry?

A woman was sexually harassed by her boss at work, who was a co-owner of the company. He made sexual comments to her, wrote her letters, made deliveries to her home outside of work hours and tried to kiss her on several occasions. When she reported this to the other co-owner, he told her that a little harassment was normal in the construction industry.

She resigned.

The Centre negotiated a settlement that included:

  • Financial compensation for the discrimination;
  • Financial compensation for lost wages and expenses incurred by commuting further to a new job;
  • Development of a sexual harassment policy.

Stressed out? Now you’re out of a job.

A man worked for the employer for nine years. New owners took over the business, and fired our client when he requested a medical leave. They replaced him with a much younger employee.

The Centre negotiated a settlement that included:

  • Financial compensation for the discrimination.

Medical worker was not accommodated following a medical leave

A nurse was diagnosed with breast cancer, and took a long term medical leave to receive treatment. The treatment limited her ability to lift and reach, affecting her ability to return to her old position.

When she was ready to return to work, our client asked if she could come back to a position that would accommodate her physical limitations. She applied to numerous alternative positions over the following months without success. 

Eventually she was given a nursing position that respected her limitations, and continues to work at the hospital.

The Centre negotiated a settlement that included:

  • Financial compensation for the discrimination during the period of unemployment after her recovery.

The impact of sexual harassment

A part-time receptionist was sexually harassed by her supervisor. He made comments about her body and touched her.  He also sent racist, sexist e-mails and text messages to her. She and other employees complained to his superiors and were told that action would be taken.  However, the supervisor was not removed and our client was told she would have to continue working under him.

With the help of the Centre’s lawyer, she filed an application with the Human Rights Tribunal, after which the harasser started a community-wide campaign to discredit her and accuse her of being “mentally ill”. In the small community in which this was taking place, the impact on the woman was significant.

The Centre negotiated a settlement that included:

  • Financial compensation for the discrimination;
  • 8 months full salary and benefits;
  • A positive letter of reference;
  • A mutual non-disparagement clause.

A Game of Forums

A janitor with over 20 years of employment was injured at work. His collective agreement required medically-related absences to be verified by receipt of WSIB (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board) benefits if the injury took place at work, or STD (Short Term Disability) benefits if it was not a workplace injury. Our client was denied WSIB benefits on the basis that his injury was not work-related. He then applied for STD benefits, but was refused benefits on the basis that the injury was work-related. 

Although our client provided his employer with medical documentation confirming that he could not work due to his injury, he was fired for unauthorized absences because he could not confirm receipt of either WSIB or STD benefits. He appealed the WSIB decision.

The Centre negotiated a settlement that included:

  • Financial compensation for the discrimination;
  • Financial compensation for lost wages;
  • Access to his full pension when he turns 65 in two years.

Read more employment settlements


Settlements in the area of Housing

Tenant’s human rights application results in province-wide agreement with one of Ontario’s largest landlords

Metcap Living Management Inc. agreed to implement a comprehensive policy and procedure relating to the accommodation of disabilities in all buildings managed by them in Ontario.

Read more


Condominiums legally liable for accessibility measures

Many condominium boards continue to operate as if their particular bylaws and structure make them immune from the law.  Ontario’s Human Rights Code applies to all condominiums in Ontario as well as other forms of housing such as cooperatives, private residential buildings and contracts involving housing.

In the summer of 2015, the Centre settled a human rights application between a Toronto condominium and a deaf resident who had been trapped in an elevator with no way to communicate her distress and need for help. 

The agreement includes:

  • Within 90 days the condominium will install and maintain a password protected WIFI system with sufficient speed and bandwidth to support Skype or other video applications and texting in all three passenger elevators.  The WIFI network will be tested by staff and Response System will be reviewed by staff during regularly scheduled fire alarm testing and drills 
  • The condominium will supply a portable power bank cell phone recharger to the resident. Added portable power bank cell phone rechargers will be made available upon request for others requiring similar accommodation for use of the three passenger elevators
  • The condominium will provide the WIFI password and emergency phone numbers and contact information for texting or email to any deaf resident or visitor of the building so that the Response System can be used by deaf elevator passengers in the event of an emergency in the elevators. 
  • The condominium will ensure that all front desk/security and on-site personnel are trained on the Response Procedure and a copy of the Response System is included in written materials provided to all new staff at the front desk or property management
  • The condominium will arrange for the Canadian Hearing Society to deliver written material on Anti-Audism sensitivity training to be incorporated by the board into the Building Policy.

