Human rights adjudicator can’t decide workplace discrimination complaint: top court

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A labor arbitrator — not a human rights adjudicator — must weigh in on a complaint from a federalized Manitoba health care aide who alleged discrimination by his employer, Canada’s Supreme Court has ruled.

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The apex court’s 6-1 decision on Friday is likely to help clarify the appropriate venue for redressal of specific workplace complaints across the country when it comes to which law applies.

Linda Horrocks, who worked for the Northern Regional Health Authority’s individual care home in Flynn, Mann, suffered from alcohol dependence, which the health authority agreed was a disability protected by both a collective agreement and Manitoba’s Human Rights Code. .


The health authority fired Horrocks in 2012 for allegedly drinking outside the workplace, contrary to an agreement that she abstains from alcohol.

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The health authority took the necessary steps to protect patients, while Horrocks said other options were available to meet the authority’s goal.

Horrocks then filed a complaint under the Provincial Human Rights Code, not a complaint pursuant to the collective agreement.

An adjudicator appointed under the Rights Code concluded that the health authority had violated the code’s discrimination provisions, given Horrocks’ alcohol dependence disability.

A reviewing judge later ruled that the case fell within the sole jurisdiction of a labor arbitrator, but the case then went to the Provincial Court of Appeals.

The appeals court sent the case back to the reviewing judge to determine whether the adjudicator’s decision and the remedies he took were justified in law.

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In its ruling on Friday, the Supreme Court said that where labor law provides for the final settlement of disputes arising out of a collective agreement, the jurisdiction of the adjudicator empowered by that law — generally, a labor arbitrator — is exclusive. it happens.

Justice Russell Brown, on behalf of the majority, wrote, “Competing statutory tribunals may fall into that area of ​​exclusivity, but only where the legislative intent is clearly expressed.”

“In its essential character, Ms Horrocks’ complaint alleges a breach of collective agreement, and thus falls within the mandate of the arbitrator.”

Furthermore, the provincial human rights code does not explicitly express the legislative intent to give concurrent authority to adjudicators on such disputes, they wrote.

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Consequently, the review judge’s order setting aside the judge’s decision should be reinstated, the high court concluded.

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