This is general information only. It is not legal advice about your situation. This publication is not a substitute for a lawyer’s research, analysis and judgment. This information sheet is reliable as of the date of publication. You should be aware that the law and procedures under the Human Rights Code and at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario are subject to change without notice.
- What is a "Respondent"?
- What is Section 4 of the Application?
- What information do I need to give about each Respondent?
- What if I do not know the correct legal name and/or the contact information of a Respondent?
- Who should I name as a Respondent?
- If the discrimination occurred in the workplace, when should I name any individual employee(s) of the organization Respondent?
- When is an employee of an organizational Respondent acting in the course of their employment duties?
- What if the organizational Respondent accepts that the employee was acting within the course of their duties?
- When might I want to name individual Respondents in addition to an organization Respondent?
- If I named individual Respondents, when might the Tribunal decide to remove them from my Application?
- What if I want to add a Respondent after the application has already been filed at the Tribunal?
- Can I name a union or an employee association as a Respondent?
- Can I name the provincial government as a Respondent?
- Can I name the federal government or a federally regulated business and/or organization as a Respondent?
- Are there any exceptions to not naming federally regulated businesses and/organizations?
A Respondent is the person and/or organization that you believe is legally responsible for the discriminatory act(s) alleged in your Application.
One of the most important parts of an Application (Form 1) to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (Tribunal) is section 4.
Section 4 requires you to provide the name and contact information for each Respondent. A Respondent may be an individual or an organization (such as a company, corporation or government agency). The Tribunal requires the correct information for each Respondent.
The Tribunal will send a copy of your Application (Form 1) to every organization and/or person named as a Respondent. Each Respondent is entitled to file a Response (Form 2) and to fully participate in the proceeding.
If an individual or organization is not named, they are not a party to the proceeding and cannot be found legally responsible by the Tribunal.
You must give the Tribunal the following information about each Respondent:
- The correct legal name and contact information of each organization named as a Respondent; and
- The full name and contact information of each person named as an individual Respondent.
It is your responsibility to find the correct legal name and contact information for each Respondent. The Tribunal will not take steps to find out this information about the Respondent for you.
In some cases, if you have the incorrect legal name on your Application, the Respondent will provide the correct legal name when they file the Response (Form 2).
Some tips to help figure out the correct legal name include:
- If it is your employer, check your Record of Employment or T4;
- Check the website if the organization has one;
- Contact the organization and ask for its legal name; or
- Do a corporate search if the organization is a business and may be incorporated. In Toronto, you can attend the Ministry of Government Services, 393 University Ave, Suite 200.
If you know the name of the organization, but do not have the full name of an individual, you can file using the name that you have and request that the Tribunal order the organization to provide the name to you.
If you have the name of an individual Respondent, but not the correct legal name of the organization involved, you can file an application based on the best information that you have for the organization. After you file, you can request that the Tribunal order the named Respondents to provide you with the information you need.
If you are naming employees from the workplace, such as a manager, you can usually use their work address and contact information.
This will depend on the facts of your particular case. You should name only those Respondents that could be held legally responsible for the alleged acts of discrimination. Adding unnecessary Respondents will increase the complexity of the case and may delay its resolution.
In some cases, you may want to name both individual and organizational Respondents. In other cases, you may want to name only an organization or an individual Respondent.
Particularly if you want to name a corporation as a Respondent, it is a good idea to get legal advice at the time that you are completing your Application.
If the discrimination occurred in the workplace, when should I name any individual employee(s) of the organization Respondent?
A common scenario involves allegations of discrimination that happen in the workplace.
The Code has a specific section - section 46.3(1) - that deals with the liability of corporations for the acts of their employees. If there is an organizational Respondent, it usually is not necessary to name individual Respondents who were acting in the regular course of their employment or duties.
This is different for allegations of harassment. Harassment is defined in the Code as “engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome”. If your Application alleges harassment, then you should name the person who harassed you as an individual Respondent.
In cases of harassment, an employer is generally not liable for the conduct of a harassing employee if the employer was not aware of the discriminatory act, unless the harasser was a management employee. An employer will be responsible if it failed to take appropriate steps to address the harassment as soon as it was brought to their attention.
When is an employee of an organizational Respondent acting in the course of their employment duties?
This is a complicated legal question that is beyond the scope of this information sheet, but the following general legal principles are applicable under section 46.3(1) of the Code.
- The general rule is that an organization, including a corporation is legally liable for the acts of their officers, employees or agents.
- Exceptions to this general rule include: harassment in accommodation (section 2(2)), harassment in the workplace (section 5(2)), and sexual harassment (section 7). These types of complaints should be brought against the individual who committed the alleged harassment.
- Management employees can be personally liable if they were aware of the harassment and failed to take appropriate action to prevent the discriminatory conduct.
- An employer can be held vicariously liable if it failed to deal with harassment in the workplace which resulted in a poisoned work environment (s. 5(1)).
- An organization, including a corporation can be held liable for harassment by an employee if the harasser is a member of management and considered to be part of the “directing mind” of the corporation.
What if the organizational Respondent accepts that the employee was acting within the course of their duties?
Often an organization Respondent will acknowledge that that the individual employee(s) was acting within the scope of their job responsibilities, that there are no issues with respect to the organization Respondent’s liability for the employee’s actions, and that the organization Respondent is in the best position to respond to the allegations, and if necessary, to remedy any violations.