As the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario made it abundantly clear when rendering a decision in one of the Centre’s cases:

“even where the Applicant is the only individual benefiting from the accommodation measure, unless undue hardship is established, the Code requires that the costs of the reasonable accommodation be borne by the condominium corporation.”


Student living with mental illness forced from campus residence

A student living in residence at a college disclosed to the administration that she had mental health disabilities.

The residence then required her to sign a safety contract agreeing, among other things, to attend counselling, to monitor and provide proof of her attendance, and to call a help line if she was in crisis. She was already receiving regular psychiatric care off campus.

The student felt threatened and would not meet with the administration to discuss the contract. After an incident where the administration thought she was at risk of self-harm, she was told to leave the residence.  After moving back in with her family, she eventually withdrew from her courses at the college.

The Centre negotiated an agreement that included:

  • Financial compensation for the discrimination;
  • Training for all staff on the duty to accommodate mental illness;
  • A letter of apology.

Ramp installed for man requiring access to his car

A man who uses a wheelchair asked the board of his condominium corporation to install a ramp so that he could access the building. At first, he was told that he would have to pay for the ramp but the board later agreed to pay.  However, the board choose a design for the ramp that would not meet our client’s needs.  The board would not consider the design even though our client was able to put forward a less costly option.

The Centre negotiated a settlement that included:

  • Financial compensation for the discrimination;
  • Installation of the ramp requested by the resident at no cost to him.

Read more housing settlements


Settlements in the area of Services

ODSP recipient’s human rights application leads to Ministry policy and procedures review

The Centre represented a woman who has multiple disabilities which affect her mobility. She asked her Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) worker to accommodate her need to have communication by email as she also has a communication disability.  As she continued to have concerns about the way her accommodation request was handled, the Centre negotiated an agreement with the Ministry of Community and Social Services that included:

An individualized accommodation plan with detailed provisions for all her requested accommodations and a clear complaint process.

The Ministry agreed to retain an expert in human rights to review ODSP policies, procedures and training materials, with focus on whether they address communication-related disabilities and whether they contain an appropriate complaints procedure.

The consultant will provide a written report of its findings with recommendations to ensure compliance with the Human Rights Code.


Toronto Catholic District School Board changes accessibility procedures in response to human rights claim

A Toronto mother’s human rights claim has resulted in a settlement with the Toronto Catholic School Board to change accessibility policies and procedures across the entire board. The enhanced policy and procedures will be communicated to all elementary and secondary schools.  The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario issued an order on consent of the parties.

The Human Rights Legal Support Centre represented the mother, who was taken aback when she discovered her daughter’s brand new school had accessible washrooms – but just for adults.  The Centre’s lawyer, Marisa Scotto di Luzio, spoke for the mother (who was not named to protect her child’s identity). “We hope that school boards across the province will follow The Toronto Board’s lead.  We also hope the provincial government will comb the Ontario Building Code to identify other accessibility gaps.”

To read the full decision, visit Canlii


Trans woman settles human rights case with City of Hamilton 

The City of Hamilton reached an agreement to settle a human rights application involving a trans woman who was denied access to the women's washroom at the MacNab Bus Terminal in Hamilton by a City employee. The trans woman was provided access to the family washroom.

The City of Hamilton recognizes the right of trans people set out in Ontario's Human Rights Code which includes the right to access facilities in accordance with their self-identified gender identity. The City is committed to communicating that a trans person will not be required to use a separate facility because of the preferences or negative attitudes of others.  The City is committed to providing accommodation options for washrooms and change rooms on an individualized basis. 

