Human Rights Legal Support Centre

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Human Rights Stories

Cases Decided at Hearing

Summarized below are a selection of Human Rights Tribunal decisions in cases where the Human Rights Legal Support Centre provided representation to the applicant at the hearing.

Many cases are resolved before a hearing takes place at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. See Settlements at Mediation for examples of how the HRLSC negotiated changes to business practices to prevent discrimination from happening to someone else.

Employment hearings

Employer Must Redo Policy and Training Because Consultant Lacked Human Rights Expertise, Says HRTO

The Human Rights Legal Support Centre represented an employee who felt their employer had failed to provide proper training as well as a new internal policy mandated in a previous human rights settlement.

In the eyes of the employee and in the ruling of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (the “HRTO”), the employer’s decision to hire a consultant lacking the necessary expertise with the Ontario Human Rights Code (“the Code”) caused it to breach its settlement. The subsequent training and policy that were created by the consultant spread misinformation and caused further harm to the applicant and other employees they were supposed to help protect.

The case of Robert Cater v. Gestion Claude L’Heureux Inc., o/a Canadian Tire 422, 2021 HRTO 254 came after a mediation settlement between the applicant, Mr. Cater, a Canadian tire employee and the store. Cater had been allegedly fired after the store failed to accommodate his mental health and addiction-related disabilities. The parties agreed to mediate the case.

The initial settlement required that the store deliver a half-day of training for its management and employees and to develop an internal human rights policy focused on accommodating workers with mental health and addiction-related disabilities. A key requirement of this new training and policy was that they be developed by a consultant with expertise in the Code.

The HRTO heard that the store’s published training materials utilized the term “drug addict” and phrases such as “using drugs illegally” to explain its policies on individuals suffering from addiction-related disabilities. The HRTO found that this language inserted unfair and harmful assumptions about people with addiction-related disabilities into the training materials.

These materials suggested that the employer’s Code-related obligations to provide support were limited to employees that were in rehabilitation programs and not actively using drugs or alcohol. The employer’s materials also claimed that its medical personnel could access employee information on the topics of drug use and rehabilitation without their consent.

The HRTO found the internal human rights policy similarly mischaracterized the employer’s responsibilities under the Code. The policy incorrectly pointed to the Canadian Human Rights Act as an important guiding document for the employer and improperly placed the burden of accommodation for disabilities equally upon employees and the store.

The HRTO found that:

  • The store published and presented materials with “language and misinformation that is clearly contrary to the Code”;
  • The trainings and policies put in place failed to follow the agreed-upon settlement or the Code and could further stigmatize and marginalize individuals with addiction-related disabilities; and
  • That the individual hired to do this work by the store’s management was not knowledgeable on human rights and failed to meet the standards of Minutes of the Settlement which outlined the requirements for the training and policy.

The HRTO ordered:

  • The store to develop new training and policies required under the original settlement using a consultant with “recognized expertise in the Ontario Human Rights Code”; and
  • $2,500 to the applicant for the further injury dignity, feelings and self-worth.

To read the full decision, visit Canlli.

Second-highest damage award to employee who experienced egregious sexual harassment, solicitation and reprisal from her supervisor

NK v. Botuik, 2020 HRTO 345

The HRLSC represented NK in her human rights application against her former supervisor. Shortly after she was hired in a residence for adults, the respondent began sexually harassing her on a regular basis. The incidents escalated to forced sexual activity on a number of occasions. The respondent threatened to fire the applicant or cut her hours if she stopped seeing him.

On April 26, 2016, the applicant accepted a full-time position at a different residence, to get away from the respondent. He continued to come by her home on her off days and would show up at her new workplace. On September 3, 2016, after the applicant told the respondent she did not want to see him anymore, they had a violent altercation and he sexually assaulted her. Later in the night, the applicant was arrested for assaulting the respondent. The following day, the residence cancelled the applicant’s shifts for the foreseeable future, due to the allegations of assault the respondent made against her.

She provided a letter to her employer outlining the entire history of sexual harassment and solicitation with the respondent, as well as the sexual assault. The third party investigator found that both the applicant and respondent had acted inappropriately. On December 7, 2016, both parties were terminated for inappropriate activity in the workplace.  

The applicant was unable to work in her field while the assault charges were pending. She worked as a cleaner for a year, which paid substantially less than what she earned before. On July 6, 2017 the criminal charges were withdrawn.

The Tribunal found:

  • The applicant had experienced sexual harassment and sexual solicitation. No reasonable person would have believed the respondent’s conduct was welcome behaviour. The respondent was in a position to confer or deny a benefit to the applicant and she was completely dependent on him with respect to the number of hours she would be scheduled for.
  • The respondent reprised against the applicant by initiating criminal proceedings against her, which caused the loss of her job at the residence and hindered her future job prospects.
  • These seriousness of the respondent’s conduct and the exceptional damage it caused to the applicant, who was particularly vulnerable given her history, warranted an award of general damages at the very highest end of the spectrum.

The Tribunal ordered:

  • $170,000 in general damages for injury to the applicant’s dignity, self-respect and feelings; and
  • Both pre-judgment interest and post-judgment interest on the award.

To read the full decision, visit Canlii

Employee denied procedural fairness at HRTO summary hearing granted rare second reconsideration due to exceptional circumstances

Sehdev v. Halton District School Board, 2019 HRTO 1190

Ms. Sehdev filed an HRTO application alleging discrimination in employment because of disability contrary to section 5 of the Code.   She alleged both her employer, the Halton District School Board and her employee association, the Halton District Educational Assistants Association, failed to accommodate her disability related needs in the workplace.

The HRTO ordered a summary hearing with respect to her allegations against the association on the basis there was no reasonable prospect of Ms. Sehdev being able to prove discrimination by the association. Neither Ms. Sehdev nor her legal representative attended at the summary hearing and her applications against her employer and her association were deemed abandoned and dismissed.  Ms. Sehdev’s subsequent first request for reconsideration at the HRTO was also dismissed.

Ms. Sehdev then requested a second reconsideration at the HRTO, even though such second requests are rarely requested and more rarely granted. She argued the HRTO’s summary hearing was intended to deal only with her allegations against her association (and not her employer) and the HRTO erred in dismissing her whole application and those parts of her application alleging discrimination by her employer.

Ms. Sehdev argued the HRTO Rules of Procedure 26.5(b) and (c) applied to her case in that she was entitled to notice, but through no fault of her own, did not receive notice of any summary hearing about her allegations against her employer and the HRTO deemed abandonment decision was in conflict with HRTO case law and procedure and involved a matter of public importance.

The HRTO held the facts of the case raised exceptional circumstances and it was appropriate to consider Ms. Sehdev’s second request for reconsideration. The HRTO reviewed the Notice of Summary Hearing and other documentation indicating that the summary hearing was intended to address the question of whether the application against the association, but not only the employer, should be dismissed as having no reasonable prospect of success.

The Tribunal found:

  • that there was real question as to whether Ms. Sehdev had received effective notice of any summary hearing involving her allegations in her application against her employer;
  • that it was reasonable for Ms. Sehdev to understand the HRTO summary hearing was to deal only with her allegations against her association and would not have understood that any non-attendance by  her at the summary hearing could also lead to a deemed dismissal of the allegations in her application against her employer; and
  • that any question about a lack of notice to Ms. Sehdev had to be resolved in her favour as a matter of procedural fairness.

The Tribunal ordered:

  • that Ms. Sehdev’s second request for reconsideration of the HRTO decision dismissing her application against her employer as abandoned be granted; and
  • that a mediation date be scheduled at the HRTO given that the parties had agreed to mediation in the application

To read the full decision, visit Canlii.

Discriminatory hiring policy requiring job applicants to be eligible to work in Canada on permanent basis costs company $120,000

 Haseeb v. Imperial Oil Limited, 2019 HRTO 1174

In  an earlier decision, Haseeb v. Imperial Oil, 2018 HRTO 957, the HRTO found Imperial Oil violated Mr. Haseeb’s rights under the  Code. Mr. Haseeb applied for a job at Imperial Oil as an entry level engineer and was ranked first among the candidates. He was offered a job conditional on providing proof of his eligibility to work in Canada on a permanent basis by way of a Canadian birth certificate, a Canadian citizenship certificate or a Canadian certificate of permanent residence. This requirement was found to be discriminatory based on the Code ground of citizenship.

The HRTO issued this second decision to determine what remedy Mr. Haseeb was entitled to from Imperial Oil as a result of the company’s human rights violations. Mr. Haseeb sought compensation for the injury to his dignity, feelings and self-respect as well as lost wages resulting from Imperial Oil’s refusal to hire him due to his lack of Canadian citizenship.

It has long been held that the purpose of lost wages awards is to restore an applicant, as far as is reasonably possible, to the financial position they would have been in, had the discrimination not happened.

