The BC Human Rights Tribunal recently dismissed a complaint alleging age discrimination in relation to a collective agreement plan that required the termination of LTD benefits at age 65.
The Complainant was over 65 years of age and worked full-time for Coast Mountain Bus Company. Under the collective agreement LTD Plan, benefits coverage terminates when the employee reaches age 65. The Complainant relied on a 2008 amendment to the Human Rights Code, which changed the definition of “age” from “19 years or more to less than 65 years” to “19 years or more”. The Complainant alleged that Coast Mountain and his Union discriminated against him and others by failing to amend the collective agreement to permit access to LTD benefits for members aged 65 and beyond.
Coast Mountain applied to dismiss the complaint on the basis that the LTD Plan constitutes a bona fide plan under Section 13(3)(b) of the Human Rights Code. This provision makes discrimination against a person regarding employment on the basis of age inapplicable to the operation of a bona fide group or employee insurance plan. The Union argued the same, with the added contention that during bargaining they determined that expanding LTD benefits coverage to employees over 65 could adversely impact the contribution rates for all employees. For these reasons the age cap on LTD benefits remained in place.
The Tribunal noted the parties relied on different legal tests to determine whether a plan is a bona fide plan under the legislation. The Tribunal found that the LTD Plan met both tests: it was a legitimate plan, adopted in good faith and not for the purpose of defeating protected rights; and it was also based on sound and accepted insurance practice with no practical alternative. As a result, the LTD Plan constituted a bona fide plan pursuant to Section 13(3)(b) of the Human Rights Code which is a complete defence to a claim of discrimination on the basis of the age limitation in the plan. On this basis the Complaint was dismissed
This case provides important guidance for employers regarding the applicability of the Human Rights Code to benefit plans containing age limitations.