Read the full media release on Canada Newswire


Toronto District School Board Takes Action to Support Trans Students

The Toronto District School Board is moving to strengthen its supports for trans students and has successfully resolved a Toronto mother's human rights application on behalf of her son.

"As we collectively learn more about making sure trans children and youth are safe, we can build on best practices here in Ontario and across the country," said Janina Fogels, the mother's lawyer with the Human Rights Legal Support Centre.

Read more


Improved accessibility for jurors with disabilities

The Ministry of the Attorney General’s Court Services Division has intensified its commitment to providing barrier-free access to courts across the province.

The sweeping review of practices and procedures arose out of one woman’s attempt to participate in the jury selection process.  Carol Mehlenbacher arrived to find visual aids unavailable. She was relieved from jury duty. With help from the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, Mehlenbacher and Court Services officials crafted a range of changes to make courts more accessible. 

Changes to the process include:

  • A review of the accessibility resources available in Ontario’s courthouses with the Offices of the Chief Justices of Ontario and Regional Senior Justices and the Criminal Law Division and its staff and Crown Attorneys.
  • Juror summons now include contact information for disability-related help at the specific court location where one is being summoned for jury.
  • People will be directly connected to the local accessibility coordinator.
  • The accessibility coordinator will work with the individual to determine how best to meet the person’s individual disability needs when they attend court.
  • Necessary equipment will be arranged.
  • The court/trial office will be informed of the request and particulars. 
  • An updated jury management manual will further clarify staff procedures when disability-related needs are raised.
  • Ongoing training of all staff will be provided on appropriate responses to requests for communication supports and accessible document formats.
  • An accessibility-focused newsletter will be distributed to staff.

Protecting trans inmates – integration not segregation

When Bretilynne Twa was first taken into custody, she was housed in a male facility and segregated from the other inmates. After about a month, she was transferred to a women’s facility, but remained in segregation - allegedly for her own safety. For many months after that, Ms. Twa was detained in isolation - denied access to the yard, to work opportunities, and to programming. 

Ms. Twa’s application resulted in a settlement negotiated by the Centre and helped to inform the province-wide implementation of a new policy, the Admission, Classification and Placement of Trans Inmates policy that includes:

  • Integration (rather than segregation) as the default
  • Placement according to inmate’s self-identified gender
  • Intake/Plan of Care form to be completed on admission with input from the inmate;
  • Maximizing privacy;
  • Access to personal items related to lived gender identity;
  • Training to build trans positive awareness in frontline staff most directly involved in the application of the policy and customized, job-specific, mandatory human rights training, which will include content specific to gender identity and gender expression.

City of Mississauga paves smoother road for congregants

A settlement has been reached between the City of Mississauga and congregants at the ISNA mosque in Toronto.   MD Khalid and his son Salman were shocked when additional parking restrictions suddenly appeared a block from their mosque – banning parking on Fridays between noon and 3pm – the most important prayer time of the week.  After being unable to resolve the matter, Mr. Khalid and his son filed a human rights application, believing that the new restriction specifically targeted their religion. A hearing was due to continue in December 2014 but the Centre negotiated an agreement to revise parking restrictions on Fridays on the street adjacent to the mosque.  Regular parking regulations will continue to be enforced.


Ministry of Health to develop Trillium Drug Benefit Program policy on accessibility and accommodation

Axel Krueger’s need for more accessible prescription information prompted the new plan. Mr. Krueger’s insistence on access to key medical information will benefit prescription users with vision loss across Ontario.

The Centre negotiated a settlement that included:

  • The Ministry of Health and Long Term Care will develop a Trillium Drug Benefit Program policy on accessibility and accommodation.
  • The policy will specifically reference options available to blind and visually impaired customers to receive information relating to their file in several different formats.
  • The policy will include a complaint mechanism and be posted on the Trillium Benefit Program’s website.
  • Staff of the Trillium Drug Benefit Program and any third party operator will undergo training specifically in relation to accessibility needs of the blind and visually impaired.
  • Training will be mandatory for Trillium program call centre operators.

