The B.C. Supreme Court recently dismissed a unionized employee’s civil claim of harassment and discrimination. The court concluded that the allegations must be dealt with exclusively through the grievance and arbitration process under the collective agreement.
The plaintiff sought damages for harassment and discrimination she allegedly suffered at her workplace. The defendants challenged the court’s jurisdiction to hear the action.
The court acknowledged the exclusive jurisdiction of labour tribunals to determine all disputes arising from a collective agreement. Thus, the court had to determine whether the dispute arose out of the collective agreement and if an effective remedy was available to the plaintiff under the grievance and arbitration process.
The court held that the plaintiff’s sex discrimination complaint fell under the purview of the Human Rights Code, but confirmed that rights and responsibilities under the Code are incorporated into all collective agreements. As a result, the dispute was one which arose from the collective agreement.
With respect to the issue of remedy, the court observed that the Labour Relations Code confers upon arbitrators broad remedial powers, including the power to award monetary damages. Therefore, an arbitrator could provide effective redress in the event the grievance succeeded.