The HRTO considered all the evidence and found that, but for Imperial Oil’s discrimination by considering Mr. Haseeb’s permanent eligibility to work in Canada as a factor in its decision not to hire him, Mr. Haseeb would have been hired based on his top ranking in the job competition and the offer of employment that was actually made to him.

The Tribunal found that:

  • Imperial Oil’s decision to deny Mr. Haseeb employment in an entry-level engineering position at the very start of his career was objectively serious;
  • Mr. Haseeb was a young man at the very start of his career who aspired to work as an engineer in the oil and gas sector and these dreams were effectively taken away from him;
  • Mr. Haseeb had mitigated his lost wages by taking a lower paying job at the time of the discrimination by Imperial Oil;
  • Mr. Haseeb was particularly vulnerable as an immigrant to Canada with uncertainty as to his legal status;
  • Mr. Haseeb was entitled to claim lost income for the period from when he would have started working with Imperial Oil (March 2015) until May 2019 based on the difference in the salary from his actual job and the one he would have had at Imperial Oil; and
  • there should be no reduction in Mr. Haseeb’s monetary compensation based on his dishonesty in the job application process because it was in response to Imperial Oil’s discriminatory conduct.

The Tribunal ordered:

  • Imperial Oil to pay $101,363.16 as monetary compensation for lost income, subject to applicable statutory deductions;
  • Imperial Oil to pay $15,000.00 without deduction as monetary compensation for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect; and
  • Imperial Oil to pay $3,997.54 as pre-judgment interest on the above amounts.

To read the full decision, visit Canlii.

Dental assistant fired because she was pregnant awarded $20,000 and employer ordered to develop a human rights policy

Mannen v. Dr. Monika Spolia Dentistry Professional Corporation, 2019 HRTO 774

Ms. Mannen was hired as a dental assistant by Dr. Spolia on March 27, 2017. On June 27, 2017, Ms. Mannen found out she was pregnant.  On July 10, 2017 she decided to inform her employer of her pregnancy. On July 18, 2017 Ms. Mannen was fired, after having trained her intended replacement.

Ms. Mannen filed an application at the HRTO alleging Dr. Spolia asked her not to get pregnant when she was hired and made disparaging comments after she informed her of her pregnancy. She also argued that Dr. Spolia fired her as a result of her pregnancy. Dr. Spolia argued that Ms. Mannen abandoned her employment because she was upset with a performance review.

The HRTO found the evidence of Ms. Mannen more credible. The HRTO found that, when Ms. Mannen told Dr. Spolia on July 10, 2017 that she was pregnant, Dr. Spolia responded by shaking her head and muttering: “Why does this keep happening to me?” Dr. Spolia asked Ms. Mannen if she was happy and whether she had decided to keep the baby. Dr. Spolia also promised that her pregnancy would not affect her job.  

On July 17, 2017, Ms. Mannen was told to train another dental assistant who had just been hired. The next day, about 15 to 20 minutes after starting her shift, the office manager asked Ms. Mannen to come into the office. The office manager advised her that this was her last shift and gave her a letter of termination.

Ms. Mannen immediately started looking for a new job and was able to find a new position by September 5, 2017.

The Tribunal found:

  • Ms. Mannen’s pregnancy was a factor in Dr. Spolia’s decision to terminate her employment;
  • that there was no credible explanation for the sudden decision to advertise and hire a new dental assistant and the hiring of a new dental indicated that Dr. Spolia had decided to terminate Ms. Mannen’s employment; and
  • that Dr. Spolia had warned Ms. Mannen against becoming pregnant shortly after the Ms. Mannen started working and then showed her displeasure upon being advised of her pregnancy.

The Tribunal ordered Dr. Spolia:

  • to pay Ms. Mannen $20,000 in general damages for the injury to her dignity, self-respect and feelings;
  • to pay Ms. Mannen $929.85 in compensation for lost wages;
  • to complete the eLearning module “Human Rights 101” found on the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s website; and
  • to develop a workplace human rights policy, addressing the rights of pregnant employees, and to distribute the policy to each employee.

To read the full decision, visit CanLII.

Hotel housekeeper awarded $75,000 after having to quit her job due to manager’s sexual harassment and solicitation

AM v. Kellock, 2019 HRTO 414

A.M. had a criminal record, which hindered her ability to find employment. She had experienced many difficulties in her life growing up in foster care and group homes and struggling with addiction and abusive relationships through adulthood. She was trying to develop a solid work history in order to obtain a pardon and clear her criminal record.

In May 2014, A.M. was hired as a housekeeper at an upscale hotel in a historic building. The general manager of the hotel was Mr. Kellock.

In late June 2014, A.M. asked Mr. Kellock for a reference letter, which she wanted to support her pardon application. He told her he would be happy to provide her with a letter and she should come by his office to let him know what she needed. When she came to his office, he locked the office door and began massaging her shoulders and touching her breasts. Similar incidents of sexual harassment and assault occurred every time she visited his office to ask for her reference letter.

On July 21, 2014, while A.M. was cleaning Mr. Kellock’s office, he came in and tried to kiss her. She shoved him away and quickly left the office. The next day, when she saw him in the hallway, he glared at her then slammed his office door closed.

A.M. began calling in sick to work more frequently. She was scared to work alone for fear that Mr. Kellock would sneak up on her. On September 2, 2014, she texted Mr. Kellock asking for the letter. He wrote the letter and gave it to her, asking her if she would visit him again or would she not bother now that she had the letter.

On September 4, 2014, A.M. contacted the police to complain about Mr. Kellock’s behaviour. She was working alone on September 6, 2014. She felt terrified that she would run into Mr. Kellock. She left early and never returned to work.

The Tribunal found:

  • Mr. Kellock, from June to August 2014, pursued a course of conduct towards the applicant, starting with apparently innocent comments, progressing towards lewd remarks, touching, solicitation, advances, and ultimately sexual contact in the workplace;
  • the power imbalance between the parties was clear, as he was in the highest position at the hotel and she was in the lowest, as a new employee still on probation.
  • this matter involved conduct among the most serious cases the HRTO had ever seen; and
  • that A.M. was particularly vulnerable given her personal history and the events she experienced had a severe impact on her.

The Tribunal ordered:

  • Mr. Kellock to pay A.M. $75,000 in general damages for injury top her dignity, self-respect and feelings; and
  • both pre-judgment interest and post-judgment interest on the award.

To read the full decision, visit CanLII.

Divisional Court upholds HRTO decision finding employee suffered a sexually poisoned workplace and was fired for trying to assert her human rights

2076831 Ontario Ltd. v. Qiu, 2018 ONSC 7295

Ms. Qiu worked for a used car dealership as a bookkeeper for about 4.5 years. She filed an HRTO application alleging discrimination and harassment in employment based on her race, ancestry, ethnic origin and sex, and reprisal contrary to sections 5 and 8 of the Code.

The HRTO found 2076831 Ontario Ltd liable for breaching Ms. Qui’s right to be free from discrimination in employment because of her sex. The HRTO also found 2076831 Ontario Ltd liable for retaliating against Ms. Qiu, as they terminated her employment after she complained about her exposure to the workplace sexualized comments and conduct. 

The HRTO awarded Ms. Qiu $30,000 as compensation for injury to her dignity, feelings and self-respect. The HRTO later denied a request by 2076831 Ontario Limited for a reconsideration of the HRTO decision. 2076831 Ontario Limited sought judicial review at the Ontario Divisional Court of both HRTO decisions.

2076831 Ontario Limited argued the HRTO made several legal errors, including awarding the $30,000 without an explicit finding of sexual harassment; relying on colour as a discrimination factor without giving notice to the parties to make submissions;  making improper findings of fact and concluding that there was a poisoned work environment;  and was biased because the HRTO’s reasons simply contained a total reproduction of Ms. Qiu’s written closing submissions. 

The Court dismissed all these arguments as meritless. The Court applied a standard of review of reasonableness to the HRTO decision and found the HRTO’s decisions were reasonable on the facts and law. The Court was satisfied that HRTO properly assessed all the evidence, including the credibility and reliability of the witnesses and applied the relevant legal principles to the facts of the case. There were no legal errors made by the HRTO.

The Court found:

  • the HRTO properly exercised its remedial discretion, canvassed the range of damages in the case law, and applied the relevant legal principles in awarding $30,000;
  • the HRTO reasonably applied the case law in finding the sexualized comments and conduct created a poisoned work environment;
  • the HRTO reasonably found Ms. Qiu suffered reprisal for objecting to the toxic environment by being fired; and
  • the HRTO’s analysis, credibility assessments and factual findings were made independently and impartially and there was no bias

The Court ordered:

  • the application for judicial review be dismissed; and
  • legal costs of $7,000 to be payable to Ms. Qiu.

To read the full decision, visit Canlii.

