A tribunal has ordered the Ontario Human Rights Commission to pay an employer $210,000 for legal costs it incurred in defending a human rights complaint.
The decision of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal to award costs against the Commission follows its earlier decision, after a 35-day hearing, to dismiss a complaint of discrimination against the employer. In the earlier decision, the Tribunal declared the conduct of the Commission in pursuing the claim to be “the most egregious case of abuse of process to come before the Tribunal”.
The employer then applied to the Tribunal for an order seeking $409,547.34, plus GST, in costs from the Commission for proceeding with the complaint. Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Tribunal may order a party, including the Commission, to pay another party’s legal costs if the Tribunal concludes that the complaint was trivial, frivolous, vexatious, made in bad faith or if it determines that the complaint caused an undue hardship to the respondent.
The Tribunal allowed the employer’s application and ordered the Commission to pay $210,000.00 in legal costs. It found that the complainant’s dishonesty amounted to bad faith and the Commission’s failure to properly question the complainant before pursuing the complaint made the allegations vexatious. The Tribunal held there is a presumption that any complaint which is dismissed because it constitutes an abuse of process will be considered an undue hardship for a respondent.