Tips on how to file a human rights complaint

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“Tips on how to file a human rights complaint” is the second blog in a two-part series. In last week’s blog, we reviewed what to consider before filing your complaint. This blog provides some tips for what to do when you’re drafting and filing your complaint.

When filing a human rights complaint: Explain the discrimination in detail

The majority of the complaint forms will require you to explain the discriminatory event. When you do, connect what happened to you and the prohibited ground of discrimination. Explain how each of the protected grounds applies to you, how you were adversely impacted, and how the discriminatory treatment happened because of the protected grounds. Also, be sure to address all the important details of the 5Ws wherever you can: who, what, when, where, why (and how).

For example, don’t just say something like “I didn’t get the job of sous chef because I’m disabled.”  Instead, connect what happened to you with the disability and provide details about the “5Ws” wherever you can:

“On 3 June 2022 at around 5 PM, the manager of Mary’s Restaurant, Frank Meehan, told me in the manager’s office that I wouldn’t be getting the position of sous chef.  A co-worker, Marianne Marigold, was there.  Mr. Meehan said I wasn’t getting the job because I “wasn’t strong enough” to unpack the meat from the freezer quickly.  I reminded Mr. Meehan that I had MS, which affects my strength, and I just needed some help moving the meat. I told him I could do everything else, including prepping the food, with no problems.  Mr. Meehan replied that Mike Smith could both prep the food and move the meat without any help. He told me that Mike Smith got the job “and that was that.”

Be sure to include all of the incidents of discrimination you can think of. If you don’t talk about every incident of discrimination in the complaint, you may not be able to raise them later.

When filing: Consider “systemic discrimination”

Systemic discrimination happens when an employer discriminates against people because of a workplace culture, widespread behaviours, or policies or practices. Raising systemic discrimination in your complaint can affect the kind and quality of the award and remedies you can receive if you settle or go to a hearing.

If you think there’s systemic discrimination in your workplace, you should raise “systemic discrimination” in your complaint.  Again: explaining the discrimination with details is important.  When you raise systemic discrimination, make sure you’re talking about all of the ways the culture, corporate behaviour, or policies or practices discriminate against people.

When filing: Say “yes” to mediation

Mediation is where a third party, the mediator, meets with the parties to try to negotiate an agreement to resolve the matter.  The majority of these settlements include a payment to the complainant and the complainant signing a “release” in favour of the employer that removes future liability for them.

Early on in the human rights complaint process, you will be asked if you’d like to participate in mediation. It’s almost always a good idea to offer to participate in mediation. Mediation allows the parties to come together to resolve the matter in a settlement.  This can be very good for you because you get your settlement early on in the process and don’t have to worry about a hearing or, if you’re represented by a lawyer, paying for legal fees.

Mediation is low-risk.  The mediator does not have the authority to decide what the settlement will be, so, if the employer is not offering anything you want to take, then you don’t have to accept it.  Mediations are also confidential. In fact, neither the complainant nor the employer is allowed to rely on or use any of the information they got from the other during the mediation.

DISCLAIMER: The content of this article, and this website generally, is not intended as legal advice and cannot be relied upon as legal advice.  To provide legal advice on your problem, a lawyer must first understand your specific situation.

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