Employer discriminated against engineer rejected for job over immigration status

Haseeb v. Imperial Oil Limited, 2018 HRTO 957

Mr. Haseeb was an international student on a visa at McGill University completing his engineering degree. He applied for an entry level engineering position at Imperial Oil. Upon graduation, he was eligible for a postgraduate work permit which allowed him to work for any employer in Canada. He anticipated that he would attain permanent residency status within three years.

Imperial Oil required graduate engineers to have permanent residency or Canadian citizenship and asked questions throughout the job application process about whether Mr. Haseeb was eligible to work in Canada on a permanent basis. Mr. Haseeb advised he was eligible to do so. He was offered a job, conditional upon providing documentary proof of citizenship or permanent residency. When he was unable to provide such proof, the job offer was withdrawn.

Mr. Haseeb alleged discrimination with respect to employment because of Imperial Oil’s pre-employment policy that a prospective job applicant must be able to work in Canada on a permanent basis.  Mr. Haseeb claimed the policy breached section 5(1) of the Code, based on his place of origin, citizenship and ethnic origin.

Imperial Oil argued (a) its requirement for the permanent ability to work in Canada was a bona fide occupational requirement (BFOR); and (b) Mr. Haseeb’s dishonesty about his ability to work on a permanent basis during the interview process was the reason the offer was withdrawn.

The Tribunal found:

  • Imperial Oil’s hiring policy was directly discriminatory, and it could not rely upon an argument that permanent eligibility to work in Canada was BFOR; 
  • Imperial Oil’s policy was not a BFOR anyway because (a) there was no evidence that the permanence requirement was rationally linked to any of the specific job duties; and (b) it was a requirement that was could be waived for job candidates whose skills were in higher demand; and
  • Imperial Oil’s job offer had expired when he failed to provide the required documents, and in any event, the evidence did not prove that this was the sole reason he was not hired.

The Tribunal ordered:

  • that Imperial Oil’s policy of requiring a job applicant to disclose in writing and verbally that she or he is a citizen or permanent resident of Canada was prohibited conduct under sections 23(1) and 23(2) of the Code; and
  • that Imperial Oil’s hiring policy requiring permanent residence directly violated section 5(1) of the Code and was not saved by any defence available in the Code.

The Tribunal later held a separate hearing to determine the appropriate remedial order given its finding that Imperial Oil violated Mr. Haseeb’s human rights. The Tribunal ordered approximately $120,000 in damages, lost wages and pre-judgment interest payable by Imperial Oil to Mr. Haseeb.

To read the full liability and remedial decisions, visit Canlii

Racist and sexually motivated comments created poisoned work environment for restaurant worker

Bento v. Manito’s Rotisserie & Sandwich 2018 HRTO 203

Ms. Bento worked in a restaurant where she was harassed by her co-worker, the kitchen manager, who would often criticize her body, tell her she should lose weight, and comment that it was no wonder that her husband left her. The kitchen manager would also comment on the sexual attractiveness of other women in the restaurant and make racist remarks about other employees.

When she was hired, Ms. Bento was told that she would eventually get a raise, but her employer said she would have to go out with him to discuss it. She did not go out with him, and never received a raise. When she spoke to her employer about the manager’s discriminatory comments, her employer replied that she had ‘attitude.’ After the woman and her employer argued about this, she left the restaurant and was told she could not return to work.

The Tribunal found:

  • that “the continued harassing comments and behaviours affected the applicant as a woman and created a difficult workplace environment;” and
  • “this recurring treatment created a poisonous work environment, an environment where she knew to expect that in carrying out her job duties she must endure discriminatory conduct and comments.”

The Tribunal ordered:

  • the employer to pay $20,000 to Ms. Bento in general damages plus lost wages for the discrimination she experienced; and
  • the co-worker who made the sexualized and racist comments was ordered to take human rights training.

To read the full decision, visit Canlii.

Tribunal orders $75,000 in compensation for workplace sexual harassment survivor

G.M. v. X Tattoo Parlour 2018 HRTO 201

G.M. was 15 years old when she was sexually harassed by her employer. The HRLSC represented her at a hearing before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The identities of G.M. (the applicant), XTP (the employer and respondent) and F.G. (the owner and personal respondent) are anonymized in accordance with a publication ban. F.G. was a close family friend of the young woman’s parents, and agreed to supervise G.M. as an apprentice at his tattoo parlour. The harassment began with F.G. having sexual conversations with G.M. and escalated to sexual assault. F.G. also offered G.M. money and a free tattoo in exchange for sex.

The Tribunal found:

  • “the applicant’s vulnerability was marked”;
  • “these events had a profound and destructive impact on her”;
  • the individual respondent’s conduct was egregious; and
  • the respondent’s actions toward the applicant constituted serious violations of her rights.

The Tribunal ordered:

  • the employer to pay $75,000 in general damages to G.M. for the harm caused by the harassment and assault.

To read the full decision, visit Canlii.

Tribunal finds pregnancy a factor in employee’s termination

Puniani v Rakesh Majithia CA Professional Corporation, 2017 HRTO 1335

The HRLSC represented Neha Puniani, who was treated to an angry reaction from her employer when he found out she was pregnant. During the hearing, Puniani testified that the employer “began counting off the months on his fingers and demanded to know whether she had known that she was pregnant when he had interviewed her in August.” She testified that as he left her he said ‘we will see what needs to be done.’ Later that week she was fired.

The Tribunal ordered:

  • $10,000 financial compensation for the discrimination (and an additional $2,000 from the personal respondent);
  • $2,269.23 in lost wages; and
  • $9,236 in lost benefits (Employment Insurance benefits)

To read the full decision, visit CanLii

Co-op student rejected for placement because of her sex

Browning v. Northend Body Shop Ltd., 2017 HRTO 1001

The HRLSC represented Natalie Browning, a high school student who was excited about her co-op placement at an auto body shop. Her teacher had recommended the business because two other students had done their co-op placements there.

At the hearing, Browning testified the owner “asked her if she really wanted to get her hands dirty because his shop was dirty. She told him she did. She testified she does not think a male candidate would have been asked such questions.” The owner knew she was there to get hands-on work experience with cars, yet he first offered her filing work and then told her she could answer phones. When she declined, the interview was over.

The brief interview left Browning shaken. She testified that “she was upset, shaken up, caught off guard and embarrassed. She had been excited about the co-op, but then decided not to pursue this trade.”

The Tribunal ordered:

  • financial compensation of $7,000 for the discrimination; and
  • the owner to take the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s on-line training “Human Rights 101.”

To read the full decision, visit Canlii

Construction firm liable for toxic racism 

George v 1735475 Ontario Limited, 2017 HRTO 761

The HRLSC represented Nathan George in his human rights application against his employer Stan Seto. The Tribunal found that Seto’s comments to George were “egregious” and that George was subjected to “persistent and repeated” racist comments, including calling him a “worthless n---er.”

The Tribunal found:

  • “it is not the proper role or function of this Tribunal to police workplace conversations about current events, even on difficult topics like the Ferguson shooting or subsequent rioting. Having said that, the comments I have found were made by Mr. Seto were discriminatory when he referred to ‘you people’ and ‘your race,’ meaning people of the same race as the applicant, being ‘stupid.’
  • that Mr. Seto personally experienced discrimination in the construction industry, commenting, “While that may reflect Mr. Seto’s own personal approach to being subjected to racial comments [letting it go like water off a duck’s back], it does not reflect the law of this province and is not consistent with Mr. Seto’s responsibilities as an employer.”

The Tribunal ordered:

  • financial compensation of $20,000 for the discrimination

To read the full decision, visit Canlii

Employee penalized for pregnancy recoups bonuses and lost wages

Trinh v CS Wind Canada Inc., 2017 HRTO 755

The HRLSC represented Tin Trinh in her human rights application based on place of origin and sex against her employer. Before going on leave, Trinh was working seven days a week from 3 or 4am to 8pm. When she became pregnant she advised her employer she would need to reduce her hours. He responded that she would be fired. She continued to work long hours until pregnancy-related complications forced her to take disability-related leave. When she returned from maternity leave her employer told her: “If you cannot give me a perfect plan you need to stay home with your son.”

The employer was found to have violated multiple sections of Ontario’s Human Rights Code.

The Tribunal found:

  • In addition to gender-based discrimination, Trinh had been subjected to comments based on her origins when she was called a “stupid Vietnamese woman.”

The Tribunal ordered:

  • financial compensation of $25,000 for the discrimination;
  • $16,399.29 for bonuses and raises denied as a result of the discrimination;
  • $18,475.75 in lost wages;
  • the company to review and change its human rights policy and distribute the new policy to every employee; and
  • the company to train management and executive employees on the rights and obligations of the employer under the Human Rights Code.

