The amendments to Manitoba’s human rights legislation seeking to ensure complaints are addressed in a more timely manner come as a welcome change for employers.
On November 2, 2021, the Manitoba Government announced that the changes to The Human Rights Code provided for in Bill 26 will come into effect on January 1, 2022. The amendments largely focus on addressing the timely determination of complaints filed with the Human Rights Commission. These amendments follow an independent review which concluded a complaint typically takes at least three years for the Human Rights Commission to investigate and, where sent to adjudication, at least one more year to proceed to adjudication.
The most important changes to the legislation are:
- The Commission’s authority to consider and investigate complaints at first instance has been transitioned to the Executive Director of the Commission;
- The Executive Director now has the ability to dismiss a complaint without any investigation into the merits of the complaint where the Executive Director determines that:
- the complaint is frivolous or vexatious;
- the acts or omissions alleged do not contravene the Code;
- the complaint is not within the jurisdiction provided by the Code;
- the subject matter of the complaint is being or has been dealt with appropriately according to a procedure provided for under another Act; or
- additional proceedings in respect of the complaint would not benefit the complainant;
- The introduction of a review process that allows a complainant to appeal a decision of the Executive Director to the Commission;
- Stricter timelines on an adjudicator to commence the hearing and issue their decision where a complaint has been referred to adjudication; and
- A $25,000 limit on the amount of damages that an adjudicator can award to the complainant for injury to dignity, feelings or self-respect (there continues to be no cap on financial compensation that can be awarded for lost wages/income and other monetary losses).
These amendments should reduce the time it takes for the Commission to address human rights complaints. The reduction in the current delay and the cap on damages for injury to dignity should generally reduce an employer’s potential exposure in the event that an adjudicator rules in favour of a complainant. The amendments may also increase the likelihood of employers being able to achieve reasonable mediated resolutions in advance of adjudication.
Further, the amendments should also reduce the resources an employer has to incur in addressing frivolous complaints.
Employers who are seeking further information on the amendments to The Human Rights Code and on best practices for responding to a human rights complaint should consider signing up for our 2021 MB Labour & Employment Law Update Webinar, scheduled for November 18, 2021.
Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.