For example, if you were terminated from your employment by your human resources manager, it is usually not necessary to name that manager as a Respondent because the manager has been acting in the course of their duties on behalf of their employer in carrying out the termination of your employment.
There may be circumstances where it would be appropriate to name an individual Respondent. For example, you may believe that the organization Respondent may not be able to respond to or remedy the alleged infringement of the Code.
Or you may believe that there is a compelling reason to continue the proceeding against the individual because his or her conduct is a central issue in dispute and it may be appropriate to award a remedy specifically against that individual.
This would be the case where you claim the individual harassed you at work in circumstances where the organization might not be held responsible for the individual’s conduct. See Ontario Human Rights Commission v. Farris, 2012 ONSC 3876 (CanLII) for a fuller analysis of the interaction between corporate and personal liability in the context of harassment in the workplace.
If I named individual Respondents, when might the Tribunal decide to remove them from my Application?
A Respondent may ask the Tribunal to remove named individual Respondents. Rule 1.7(b) of the Tribunal’s Rules of Procedure gives the Tribunal the power to remove a party. As noted above, the Tribunal will often remove an individual Respondent where there is an organizational Respondent in a position to respond to the allegations.
In Persaud v. Toronto District School Board, 2008 HRTO 31, the Tribunal set out the following non-exhaustive list of factors to be applied when deciding whether to remove a named individual Respondent:
- Is there is a corporate or organizational Respondent in the proceeding that also is alleged to be liable for the same conduct?
- Is there any issue raised as to the corporate or organizational Respondent’s deemed or vicarious liability for the conduct of the personal Respondent who sought to be removed?
- Is there is any issue as to the ability of the corporate or organizational Respondent to respond to or remedy the alleged Code infringement?
- Does any compelling reason exist to continue the proceeding as against the personal Respondent, such as where it is the individual conduct of the personal Respondent that is a central issue or where the nature of the alleged conduct of the personal Respondent may make it appropriate to award a remedy specifically against that individual if an infringement is found?
- Would any prejudice be caused to any party as a result of removing the personal Respondent?
With regard to #4 above (i.e., considering whether a compelling reason exists to continue the proceeding against an individual Respondent), one way of approaching this question is to ask yourself whether it is necessary to involve this person as a party in order to have a fair, just and expeditious resolution of the merits of the application.
Rule 1.7(b) of the Tribunal’s Rules of Procedure gives the Tribunal the power to add a party. Rule 1.7(c) allows the Tribunal to amend an application.
You can request the Tribunal’s permission to amend your application to add the party. You must fill out and file a Request for an Order during Proceedings (Form 10) and send it to all the Respondents, including the party you want to add. You should send a copy of all the pleadings to the party you want to add so they will be able to understand what your claim is about. You also need to file the Form 10 (with the Statement of Delivery (Form 23)) at the Tribunal. All the Respondents, including the party you are trying to add, will have an opportunity to respond to your Form 10.
In deciding whether to permit an amendment to add a Respondent, the Tribunal will again look to the list of factors set out above in Persaud v. Toronto District School Board, 2008 HRTO 31.
It is important to make any request to amend your application at the earliest opportunity. You should not delay because the Tribunal is more likely to deny your request if the hearing is scheduled to begin fairly soon.
If you have a union or association in the workplace, you may bring an application against them for violating the Code.
You should be aware that the failure of a union or association to pursue a human rights issue, such as refusing to file a grievance on your behalf, is not, in and of itself, a breach of the Code.
There may be non-discriminatory reasons why a union might decline to pursue a human rights application. In order for a claim against a union or association to succeed, you must be able to show that their failure to act was based on discriminatory factors (see: Traversy v. Mississauga Professional Firefighters’ Association, 2009 HRTO 996).
Yes. The Tribunal does hear applications against the Ontario government, whether a government ministry or a government board or agency.
When you name a government ministry as a Respondent, the correct legal name is:
Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Ontario, as represented by the Minister of (name of the ministry).
If your applcation is against an Ontario government agency, board or commission, you must use the agency’s correct legal name. For a list of government agencies see: https://www.pas.gov.on.ca/scripts/en/BoardsList.asp.
Can I name the federal government or a federally regulated business and/or organization as a Respondent?
No. The Ontario Human Rights Code is provincial legislation and applies only to situations and events that have a connection with Ontario or come within Ontario’s jurisdiction.
The Tribunal cannot hear applications about organizations that are properly within the federal jurisdiction of the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC). These include:
- Federal government ministries or agencies;
- Federal institutions such as the armed forces;
- Chartered banks; and
The following types of enterprises may come within the jurisdiction of the CHRC if their activities extend beyond the borders of Ontario:
- Telecommunication (e.g., telephone and cable companies, television broadcasters and radio stations);
- Transportation (e.g., trucking and courier companies and buslines and railways)
The determination of whether to go to the CHRC or the Tribunal can be complicated. Even if the Respondent is federally incorporated, the CHRC may not be the correct forum. It may depend on the nature of the activity involved.
If your situation is unclear, you may want to obtain legal advice before applying. You may be advised to file applications in both jurisdictions in order to preserve your legal rights if there is no easy answer to the question of which forum. This is especially true if you are near the end of the allowable time for filing an application.
For information about the federal human rights system, contact:
Canadian Human Rights Commission
344 Slater Street, 8th Floor
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1E1
Phone: (613) 995-1151
Fax: (613) 996-9661