To read the full decision, visit Canlii

14-year old employee compensated by Tribunal for sexual and racial harassment

E.T. v Dress Code Express Inc., 2017 HRTO 595

E.T. was 14 years old when she was subjected to sexual harassment from her employer, including “comments about the applicant’s body, her virginity.” The HRLSC represented the young woman at a hearing before the Tribunal. The respondent failed to show at the hearing.

The Tribunal found:

  • E.T.’s employer had created a “poisoned work environment” in which she felt forced to give him a massage or lose her job; and
  • “warnings that she not engage in sexual activity with Black people” formed part of the “sexual harassment and racial harassment experienced by the applicant.”

The owner of Dress Code Express failed to appear at the hearing, despite repeated notices from the Tribunal.

The Tribunal ordered:

  • $15,000 in general damages for the harm caused by the discrimination.

To read the full decision, visit Canlii

Tribunal finds toxic stew of sexism, racism and religion-bashing for Faema employee

Valle v. Faema Corporation 2000 Ltd., 2017 HRTO 588

The HRLSC represented Marisa Valle, who endured months of demeaning remarks against her religion and gender from her employer, the owner of Toronto-based coffee business Faema. Valle asked the owner, Mike Di Donato, to stop insulting her faith (he repeatedly referred to Mother Mary as a pig) and denigrating her status as a woman. He didn’t stop. Instead he asked Valle to dismiss all the racialized employees. When Valle refused, he fired her.

Marisa Valle filed a human rights claim against Di Donato and Faema. On May 26, 2017, the Human Rights Tribunal released a 46-page decision in Marisa Valle v Faema Corporation 2000 Ltd. and Mike Di Donato. Faema and Di Donato were found to be jointly and severally liable for the discrimination against Valle.

The Tribunal cited Valle’s “ongoing creed and gender based harassment… [her] refusal to comply with racist requests, her termination for refusing to fire racialized employees and the toxic environment she was forced to work in.”

Valle was ultimately terminated for her “refusal to follow orders” – namely her employer’s directive to fire all racialized employees. Di Donato testified at the Tribunal that it was “easier” to hire Italians and justified his comments by adding “When Italians see a cheese grater, they know what it is.”

Valle testified that “she had come to Canada to build her life and career and lost that opportunity.”

“Marisa refused to simply walk away,” commented Emily Shepard, Valle’s lawyer from the Human Rights Legal Support Centre. “Marisa endured daily humiliation at work, a place where she hoped to shine. Attacks on her religion and gender were deeply disturbing to her as a woman of deep faith. As difficult as it was, she chose to send a clear statement to her employer by taking legal action.”

To read the full decision, visit Canlii.

Migrant worker compensated for disability-related firing

Ben Saad v. 1544982 Ontario Inc., 2017 HRTO 1

Ben Saad came to Canada from Tunisia to support his family. After an accident at work, the employer fired him for “attendance” problems. The HRLSC represented Mr. Ben Saad in his hearing at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The Tribunal found the employer fired Ben Saad because of “his attendance record, which I find was as a result of his injury and resultant disability.”

“He had a dream to bring his wife and children to Canada, which ended with his termination,” reads Vice Chair Kershaw’s decision. “He testified he saw racism and the worst disrespect in the last two years and was destroyed,” continued the decision.

The Tribunal found a clear connection between the injury and the firing. The Tribunal did not also conclude the discrimination was based on his country of origin, although the HRLSC argued this worker's particular vulnerability was inextricably tied to his status as a migrant worker.

The Tribunal ordered:

  • $20,000 in financial compensation for the discrimination;
  • the respondent must hire a consultant with expertise in human rights to develop a human rights policy;
  • the company must provide a copy of it to all employees and the applicant within six months of the date of this Decision; and
  • the company’s owners, managers and employees in the human resources department must take on-line training human rights training.

To read the full decision, visit Canlii

Owner of pub fires human rights claimant after failing to investigate discrimination

Faghihi v. Black Swan Pub and Grill, 2016 HRTO 1109

The HRLSC represented Mr. Faghihi, a sous chef at the Black Swan restaurant in Burlington.  He immediately notified the owner when his colleague told him to “go back to your country” followed by a racist slur.  Mr. Faghihi was fired after raising the discrimination and telling the owner he would do something about it.

The Tribunal found that:

  • the owner did not conduct a proper investigation, “was not neutral in her investigation” (she testified Faghihi’s colleague was “loveable” and “liked by everyone”) and “would not agree or acknowledge, during the hearing, that his comment was discriminatory.”

The Tribunal ordered:

  • $18,000 in general damages as compensation for the discrimination;
  • $535.17 in lost wages;
  • the restaurant to develop a harassment and discrimination policy and complaints mechanism; and
  • human rights training.

To read the full decision, visit Canlii

Waitress takes back what is hers in successful sexual harassment claim

Granes v. 2389193 Ontario Inc., 2016 HRTO 821 (CanLII) 

Ms. Granes endured a night of sexual harassment in the form of comments and touching by the co-owner of the bar where she worked. The HRLSC represented Ms. Granes at her hearing.  She testified that she felt “disgusted that someone felt they had the right to touch her body for their own pleasure, without her consent”. In its decision, the Tribunal noted that Ms. Granes described the human rights process as a way of “taking back what is hers, making her own decisions about her body and letting go of her fears.” 

The HRLSC successfully argued that the failure of the police to pursue the sexual assault charges did not allow the employer to conclude the harassment had not happened.

The Tribunal afound that:

  • “the restaurant breached the Code by not addressing the matter appropriately and incurred liability by not conducting an adequate investigation or making any attempt to resolve the complaint.” 

The Tribunal ordered:

  •  $20,000 compensation for the discrimination;
  • $9,440 to the applicant for her wage losses;
  • the restaurant to adopt a written policy for dealing with complaints of harassment and discrimination in the workplace, including a complaint procedure; and
  • the restaurant shall provide mandatory training to its employees

To read the full decision, visit Canlii

Tribunal supports employer’s position firing was non-discriminatory

Abrams v. Kupar, 2016 HRTO 1082

The HRLSC represented Ms. Abrams in her application alleging that her firing was connected to her pregnancy.  The Tribunal dismissed the application, finding that her termination was related to her performance, and not to the pregnancy:

[27]          I find that the respondent has provided a credible, non-discriminatory explanation for his actions. The applicant did not challenge the respondent’s or the team lead’s evidence that they were operating under very tight deadlines, with a very small team, and that the applicant was not able to assume the responsibilities of the manager position from the outset.

 [29]          It may be true that the applicant could have “grown into” the job. It is not, however, necessary for me to determine whether the respondent and his team lead were unfair in their assessment that the applicant lacked the technical and management skills necessary for the position. Fair or otherwise, I find that the evidence supports the respondent’s position that the decision was made for non-discriminatory reasons.

To read the full decision, visit CanLii

Tribunal dismisses application for lack of evidence firing tied to pregnancy

Ahmed v. T-Zone Health Inc., 2016 HRTO 1062

The HRLSC represented Ms. Ahmed in her application alleging that her employer fired her for reasons related to her pregnancy, religion and family status.  The Tribunal dismissed the application and found that there was insufficient evidence:

[204]        The financial documents filed into evidence by the respondent show that the studio where the applicant was the manager was consistently operating at a loss and its monthly sales were lower than average. Diane Atterbury says that in November 2013 the location was closed permanently due to poor sales.

[215]        What this means is that although it is possible the events around the applicant’s pregnancy may have been a factor in the termination decision, the evidence is insufficient to establish that it is more likely than not that it was. The applicant has failed to meet her evidentiary burden.

To read the full decision, visit CanLii

Tribunal makes rare Interim Order for sole support parent to continue day shift

Tomlinson v. Runnymede Healthcare Centre, 2015 HRTO 4 

The HRLSC represented a sole support parent of two young children (a two year-old and an infant) who had returned to work after maternity leave.  She asked her employer to schedule her on straight day shifts as an accommodation under the Human Rights Code, on the ground of family status. The employer agreed to a period of three months, then refused when she asked for an extension of time. 

The Tribunal rarely orders an interim remedy – making an order before the case has been fully heard. They did in this case because the HRLSC argued there were extremely serious consequences for the nurse and her family.

The Tribunal ordered:

  • the employer to continue to schedule her on straight day shifts; and
  • clarified that the “order is effective immediately and remains in effect until: the Application is concluded by way of settlement or adjudication; the applicant advises the respondent that she has obtained childcare that enables her to return to the rotating shift schedule; or, further order of the Tribunal.”

To read the full decision, visit CanLII

The parties resolved the issues without a hearing.

Waitress constructively dismissed after asking for pregnancy-related changes at work

Jaques v 1633092 Ontario Ltd. Tosh Steakhouse 2016 HRTO 403

Michelle Jaques worked at Tosh Steakhouse for three years.  After she became pregnant, on her doctor’s advice, Ms. Jaques advised her employer that it was medically inadvisable for her to go up and down the stairs to the second floor dining room.   

