An employee's guide dog causes a severe allergic reaction
for co-workers. A religious employer requires employees
to sign a faith-based code of conduct as a term of their
employment. These are examples of cases where competing human
rights may exist in the workplace.
In order to assist organizations working through disputes which
pitch competing human rights against one another, the Ontario Human
Rights Commission developed a policy earlier this year which is
meant to be a tool for resolving those disputes. Although any
dispute which pits competing human rights against one another will
inevitably be determined based on the specific facts involved, the
Commission's policy has created a framework to assist with
resolving those disputes before they become the subject of
The process for addressing competing human rights claims is as
STAGE ONE: Recognizing competing rights
Step 1: What are the claims about?
Step 2: Do the claims connect to legitimate rights?
(a) Do the claims involve individuals or groups rather than
operational interests? (b) Do the claims connect to human
rights, other legal entitlements or bona fide reasonable interests?
(c) Do the claims fall within the scope of the right when defined
Step 3: Do the claims amount to more than minimal
interference with rights?
STAGE TWO: Reconciling competing rights
Step 4: Is there a solution that allows enjoyment of each
Step 5: If not, is there a "next best" solution?
STAGE THREE: Making decisions
Decisions must be consistent with human rights and other laws,
court decisions, human rights principles and have regard for
Ontario Human Rights Commission policy
At least one claim must fall under the Ontario Human Rights
Code to be actionable at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario
It is important to note that the Commission's policy is not
"law", but rather is the Commission's recommended
approach. The Commission does not have the legal authority to
require employers to follow the policy. In any event,
employers should take proactive steps to address competing rights
by being familiar with caselaw and considering the Commission's
policy. A full copy of the Commission's policy can be
found at the following link:
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