The British Columbia Court of Appeal has confirmed jurisdiction of the BC Human Rights Tribunal to dismiss a complaint where a complainant rejects a reasonable settlement offer.
The complainant employee developed depression and went on short term, then long term disability leave. While she was off work and in receipt of LTD benefits, she filed a human rights complaint alleging the employer violated the Human Rights Code by terminating her employment based on her mental disability.
The employer denied both the termination and the discrimination. However, in order to settle the complaint, it offered to pay the employee $12,500, less statutory deductions. The employer informed the complainant that if she did not accept the offer, it would apply to have her complaint dismissed on the basis that proceeding with the complaint would not further the purposes of the Code. She did not accept the settlement offer and the employer successfully applied to the Tribunal for an order dismissing her complaint.
The complainant then applied for judicial review of the Tribunal’s decision. The BC Supreme Court upheld the Tribunal’s decision. She then appealed, arguing that the Tribunal exceeded its jurisdiction in dismissing her complaint as Section 27(1)(d)(ii) of the Code does not expressly empower the Tribunal to dismiss a complaint where a complainant refuses to accept a reasonable settlement offer.
While the BCCA agreed that s. 27(1)(d)(ii) did not specifically state that the Tribunal could dismiss a complaint on this basis, the Court found the provision does give the Tribunal broad authority to dismiss complaints that would not further the purposes of the Code. Further, the Court found that proceeding with a complaint when a reasonable settlement offer has been made would not further the purposes of the Code.
Employers who are interested in avoiding a full hearing on a human rights complaint may wish to consider making a reasonable settlement offer and then applying to dismiss the complaint if the offer is refused.