After initially agreeing to her request as per her doctor’s advice, the restaurant told Ms. Jaques that “it was not possible” to have her work only on the ground floor. In testimony, the employer referred to internal shift policies prohibiting the change. The HRLSC represented Ms. Jaques and argued before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario that there were no written policies in place and that, even if such policies existed, adapting the policies to accommodate her medical restrictions would not be an “undue hardship” for the restaurant.

The Tribunal accepted the HRLSC’s arguments and found the employer had failed to take the necessary steps required under the Human Rights Code to accommodate her needs as a pregnant employee. Pregnancy is specifically included in the Code’s protection against discrimination based on sex.

The Tribunal ordered:

  • $15,000 compensation for the discrimination;
  • $4,170.60 in lost wages; and
  • training for the directors and managers of the restaurant

To read the full decision, visit CanLII

For more information about accommodation under Ontario’s Human Rights Code see: Your Right to Accommodation on our web site.

Fired for complaining about discriminatory behaviour, an employee is awarded compensation by the Tribunal

Knox-Heldmann v. 1818224 Ontario Limited o/a Country Style Donut, 2015 HRTO 1376

The HRLSC successfully argued that an employee who had worked at a donut shop for five years had been subjected to discrimination on the basis of age, family status, marital status and disability. 

The Tribunal found that:

  • the employer had engaged in reprisal when they fired her after she complained. 

The Tribunal ordered:

  • $15,000 compensation for the discrimination; and
  • $22,180 in lost wages.

To read the full decision, visit CanLII

Rural siblings fired for taking religious holiday

H.T. v. ES Holdings Inc. o/a Country Herbs, 2015 HRTO 1067

Country Herbs fired a 16-year old woman scheduled to work on one particular Thursday – an important religious holiday for her.  Her 14-year old brother, who was not scheduled to work that shift, was also fired.

The Tribunal found that:

  • the “expectation that H.T. would work on the holiday in accordance with the attendance policy or be fired was discriminatory.”

The Tribunal ordered: 

  • $10,000 in general damages to the applicant for the discrimination;
  • $1,927 for the applicant's lost wages; and 
  • $7,500 and $6690 were awarded to the applicant's brother for lost wages.

To read the full decision, visit CanLII.

Landmark human rights ruling highlights abuse of migrant workers

O.P.T. v. Presteve Foods Ltd., 2015 HRTO 675

Justicia for Migrant Workers intervened in OPT v Presteve Foods Limited and was represented by the HRLSC. The two applicants (who originally numbered 39) were represented by Unifor.

The HRLSC hired expert Dr. Kerry Preibisch who provided evidence about the nature of migrant worker programs in Canada.  Based on Dr. Preibisch’s evidence, the Vice Chair commented on “the particular and special vulnerabilities of migrant workers in Ontario, especially in light of the closed work permit that requires them to be tied to one employer and so be under the constant threat and fear of losing their employment and being repatriated without reason and without any avenue for appeal or review.” 

To read the full decision, visit CanLII

Employer ordered to develop a human rights policy after dismissing employee with disability

Emra v. Impression Bridal Inc., 2014 HRTO 1736

Kujtim Emra worked as an accounts manager for over two years while managing his anxiety. During that time he did have occasional absences related to his disability and was under the care of a doctor. 

Following a brief (2-day) disability-related absence in February of 2014 he was called into the office and terminated from his employment. The employer insisted he had quit and was not fired.

The Tribunal found:

  • “compelling evidence” in the form of emails, texts and testimony that Mr. Emra had been dismissed from his accounting position because of his disability.

The Tribunal ordered:

  • $25,000 in general damages as financial compensation for the discrimination;

  • $33,000 for lost wages; and

  • the company to retain a human rights expert of its choosing to:
    - develop new human rights policies
    - distribute the new policy to all of its employees; and
    - train all of its employees with respect to the new human rights policy, the Code and the duty to accommodate.

To read the full decision visit CanLii

Posed as a lay-off, Tribunal finds that a landscaper was terminated due to disability and sexual orientation

Wesley v. 2252466 Ontario Inc. o/a The Grounds Guys, 2014 HRTO 1591

The HRLSC represented Darryl Wesley, an Indigenous man who is gay and deaf. He was working as a landscaper in North Bay, Ontario. Mr. Wesley had arrived for his first day of training with an interpreter, but the supervisor sent the interpreter home. His supervisor and fellow employees were becoming impatient about the need to use notes to communicate with Mr. Wesley. After only about six weeks, Mr. Wesley was terminated by his employer and told that he was part of a general lay-off. However, when Mr. Wesley walked by the job site, the rest of his colleagues were all still working. 

The company and its representatives did not appear at the hearing. While the Tribunal awarded $18,000 for the disability-related termination and $7,500 for the poisoned environment created by remarks about his sexual orientation, the ancestry portions of his human rights application were dismissed.

The Tribunal ordered:

  • $25,500 in general damages as financial compensation for the discrimination;
  • $8,200 for lost wages;
  • the employer must take human rights training; and
  • provide a letter of reference.

Unfortunately, the company ceased operating and the Personal Respondent (the supervisor) declared bankruptcy.

To read the full decision, visit CanLII.

Lugonia v. Arista Homes, 2014 HRTO 1531

The HRLSC represented Amanda Lugonia, who quit her job to accept a maternity-leave contract with Arista Homes. After a two-stage interview process, Ms. Lugonia attended a third meeting and was offered the job. On her third shift she revealed to the woman whose position she would be filling that she had just found out she was pregnant. When she arrived for her fourth shift, she was terminated.

The Tribunal found that:

  • Ms. Lugonia’s evidence was more credible; and
  • that “there were absolutely no signs of any dissatisfaction on the respondent’s part as of the end of the applicant’s third shift and suddenly she was terminated at the beginning of her fourth shift.”

The Tribunal ordered:

  • $15,000 in general damages as financial compensation for the discrimination;
  • the company to retain a human rights expert to develop and implement a comprehensive human rights policy;
  • the company must provide all current and future employees with copies of the new policy; and
  • to deliver the new policy within six months to Ms. Lugonia’s lawyer at the HRLSC.

To read the full decision, visit CanLII.

Rollick v. 1526597 Ontario Inc. o/a Tim Horton’s Store No. 2533, 2014 HRTO 337

Following a non-workplace related injury, a cashier at a coffee shop was cleared to return to work with modified hours and duties. When she called the franchise owner to check on the details of her return to work, she was fired over the telephone after telling him about her physical restrictions. The woman then phoned the head office and they arranged to have her reinstated to her position.    A few weeks after she started back at the job, the franchise owner pulled her into the office saying he was tired of accommodating her disability and fired her again. As she was 44 hours short of the qualifying period she was also denied Employment Insurance benefits.

The Tribunal ordered:

  • $15,000 financial compensation for the discrimination;
  • $27,378 in lost wages from the date of her termination to the date she obtained new employment.

To read the full decision, visit CanLII

J.D. v. The Ultimate Cut Unisex, 2014 HRTO 956

Three women worked as receptionists at a hair salon until ongoing sexual harassment left them unable to continue.

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario found the salon owner “made the applicants feel uncomfortable and constantly nervous about how far he might try to go with his sexual harassment, solicitations and advances. When he was in the salon, they were on tenterhooks.”

The Tribunal also found the women worked “until it became so intolerable that they understandably quit. They quit because of his unwelcome, sexual behaviour and because there was no protection from him.”

The Tribunal ordered the hair salon to pay the three applicants:

  • over $100,000 financial compensation for the discrimination and harassment;
  • $40,000 in lost wages.

To read the full decision visit CanLii

Islam v. Big Inc., 2013 HRTO 2009

Abdul Malik, Mohammed Islam and Arif Hossain were variously reprimanded for speaking Bengali, forced to break their religious tenets and then lost their jobs at a Toronto restaurant after asserting their right to be free from discrimination.

The three men practice the Muslim faith. The Centre represented them at a hearing before the Human Rights Tribunal. After the hearing, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario realized a decision finding that the employees had been subjected to racist remarks and threats that they would be replaced with white workers. The decision found that all of the men "suffered discrimination during their employment in the workplace on the basis of creed, colour, ancestry, place of origin and ethnic origin."

The Tribunal found the restaurant owners had retaliated against the three men after they questioned how they were treated, resulting in the loss of their employment.

The Tribunal ordered the restaurant owners to:

  • Pay $26,653 in lost wages for all three men, less statutory deductions;
  • Pay $71,000 as financial compensation for the three men for violation of their inherent right to be free from discrimination.

To read the full decision, visit CanLII

C.U. v. Blencowe, 2013 HRTO 1667

The HRLSC represented a woman who had been harassed at her workplace, a resort in Northern Ontario. A settlement had already been reached with the corporate respondent the weekend before the hearing.

