Understanding the Risks of Presenting Sensitive Records in Human Rights Complaints

In a recent decision, the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal directed the Respondent company to pay $5,000 in costs to a Complainant, despite the fact that the Complainant produced no evidence of damages or her actual legal costs.

During the course of a hearing, the Respondent company produced intimate and personal photographs of the Complainant. These photographs were “automatically uploaded” from the Complainant’s work cellphone to the Respondent’s “Dropbox.”[1] The AHRC found that there was no proof of how the photographs ended up in the Respondent’s Dropbox and further found that the photographs were not relevant to the issues raised by the Complainant but were only introduced to embarrass the Complainant.[2]

The Commission argued that the Complainant suffered significant distress and embarrassment as a result of the photographs being introduced by the Respondent for no legitimate purpose.[3] The Director further argued that the Respondent was deserving of “significant sanction and rebuke”[4] and sought $5,000 in costs payable to the Complainant.[5]

The Respondent argued that costs should not be awarded against it for including the photographs in its submissions as they were not included in the evidence.

In determining that a $5,000 costs sanction was payable to the Complainant, the Tribunal found that “the respondent has provided no information to support a finding that it had a good faith belief that the Photographs were relevant and material to the issues raised in the Complaint. The lack of credible, good faith explanation begs the question as to the motive of the respondent in including these very personal and intimate Photographs.”[6]

This decision underscores the importance of only producing information that is relevant and material in a hearing. Respondents should take care and use caution when responding to human rights complaints; particularly, when producing sensitive records.

The MLT Aikins Labour and Employment team is available to assist you in providing a full and appropriate response to any Human Rights claim you may face.

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.

[1] Devolbren, at para 10.

[2] Devolbren, at para 14.

[3] Devolbren, at para 15.

[4] Devolbren, at para 17.

[5] Devolbren, at para 18.

[6] Devolbren, at paras 26 – 27.

Authors: Julie Ward, Walter Pavlic, K.C.