Disabled northern Ontario travellers settle human rights claim with ONTC

Limited travel options in Ontario's north were not even available to Bradley Bondar and Lisa Buck because no vehicles had accessible washrooms.  Yesterday Bondar and Buck settled joint human rights claims with the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC), making sure northern Ontarians with disabilities will have more transportation options.

Englehart resident Lisa Buck joined her human rights claim with that of Timmins disability rights activist Bradley Bondar, who passed away before his claim was settled.  Bondar's brother Jason carried forward the claim on his behalf of his estate. Jason commented that "Bradley broke down a lot of barriers for people with disabilities in his lifetime and this resolution is part of his legacy."

As part of the settlement of the human rights claim, ONTC agreed to:

  • Order three motor coaches with wheelchair accessible washrooms
  • Make every effort to have these coaches available to passengers with disabilities upon request
  • Train drivers on human rights - drivers will have to complete training before operating any equipment.

Hockey Canada embraces gender identity inclusion

Hockey Canada has agreed to make changes to protect young players in Ontario from discrimination and harassment based on a player's transgender status.  These changes resolve a human rights application Jesse Thompson filed after facing difficulties at his local arena.

Hockey Canada will:

  • Provide training to all its Ontario-based trainers and coaches on gender identity and gender expression, including training on discrimination and harassment
  • Amend its Ontario Co-Ed Dressing Room Policy, which will be publicly posted on the websites of the Ontario branches of Hockey Canada, to include that:

o    A player has a right to use a dressing room that corresponds with the player's self-identified gender identity;

o    A player shall be addressed by the player's preferred name and referred to by pronouns corresponding to the player's self-identified gender identity; and

o    A player is entitled to privacy and confidentiality with respect to the player's trans status

  • Provide information about the amended policy to staff, volunteers, parents/guardians and players in Ontario.

"I was scared, but I didn't want to give up the game I love or the person I am.  I just want to be that guy who's really good at hockey and hope my actions mean other kids don't go through the same pain," said Jesse Thompson. 

 


School failed to protect student sexually harassed by peers      

A high school student started being taunted by email and on social media by a group of girls from her school.  They incited other students to sexually harass and abuse her verbally in the hallways.

Her parents spoke to the principal and vice principal who did not take the conduct seriously and failed to investigate. After nothing was done by the school or the police, she changed schools, however the on-line harassment continued.  In addition, the group told peers at her new school she was a “slut” and used other sexually-related derogatory terms.

The Centre made the argument that the school had a duty, similar to that of employers, to take steps to create a harassment-free environment and conduct a full investigation where needed.

The Centre negotiated a settlement that included:

  • Financial compensation for the discrimination;
  • A communication was to be delivered to all students and parents explaining a new process for complaining of harassment;
  • All principals and vice principals in the district school board will take training to deal with sexual harassment over 2014-2015 school year;
  • The school board will provide training to all teachers and secondary education workers on the Human Rights Code, the Bullying Awareness and Prevention and Intervention Policy, the Discipline Policy and the Code of Conduct.

Student should be tested with the accommodations he needs

A student had been undergoing active rehab for 11 years after he acquired a severe brain injury at the age of 18. He had successfully completed his bachelor’s degree, and was in his second year of law school. He received a failing grade on an exam, which he wrote without all of the accommodations he required. The faculty decided that he could not continue with the program.

The law school eventually allowed him to resume his studies with appropriate accommodation and offered to reimburse him for his second-year tuition and to delete the mention of the failed course from his transcript – on the condition that he sign a release.

The student was humiliated and upset, and did not want to go back.

The Centre negotiated an agreement that included:

  • Financial compensation for the discrimination;
  • The student’s transcript would be revised with no mention of the failing grade, or readmission to the program;
  • The University would adopt a policy on Accommodation of Disabilities;
  • The University would implement an efficient process for resolving disputes in accordance with its new policy, recognizing that compliance with the Human Rights Code requires accommodation of the needs of individual students.

Read more services settlements