This Tribunal decision then deals only with the sexual harassment from the personal respondent. He pled guilty to criminal harassment and indecent exposure. The Tribunal accepted those findings of fact so our client only had to testify about the harassment that was not captured by the criminal charges.

The Tribunal ordered:

  • $30,000 financial compensation for the discrimination and harassment.

To read the full decision, visit CanLII

Employer ordered to develop sexual harassment policy following Tribunal proceeding

G.G. v. Image Printing and Signs, 2012 HRTO 1197

The HRLSC represented an employee who had been sexually harassed and assaulted by her employer.

The Tribunal found that:

  • the employer had violated the applicant’s rights to be free from sexual harassment and solicitation.

The Tribunal ordered:

  • $18,000 financial compensation for the discrimination and harassment;
  • $11,930 for lost wages; and
  • implementation of a sexual harassment policy within 90 days.

To read the full decision, visit CanLII

Fired when she returned from medical leave, factory worker awarded compensation due to discrimination

Russell v. Indeka Imports, 2012 HRTO 926

The HRLSC represented a long-term factory worker who was fired immediately upon return from a medical leave. At the hearing, the employer claimed that the worker was fired because her performance was slow, but the evidence showed that none of her colleagues were let go.

The Tribunal found that:

  • the evidence supported an inference that the applicant’s medical leave was a factor in the decision to select her as the employee who would be laid-off.

The Tribunal ordered:

  • $15,000 financial compensation for the discrimination;
  • payment of lost benefits; and
  • human rights training for the company's managers and supervisors within 60 days.

To read the full decision, visit CanLII

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UPDATE: Divisional Court sets aside HRTO decision and restores earlier award for applicant

Briggs v. Durham Regional Police Services, 2021 ONSC 414

In a recent review of a Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) decision, the Ontario Divisional Court restored $10,000 that was previously awarded and then taken away from Mr. Briggs by the HRTO. In a complex case spanning over several years, the Divisional Court reviewed the HRTO’s initial ruling which awarded the applicant, Mr. Briggs, with financial compensation as well as its later ruling that subsequently removed that compensation.

In an earlier decision, Briggs v. Durham Regional Police Services, 2015 HRTO 1712 (CanLII), the HRTO concluded Mr. Briggs was the target of racial profiling by Durham Regional Police Services (Durham) when they ran his license plate in the parking lot of a restaurant and then followed him afterwards. The HRTO awarded Mr. Briggs $10,000 in 2015. The case ended up back at HRTO with Durham alleging that Mr. Briggs settled before this 2015 decision. At the time Briggs had concluded a second and unrelated application against Durham outside of the HRTO.

In November 2017, Briggs v. Durham Regional Police Services, 2017 HRTO 1457 (CanLII) was heard by the HRTO, which held that this settlement with Durham covered both the first and second applications filed by Briggs. In January 2019, the HRTO cancelled its earlier 2015 decision, which removed the award of $10,000 ordered to be paid by Durham.

Mr. Briggs filed an application for judicial review of the 2017 November decision and argued that the HRTO erred in its interpretation and subsequent application of the settlement and release in the second application. The Divisional Court allowed the application for judicial review. The Court found that the HRTO’s conclusion in 2017 that Briggs had agreed to a lump settlement of both unrelated applications was unreasonable and must be set aside.

The Divisional Court also ruled that it would not be appropriate to send the matter back to the HRTO. The Court reasoned this case involved the application of the legal principles of interpretation. In their view, interpreting the settlement release between Briggs and Durham did not engage the HRTO's expertise in human rights matters and could be resolved by the Court on the evidentiary record. The Court went on to consider the post-settlement evidence in the record to determine if Mr. Briggs did or did not settle his April 2012 application as part of the settlement in March 2015.

The Divisional Court found:

  • that the HRTO erred in its analysis of the factual matrix and excluded relevant pre-settlement evidence, particularly the HRTO Form 25;

  • that the HRTO erred in finding that the settlement and release were unambiguous by failing to properly consider the factual matrix and interpret the whole text of the settlement; and

  • that, after considering and weighing the post-settlement evidence in the record, the only available conclusion was that the parties never intended to settle Mr. Briggs’ April 2012 application in March 2015 and that the release in paragraph 7 of the settlement did not cover that April 2012 application.

The Divisional Court ordered:

  • that Mr. Briggs' judicial review application of both the November 2017 Decision and the January 2019 decision, were allowed and both decisions were set aside; and

  • that costs fixed at $7,500 were payable by Durham.

Read the full decision here


Durham Police “tailored testimony” not credible: Racial profiling upheld

Briggs v. Durham Regional Police Services, 2015 HRTO 1712

Joseph Briggs went to buy a sandwich. What happened next was the subject of a five-day hearing before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. In the end, Vice Chair Alison Renton concluded Briggs was the target of racial profiling by Durham Regional Police Services when they ran his license plate in the parking lot of a restaurant and then followed him one hour later.    

“Objectively, I find that the racial profiling and discrimination … experienced, which included being racially profiled by having his license plate checked because he was Black, and ‘trying to catch him’ is a serious violation of the [Human Rights] Code. The applicant went out at 1:30 a.m. to purchase a sandwich from a 24-hour restaurant, a relatively simple exercise,” read Vice Chair Renton’s 73-page decision.

To read the full decision, visit Canlii.

UPDATE: HRTO orders Peel Police Services Board to pay $35,000 to 6-year-old Black girl restrained and handcuffed at her public school

JKB v. Regional Municipality of Peel Police Services Board, 2020 HRTO 1040

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) awarded JKB, a Black girl, $30,000 for the injury to her dignity, feelings and self-respect under the Human Rights Code and a further $5,000 for psychological and trauma counselling. The HRTO found that JKB suffered the discriminatory treatment as a six (6) year old in 2016 when Peel Police officers, attending at her school after a call from the school authorities, handcuffed her wrists and ankles and kept her restrained for almost half an hour.

The HRTO heard evidence from JKB’s mother about the impact of this discriminatory treatment had on her daughter. The HRTO also took into consideration JKB’s extreme vulnerability and the Peel Police officers’ conduct, which it found to be “shocking” and “punitive.” The HRTO found that JKB suffered serious impacts from the discrimination, including becoming fearful of police, enduring teasing from her school peers, and having feelings of humiliation, shame and guilt resulting from the incident.

The HRTO also found that JKB suffered harm in experiencing anti-Black racism and that it was alarming that she would experience anti-Black racism at such a young age. The HRTO also noted the ongoing harm to JKB and that the full impact of this discrimination is would affect her into the future.

The HRTO did not order any public interest remedies requested by JKB, including the remedies of race-based data collection, crisis-intervention, and de-escalation training. In October 2020, the Peel Police Board entered a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), setting out detailed proposals for comprehensive systemic changes to the Peel Police Services’ policies, procedures, and protocols, including the way in which police services are delivered to children under the age of twelve (12) and how police respond to calls from schools for police assistance.

The HRTO was satisfied, on the evidence presented at the hearing, that the Peel Police Board’s MOU with the OHRC to develop and implement these institutional remedies to address systemic racism in Peel policing did not warrant any further systemic remedies being ordered.

The full decision can be found here: JKB v. Regional Municipality of Peel Police Services Board, 2020 HRTO 1040


HRTO rules that race was a factor in restraining and handcuffing of 6-year-old Black girl at her public school

JKB v. Peel (Police Services Board), 2020 HRTO 172

JKB was a 6-year-old girl at a public school. Her litigation guardian, her mother, filed an application at the HRTO alleging that JKB was subjected to differential treatment because of her race, when two police officers treated her in a manner that was lacking in the care and compassion by handcuffing and shackling her at her school. The hearing was bifurcated by agreement of the parties and the question of what remedies should be ordered was not part of the hearing.

On September 30, 2016 two white Peel Regional Police constables attended JKB’s public school after school administrators requested assistance with the girl, who they said was acting violently. During their interaction with JKB, the officers placed her on her stomach and cuffed her at the wrists and ankles. JKB was then kept in that position for 28 minutes until paramedics arrived.

The police officers argued they did their best to keep JKB and others safe in a situation in which JKB’s behaviours were creating a safety risk for herself and others, including the officers.  During the hearing, the officers said that they repeatedly tried to verbally de-escalate the situation before JKB was restrained and handcuffed.

The HRTO heard evidence from a behavioural teaching assistant and during the hearing, both officers denied placing JKB on her stomach at any point in the 90 minutes they were at the school. The officers’ evidence was contradicted by the teaching assistant, whose account the HRTO found to be the most reliable. The HRTO also heard from two expert witnesses who testified about implicit bias in policing.

The HRTO considered all the evidence and, while noting that the officers had a legitimate duty to maintain the safety of JKB, others and themselves where JKB’s behaviours were challenging and might have created a safety risk, this did not give the officers’ a licence to treat JKB in a way that they would not have treated a white six-year-old child in the same circumstances.

