A human rights complaint was recently dismissed when two complainants refused to accept a reasonable settlement offer made near the end of the hearing. In dismissing the complaint, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal determined it would not further the purposes of the Human Rights Code to proceed to the conclusion of the hearing.
The complainants were a couple who had been evicted from their suite on the basis of having breached their rental agreement, which prohibited more than two people living in the suite. As the third person living in their suite was the complainants’ two year old son, they alleged they were discriminated against on the basis of family status.
During an adjournment in the hearing of the complaint, the respondents made an offer to settle. When that offer was rejected, the respondents applied to have the complaint dismissed on the basis that allowing the hearing to proceed would not further the purposes of the Code.
The Tribunal dismissed the complaint, finding the settlement offer consistent with the types of orders the Tribunal likely would make if the complaint was justified. The absence of an express admission of liability did not, of itself, render the offer unreasonable.
The Tribunal did express its concern that the hearing was underway and nearly completed when the offer was made. However, it concluded that refusing to dismiss the complaint due to the late stage of the hearing would, contrary to the purposes of the Code, tend to discourage other respondents from pursuing remedial action in the later stages of the complaint process.
This case identifies an important opportunity for respondents, including employers, who find that they have learned more about the relative strengths or weaknesses of their case during the hearing process to make an effort to settle the matter.