Human Rights Code (Ontario): Filing an Application After 1 Year

Human Rights Code (Ontario): Filing an Application After 1 Year

In Ontario, employees often face workplace Human Rights violations, but many are unaware of their rights under the Human Rights Code of Ontario (“Code“). They may mistakenly think that their employer can terminate them without making accommodations for disabilities or that they must tolerate workplace sexual harassment.

Some employees are aware of their rights but feel intimidated by the process of filing a Human Rights Application. They fear potential repercussions from their employer, such as missed advancement opportunities or damage to their reputation among colleagues.

Regardless of an employee’s awareness or fears, there’s a crucial deadline for filing a Human Rights application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (“Tribunal”). Missing this deadline can impact an employee’s entitlements and remedies for Human Rights violations.

When should you submit a Human Rights application? What are the consequences of submitting it too late? How can an employment and Human Rights lawyer assist you?

This article will address these questions and provide an overview of the workplace Human Rights that employers must uphold.

When Should an Employee File a Human Rights Application in Ontario?

Employees should be aware of the circumstances that might prompt them to initiate their Human Rights application under the Human Rights Code of Ontario. The Human Rights Code of Ontario provides protection to employees against discriminatory treatment in the workplace based on various protected grounds, including but not limited to:

The Human Rights Code of Ontario also extends its protection to employees facing harassment related to these protected grounds, including instances of sexual harassment. In this context, harassment generally refers to engaging in a persistent pattern of vexatious comments or behaviors that are known or should reasonably be known to be unwelcome.

The provisions of the Human Rights Code of Ontario apply to employer actions not only in the hiring process but also throughout an employee’s tenure and even after employment. Failure to reasonably accommodate an employee’s disability, family status, or religion in the workplace to the point of undue hardship could constitute discrimination in violation of the Human Rights Code of Ontario.

Employees are generally encouraged to initiate an informal Human Rights complaint in the workplace if they suspect their Human Rights are not being upheld. If the employer fails to adequately investigate or address the Human Rights complaint, the next step may be to file a formal Human Rights application.

Importantly, the Human Rights Code of Ontario safeguards employees from retaliation by their employer when they attempt to enforce their Human Rights in the workplace or initiate legal proceedings for violations of the Code. Sudden shifts in an employer’s treatment of an employee, refusal to provide a raise, or other forms of direct or indirect mistreatment can be considered retaliation under such circumstances.

If an employee believes their employer has breached the Human Rights Code of Ontario, they have the option to assert their rights by filing a Human Rights application with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. The Tribunal possesses the authority to award applicants damages, non-monetary remedies, and public policy remedies for their employer’s Human Rights Code violations.

It’s crucial to note that the Human Rights Code of Ontario imposes a one-year deadline for employees to file a Human Rights application from the date of the incident or pattern of incidents that infringed upon their Human Rights Code-protected rights. Failing to initiate a formal legal action within this timeframe can have serious legal repercussions.

What Happens if an Employee Submits their Human Rights Application After the Deadline?

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario strictly enforces the one-year limitation period for filing a Human Rights application. If an employee files their application after this period, they risk losing the opportunity to seek damages, non-monetary remedies, and other relief against their employer, which they may have been entitled to otherwise.

Should an employee submit their Human Rights application late, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario may issue a Notice of Intention to Dismiss. In this scenario, the applicant is expected to provide an explanation for the delay and an opportunity to make submissions justifying why their Human Rights application should proceed despite the delay.

Once the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario dismisses a Human Rights application for delay, the decision is final. While an applicant can request a reconsideration, such requests rarely result in a different outcome.

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario may consider extending the one-year limitation period only in very exceptional circumstances. Reasons such as an employee’s lack of understanding of their legal rights or difficulties with the application forms are typically not accepted by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

To proceed with a late Human Rights application, an employee must demonstrate that their delay was in “good faith.” In other words, they need to provide a reasonable explanation for the delay in filing their Human Rights application.

In some cases, decision-makers may consider an applicant’s hospitalization or other severe illness as a valid reason for allowing a late Human Rights application. However, the applicant must prove that their medical condition was so debilitating that pursuing their legal rights in a timely manner was not reasonable.