The tribunal's ruling does not outline any possible remedies, but another hearing will be held to decide what happens next.

The Tribunal found:

  • That the police officers racially discriminated against JKB when they cuffed her at the wrists and feet and kept her restrained for 28 minutes;
  • That the officer’s actions were “disproportionate” to what was necessary in the circumstances and a "clear overreaction";
  • That, in the absence of any explanation for the overreaction in placing JKB stomach down with her wrists cuffed behind her, ankles cuffed and maintaining her in this position for 28 minutes, the evidence supported the conclusion that the most probable reason for this action is that the officers were influenced by implicit bias in respect of JKB’s race.

The Tribunal ordered:

  • That the hearing would be reconvened to deal with the remedies at a time and date to be determined by the HRTO Registrar, unless the parties were able to reach agreement on this issue.

To read the full decision, visit Canlii.

No binding settlement of application where parties had not agreed to actual amount of compensation to be paid

JL v Greater Essex County District School Board, 2019 HRTO 511

J.L. filed an HRTO application alleging discrimination in services because of disability contrary to the Code.   J.L.’s parents objected to the School Board’s decision to place J.L. in a multiple exceptionality classroom for the 2010-2011 school year because they believed that a placement focused on J.L’s autism disorder would better accommodate his learning needs at the school. J.L. however, remained placed in the classroom throughout high school until graduating in 2015.

The School Board and J.L. entered into negotiations to settle the HRTO application. After some back and forth discussions and correspondence between the parties on the terms of the agreement, including the preparation of draft written minutes of settlement, the School Board took the position that there was a binding agreement and filed a request at the HRTO for an order that the HRTO application had been settled.

J.L. argued there was no settlement because there was no agreement on all essential terms to the agreement, namely, that the parties did not reach agreement on the amount of monetary compensation, the inclusion of a non-disparagement clause; the language of the release and that J.L.’s counsel did not have authority to bind J.L.

The School Board argued that all the requirements for a binding settlement set out in the leading case of Apotex Inc. v. Allegan, Inc., 2016 FCA 155 were met, namely, that there was a mutual intention to create legal relations; there was consideration flowing in return for a promise; the terms of the agreement were sufficiently certain; there was matching offer and acceptance on all terms essential to the agreement; and all other requirements, such as legislative requirements, were satisfied.

The Tribunal found:

  • that the parties did not reach a binding settlement;
  • that, not all settlements of human rights applications included a monetary component, when monetary compensation is involved, the amount of that compensation is an essential term of settlement;
  • that there was no agreement on the amount of monetary compensation; and
  • that J.L’s. counsel was clear that she did not have authority to reach a final settlement without first obtaining instructions from J.L., including that she did not have instructions regarding the amount of monetary compensation.

The Tribunal ordered:

  • that the School Board’s request for an order that the HRTO application had been settled is denied.

To read the full decision, visit Canlii.

Restaurant ordered to pay $10,000 for racially profiling customer

Wickham v. Hong Shing Chinese Restaurant 2018 HRTO 500

Emile Wickham and three of his friends went to dine at Hong Shing Chinese Restaurant. Shortly after being seated, their server told them they would have to pay before being served their meals. When asked why, the server said it was the restaurant’s policy. Emile and his friends were the only Black patrons in the restaurant at that time.

When Emile asked other customers whether they had to pre-pay for their meals, they said they had not. The server confirmed that no one else had been asked to pre-pay, but offered no explanation for this and simply asked Emile if he wanted his money back.

The Tribunal found:

  • “the applicant was subjected to a disadvantage or adverse treatment, and that his race was a factor”; and
  • “the respondent’s employees’ conduct suggests that their treatment of the applicant was motivated by a stereotype that Black persons are criminal, or deviant.”

The Tribunal ordered:

  • the restaurant to pay $10,000 in general damages, and
  • to post the Ontario Human Rights Code card in a prominent place on their premises.

To read the full decision, visit Canlii.

Employee “influenced, consciously or unconsciously, by the stereotype that Black people are thieves”

McCarthy v. Kenny Tan Pharmacy Inc., 2015 HRTO 1303

The Tribunal found that a woman was racially profiled by staff at her local Shoppers Drug Mart store when accused of shoplifting and searched.  A small measure of justice has been achieved and we hope retail managers and their security personnel take note,” said Beth Walden, McCarthy’s lawyer from the Human Rights Legal Support Centre.

To read the full decision, CanLII.

Ontario's Divisional Court rejects police and doctor's efforts to bar human rights claims: 

The Human Rights Legal Support Centre successfully defended two clients seeking justice beyond the narrow scope of a professional regulatory body's oversight. 

In the first case, on behalf of Mr. DeLottinville, the Court upheld the right to pursue a discrimination claim against a police officer at the Human Rights Tribunal, notwithstanding a prior discipline complaint under the Police Services Act.  The court refused to reject the decision of the Human Rights Tribunal in Claybourn v Toronto Police, allowing the human rights claim to proceed against the police. 

The second case, K.M. v Kodama, arose out of Human Rights Tribunal application against a doctor who allegedly subjected a transgender patient to discriminatory treatment.  The Centre successfully argued that the application should be allowed to proceed before the Tribunal despite a prior discipline complaint to the College of Physicians and Surgeons.  

Update: Gender identity application was resolved October 27th 2015 at the HRTO.

Media release

Divisional Court Decision

Smith v. Toronto Police Services Board, 2013 HRTO 2103

The applicant was outside an LCBO store in Toronto when he was stopped by a police officer, questioned, handcuffed and searched. He felt he was singled out and subjected to unnecessary aggressive treatment because of his race.

The officer claimed that the applicant matched the initial description of a suspect in a robbery (a “tall Black man wearing a hoodie”) that had taken place a few minutes earlier at a convenience store several kilometres away.  The applicant was later released when a further description of the robbery suspect was issued.

The applicant argued that the initial description of the suspect was so general that the officer could only have been relying on its reference to a “Black male” when he stopped the applicant.  The Centre argued that race was the predominant reason the applicant was stopped and this constituted racial profiling.

The Tribunal decided that the officer had reasonable grounds for stopping the applicant and did not arbitrarily choose to stop him because he was Black.

The Application was dismissed.

To read the full decision, visit CanLII

Claybourn v. Toronto Police Services Board (interim decision)

The Tribunal ruled on the question of whether a Police Services Act investigation absolving officers of wrongdoing would prevent an individual from bringing a subsequent human rights case. They held that that a legal case alleging discrimination (e.g. profiling) should not be dismissed simply because the person had already had an OIPRD complaint dismissed.

In the ruling, a three-person panel ruled that it would be unfair to dismiss a human rights application where the same allegations had been dismissed in a police complaint to the OIPRD.

In its decision, the Tribunal panel considered recent Supreme Court cases on the issue of how to address situations where the same issues have been addressed in a different forum.  The Tribunal held that given that given the differences between a human rights application and a police disciplinary proceeding, it would be unfair for one to preclude the other, for the following reasons:

  1. The applicant cannot receive any remedy under the police complaint process; the only possible outcome if police misconduct is found to have occurred is discipline for the officer;
  2. The parties to a police complaint would not reasonably expect that a police complaint would preclude a human rights application;
  3. The police complaint process is an investigation process ultimately controlled by the Chief of Police.  Permitting the police complaint process to pre-empt a human rights application would allow a chief of police “to become the judge of his own case.”

A hearing on the merits has yet to proceed.

Tour company ordered to compensate woman with disabilities following discriminatory statement

Austen v. Senior Tours Canada Inc., 2013 HRTO 1417

A woman with multiple disabilities tried to book a trip with a tour company and had followed up to make several requests for accommodation. They wrote her a letter in which they stated that their passengers had to be in “good physical condition” and declined further services.

The Tribunal ordered:

  • $5,000 financial compensation for the discrimination and harassment.

To read the full decision, visit CanLII

Employment agency ordered to create human rights policy to accommodate people with disabilities

Del Grande v. 2057161 Ontario Inc., 2013 HRTO 1859

The HRLSC represented a man with very low vision who had approached an employment agency for help finding a job. The agency assured him they could help him with his search, but then they consistently failed to provide him with accommodation, for instance they did not give him documents that were accessible. Although they initially responded to the human rights application they failed to show for the hearing.

The Tribunal ordered:

  • $3,995 in special damages (the amount he paid the agency);
  • $5,000 financial compensation for the discrimination and harassment;
  • The Agency to hire a human rights expert to develop a human rights policy with a section on accommodation of persons with disabilities;
  • All present and future employees to take the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Human Rights 101 on-line course; and
  • Posting of a Human Rights Code card in the office

To read the full decision, visit CanLII

Frankson v. Workplace safety and Insurance Board, 2011 HRTO 2107

Mr. Frankson alleged the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (the WSIB) discriminated against him on the ground of disability when it changed his Labour Market Re-Entry (LMR) program because of his learning disability. He was moved from a 3 year LMR program to a 5 week program because they refused to provide accommodation for his learning disability in the original program.

