Despite the more immediate issues that workplaces are grappling with at the moment, federally regulated employers should be aware that the Government of Canada and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (the “Tribunal”) is seeking submissions from stakeholders in relation to the development of rules and procedure for referrals to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal under the new Pay Equity Act.
On December 13, 2018, the Pay Equity Act received Royal Assent, and is expected to come into force later this year by Order in Council, though no official date has yet been set. The Pay Equity Act establishes a proactive pay equity regime requiring employers with 10 or more federally regulated employees to examine their compensation practices to ensure that women and men receive equal pay for work of equal value. Violations of the Pay Equity Act can result in the imposition of penalties of up to $50,000 per violation. Disputes, complaints and appeals about various matters arising under the Pay Equity Act can be referred to the Tribunal for resolution.
The Tribunal has announced that it expects to receive its first referrals and/or appeal files under the Pay Equity Act as early as the spring of 2021. In preparation for these matters, the Tribunal is developing rules of practice and procedure for these hearings, as well as developing templates, guides and other communication tools for participants.
To that end, the Tribunal has put out a discussion paper soliciting the opinions of stakeholders on a series of questions. Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the deadline for submissions on these questions has been extended, and the Tribunal is requesting that submissions be provided by April 30, 2020.
The questions the Tribunal is soliciting information on are:
- The format of the rules of procedure. For this subject, the Tribunal is looking for opinions on matter such as: Will referrals and appeals require different sets of rules? What portions of the existing Tribunal rules can be imported? Should the rules be formally published?
- Pre-hearing procedures. For this subject, the Tribunal is looking for opinions relating to alternative dispute resolution, and whether mediation or pre-hearing conferences should play a role. The Tribunal is also looking for general comments on pre-hearing procedures, such as whether e-filing would be an asset for referrals and appeals.
- Hearing referrals and appeals. The opinions solicited on this subject are guided by the Tribunal’s goals of resolving matters both fairly and quickly. The Tribunal is seeking submissions on issues such as whether appeals and hearings might be able to take place solely by written submissions, and whether written submissions should have a page limit.
- The Tribunal is also soliciting general opinions on issues as broadly stated as, “What concerns, if any, do you have about the appeals or referrals processes? Are there any specific challenges or roadblocks you have experienced in other proceedings that you hope to avoid at the [Tribunal]?”
Given the importance of rules and procedures to the efficiency and effectiveness of a tribunal’s activities – and ultimately, outcomes – employers concerned that they may face pay equity complaints may wish to give serious consideration to making submissions on some or all of these topics.
Stakeholders and interested parties may view the request for submissions here.
Stakeholders are encouraged to send their submissions to: [email protected], or to reach out to a relevant employer advocacy group to coordinate submissions. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like more information on the process for either of these options.