An applicant with a late Human Rights application must also show that “no substantial prejudice” will occur to any party affected by the delay. Typically, the delay’s impact would affect the person or organization responding to the application. The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario must assess whether it would be fair to ask the respondent to defend themselves against the application after the period of delay.

Long delays are more likely to create substantial prejudice, making it challenging to proceed with a late Human Rights application. For instance, if there is a significant delay, witnesses may be less likely to recall specific events or relevant documents may have been destroyed.

How Can a Human Rights Lawyer Help?

Consulting a Human Rights lawyer is crucial for both employers and employees to gain a clear understanding of their legal obligations and rights in various workplace situations. Here are the ways in which a Human Rights lawyer can provide valuable assistance:

1. Legal Assessment: An employment and Human Rights lawyer can assess whether mistreatment in the workplace violates the Human Rights Code of Ontario. They can provide tailored legal advice on the appropriate actions to take.

2. Guidance in Workplace Disputes: Employees can benefit from a lawyer’s expertise in negotiating with their employer to seek a resolution for workplace disputes.

3. Navigating Legal Proceedings: When legal action is necessary to enforce Human Rights, a lawyer can help navigate the complex legal processes, ensuring that the individual’s rights are protected.

4. Overcoming Filing Delays: If an employee is facing dismissal due to a late Human Rights application, a lawyer can assist in presenting a compelling case to persuade the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario to allow the application to proceed.

5. Document Preparation: Lawyers can ensure that all necessary documents are prepared accurately and effectively, increasing the chances of a favorable outcome in legal proceedings.

6. Persuasive Arguments: With a lawyer’s experience, individuals can present their arguments with supporting evidence in the most convincing manner possible.

7. Legal Strategy: Lawyers can help individuals develop a legal strategy that aligns with their specific circumstances and goals.

8. Protection of Rights: An employment and Human Rights lawyer can advocate for the protection of an individual’s rights, ensuring they are upheld in the workplace and throughout legal processes.

9. Resolution Negotiation: Lawyers can facilitate negotiations between employees and employers to reach mutually satisfactory resolutions, avoiding lengthy legal battles when possible.

10. Comprehensive Legal Advice: Lawyers provide comprehensive legal advice tailored to the unique aspects of a case, helping individuals make informed decisions.

11. In-depth Knowledge in Human Rights Code: Lawyers have in-depth knowledge of the Human Rights Code of Ontario, ensuring that clients’ rights are protected in accordance with the law.

12. Communication and Representation: Lawyers can communicate on behalf of their clients and represent them in various legal proceedings, advocating for their rights and interests.

13. Access to Resources:  Human Rights lawyers have access to legal resources, ensuring that their clients have the support and information needed to navigate their cases effectively.

14. Maximizing Chances: Lawyers work to maximize their clients’ chances of a favourable outcome in legal matters, utilizing their legal knowledge and experience.

15. Legal Clarity: Legal professionals provide clarity and guidance, helping individuals understand the intricacies of their legal rights and responsibilities in the workplace.


Understanding and asserting one’s rights under the Human Rights Code of Ontario is essential for both employees and employers. Workplace disputes related to human rights issues require careful consideration, knowledgeable guidance, and a commitment to fairness and justice. Consulting with an experienced Human Rights lawyer is a critical step in navigating these complex legal matters.

For employees, knowing when to file a Human Rights application and how to proceed is vital in protecting their rights and seeking redress for any violations. A lawyer can provide advice, navigate legal proceedings, and assist in resolving disputes, ensuring that their clients’ rights are upheld.

For employers, understanding their legal obligations and ensuring compliance with the Human Rights Code is essential to maintain a fair and inclusive workplace. Legal guidance can help employers address Human Rights complaints effectively, prevent potential violations, and create a workplace that respects and upholds the rights of all employees.

Related Topics

Human Rights Complaint In Ontario: Filing Application

Can Unionized Employees Start Human Rights Complaints?

Human Rights Tribunal Application: How Much To Ask For

Ontario Human Rights Code: What Are The Violations?  

Contact Achkar Law

If you are an employer or an employee with questions about Human Rights Code in Ontario, or in need of assistance with a workplace Human Rights dispute our team of experienced human rights lawyers at Achkar Law can help.

Contact us by phone toll-free at 1 (800) 771-7882  or email us at [email protected], and we will be happy to assist.