The Tribunal found that the WSIB decisions regarding benefits are “services” under the Code and that WSIB decision makers are not covered by the doctrine of judicial immunity. The WSIB’s exclusive jurisdiction to determine the suitability, content and implementation of a Labour market Re-entry (LMR) program plan was found not to deprive the Tribunal of its jurisdiction to determine whether the WSIB had failed to take into account the accommodation of the Applicant’s disability.

The Tribunal ordered:

  • $5,000 to the Applicant as compensation for loss of the right to be free from discrimination; and
  • the WSIB to amend its Labour Market Re-entry policy to accommodate disabilities, including non-physical disabilities such as a learning disability.

To read the full decision, visit CanLII

Seberras v. Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, 2012 HRTO 115

(intervention only)

The HRLSC was invited by the Tribunal to intervene in a leading case to determine whether the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) is in fact a service. The Tribunal assigned a three-person panel. The Applicant was challenging a WSIB policy that denied him benefits because of the nature of his disability – chronic stress. The WSIB challenged the jurisdiction of the Tribunal to hear the application.

The Tribunal determined that it had jurisdiction to hear the application and to determine if the WSIB policy was discriminatory. It found that it can hear and decide a claim that a statutory benefits scheme had denied benefits on a discriminatory basis, even if the denial is contained in a decision of the other statutory body. The provision of benefits was held to be a “service” under the Code.

To read the full decision, visit CanLII

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Housing hearings

Landlord refused to accommodate tenants’ religion-based request for 5 minutes notice

Madkour v. Alabi, 2017 HRTO 436

The HRLSC represented tenants Walid Madkour and Heba Ismail. They had given notice to their landlord that they were moving out and had a basic request: additional notice before prospective tenants entered their home. They wanted to ensure that their prayer times were not interrupted and that Ms. Ismail could be modestly dressed. The Tribunal found that “there was no evidence showing that the additional five-minute notice requested by the applicants would have had any impact whatsoever on the respondent’s ability to rent the apartment.”

The landlord was also found to have harassed the tenants by making “the comment ‘welcome to Ontario Canada’, the making of loud pounding noises outside the applicants’ door shortly after making that comment, and the respondent’s refusal to remove his shoes when entering the applicants’ prayer space.”

The Tribunal found that:

  • the landlord’s “evidence was inconsistent with the documentary evidence on key points"; and
  • "the respondent’s inclination to tailor his evidence in an attempt to justify his actions in this case."

The Tribunal ordered:

  • $6,000 to each tenant as compensation for the discrimination;
  • the landlord to confirm that he had completed training on human rights and housing; and
  • the landlord to review the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Policy on Human Rights and Rental Housing.

To read the full decision, visit Canlii

Landlord’s sexist treatment of tenant made her “personal life a misery”

Gricken v Andriano, 2017 HRTO 698

The HRLSC represented tenant Janice Gricken in her human rights application against her landlord. The landlord was found to have violated a separate section of the Human Rights Code, reprisal, by “threatening to evict her and giving her groundless eviction notices, refusing to maintain her apartment in a state of repair, and vandalizing her bike.”

The Tribunal found that:

  • “the respondent abused his position as a landlord by making the applicant’s personal life a misery"; and
  • "the landlord made offensive gender-based comments and sexually demeaning gestures that denigrated her as a woman, and women in general.”

The Tribunal ordered:

  • $20,000 in general damages as financial compensation for the discrimination;
  • training for the landlord in human rights principles; and
  • the landlord to adopt a written policy for the building that reflects the responsibilities of landlords, agents of the landlords or occupants of buildings under the Human Rights Code, including a complaint mechanism.

To read the full decision, visit Canli

Racist landlord denies woman an available apartment

Thomas v Haque, 2016 HRTO 1012

The HRLSC represented a Black woman who was trying to find an apartment in which to settle before the birth of her baby. She arranged a viewing with the landlord and they exchanged several texts and phone calls. As she was nearing the apartment, the landlord asked her where she was from. When she told him she was originally from the Caribbean, the landlord suddenly said the apartment was unavailable. The landlord claimed that at the very moment she was crossing the street he decided to sell the apartment building.  The Tribunal did not find his explanation credible. 

The Tribunal ordered:

  • $10,000 compensation for the discrimination; and
  • The landlord to take human rights training, and, in particular to watch the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s five-part video called “Rental Housing and the [Human Rights]Code.”

To read the full decision, visit Canlii

Sharpe v. Cheuk, 2015 HRTO 10

The HRLSC successfully argued the Belleville landlord discriminated against Mr. Sharpe on the basis of receipt of social assistance. 

The Tribunal ordered:

  • $10,000 for the discrimination; and
  • $1,200 for loss of property and moving expenses.

To read the full decision, visit CanLII

DiSalvo v. Halton Condominium Corporation No. 186, 2009 HRTO 2120

Mr. DiSalvo required a ramp for the front door of his condominium townhouse. The Condominium Corporation refused to pay for the ramp, insisting that Mr. DiSalvo bear the full costs associated with it.

The Tribunal found that “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 … I find that by insisting on a position that was wrong, at law, by failing to consider alternatives, and by creating a barrier to substantive discussions, the Respondent (Halton Condominium Corporation No. 186) has also failed to meet its procedural duty to accommodate the Applicant (Mr. DiSalvo).”

The Tribunal ordered:

  • $12,000 to the Applicant in respect of compensation for loss of the right to be free from discrimination;
  • the purchase, installation and maintenance of a ramp at the front entrance of the townhouse; and
  • a human rights policy and a complaint mechanism to be developed

To read the full decision, visit CanLII

Dixon v. 930187 Ontario, 2010 HRTO 256


Mr. Dixon uses a wheelchair. He and his wife lived in a building that was not accessible, making it impossible for him to travel independently. The Dixons asked the landlord to modify the building entrances and repeatedly asked for a transfer to a ground floor apartment because the elevators were unreliable.

The Tribunal found that “(The landlord) appeared to take the position that he was entitled to substitute his judgement for that of the Dixons as to what they needed and where and how they should live … Both persons with disabilities and persons on social assistance tend to be subjected to harmful stereotyping as well as societal barriers that have an effect on their dignity.”

The Tribunal ordered:

  • $10,000 to the Applicant for compensation for loss of the right to be free from discrimination
  • Reduction of the Applicant’s rent by $136.61 per month until the Respondent has offered the Applicant a one-bedroom apartment on the first floor of the building
  • $2595.59 to the Applicant for loss occasioned to date by its refusal to allow a transfer within the building
  • The Respondent to offer the next available apartment on the first floor to the Applicant
  • The Respondent to ensure that the front and back doors and entryways of the apartment building are accessible to people in wheelchairs by six months from the date of the order, including providing a ramp or grading and installing electronic door opening devices
  • The Respondent to retain an expert on human rights issues within three months of the order, and to undertake an appropriate training course for its managerial staff on anti-discrimination practices relevant to tenants

To read the full decision, visit CanLII

Jakobek v. Toronto Standard Condominium Corporation No. 1626, 2011 HRTO 1901


Mr. Jakobek’s condominium refused to allow him to park his scooter in one of the parking spots he owns. The condominium also failed to accommodate his disability by refusing to install an automatic door opener on the doors located between the parking garage and the elevators. Although the condominium later allowed Mr. Jakobek (the Applicant) to park his scooter in his parking spot and eventually installed door openers two years after his request, the Tribunal found the condominium’s responses “untimely.”

The Tribunal ordered:

  • the Condominium to make a donation in the amount of $5,000 to the March of Dimes (at the Applicant’s request);
  • wnsure that the Condominium’s by-laws, by amendment, specifically permit that mobility assistive devices can be parked in the parking garage; and
  • wnsure that management complete the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s eLearning module “Human Rights 101,” and review the OHRC’s “Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate”

To read the full decision, visit CanLII

Read more Housing Hearings

Contracts hearings

Longboat v 708179 Ontario Inc. and Dennis Davison, 2012 HRTO 2170

Paula Longboat had fallen behind on the leasing payments for her van. She received a letter from the leasing company that contained the following:

"I didn’t want to lease you a vehicle, but when you promised repeatedly to pay me on time, I let you have the van. Now this is how you show your gratitude, by lying, cheating and stealing from me. Typical Indian."

The HRLSC represented Ms. Longboat at her hearing.

The Tribunal found that:

  • "the message underlying the respondents’ comment was that Aboriginal people lie, cheat and steal; and
  • "The remark evokes the notion that people of Aboriginal ancestry are untrustworthy and not legitimate members of Canadian society because they perpetrate fraud in order to get what they want."

The Tribunal ordered:

  • $15,000 financial compensation for the discrimination.

To read the full decision, visit CanLII

Read more contracts hearings