Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada ousted the jurisdiction of Manitoba Human Rights adjudicators in discrimination cases involving unionized workers: Northern Regional Health Authority v. Horrocks, 2021 SCC 42.
In this case, a unionized employee was alleging discrimination against her employer for its failure to properly accommodate her disability. The issue before the Supreme Court of Canada was whether this dispute should be heard by a labour arbitrator or a human rights adjudicator. The Supreme Court determined that a labour arbitrator should hear all disputes – including human rights and discrimination disputes – within the ambit of a collective agreement, unless the statutory regime clearly expresses otherwise. In other words, unless human rights legislation clearly conveys an intent to share or carve into a labour arbitrator’s jurisdiction, a labour arbitrator has exclusive jurisdiction to hear human rights disputes arising from a collective agreement.
So, what does this mean? Where provinces have human rights legislation like Manitoba’s, grievors in those provinces may no longer be able to bring their workplace related human rights claims before a Human Rights Commission or Tribunal. By extension, Unions may have more responsibility, as they may need to take on more human rights claims of their members.