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Human Rights Tribunal Without Jurisdiction to Reconsider WCB Decision
June 5, 2009

A recent decision of the BC Supreme Court found that the BC Human Rights Tribunal does not have jurisdiction to reconsider complaints decided by the Review Division of the Workers’ Compensation Board.

The issue arose when three employees attempted to challenge WCB’s policy on chronic pain compensation on the basis that it was discriminatory. The Review Division dismissed the claim, concluding that WCB’s policy was not discriminatory. The employees then filed a human rights complaint, raising the same arguments.

The WCB applied to have the complaint dismissed, arguing that the issue had already been addressed in proceedings before the Review Division. However, the Tribunal concluded that it had jurisdiction to hear the complaint. Central to this conclusion was the Tribunal’s view that the matter had not been considered by a “judicial decision maker” because the reviewing officer of the Review Division was not truly independent from the WCB.

The Tribunal’s decision was quashed on judicial review. The Court held that the Tribunal failed to properly consider the principles of res judicata, mootness, issue estoppel, collateral attack and abuse of process. The Court noted that the doctrine of abuse of process engages the inherent power of a court to prevent the misuse of the adjudicative process by engaging in a multiplicity of proceedings in a way that would bring the administration of justice into disrepute. Relying on this doctrine, the Court held that the Tribunal should not have assumed jurisdiction over the Complaint. In so doing, the Tribunal violated the principles of consistency, finality and the integrity of the administration of justice.

(Click here for copy of Decision)