How A Human Rights Lawyer Can Help Unionized Employees

How A Human Rights Lawyer Can Help Unionized Employees

In today’s complex work environment, the intersection of labour unions and human rights issues can present challenging situations for both employees and employers. Whether you’re a member of a union or an employer dealing with a unionized workforce, understanding your rights and responsibilities under the law is crucial. This blog post explores the vital role of a human rights lawyer in safeguarding the rights and well-being of unionized employees. We’ll delve into the ways these legal professionals can provide invaluable support and guidance when human rights concerns arise within the context of a unionized workplace.

When Can A Human Rights Lawyer Help Unionized Employees?

When an employee belongs to a union, their work relationship with the employer is governed by a collective agreement. In Ontario, these agreements are required to include a grievance process, allowing employees to address workplace problems through arbitration.

In most cases, issues covered by the collective agreement fall under the union’s jurisdiction for conflict resolution. If an employee attempts to take legal action in court and it’s determined to be a matter for the union, the lawsuit will be put on hold until a final decision is reached through arbitration.

However, there’s an essential exception concerning human rights. A unionized employee can choose to involve a human rights lawyer if they’re not confident in the union’s process. This option is available specifically for human rights-related concerns.

For instance, if a unionized employee is terminated from their job and suspects discrimination played a role, it’s crucial to contact a human rights lawyer. They can examine the situation to determine if discrimination is involved. If it is, the lawyer can help the employee file an application with the Human Rights Tribunal to seek compensation for the human rights violations they’ve experienced.

Contact Achkar Law today to schedule a consultation with our Experienced Human Rights Lawyers

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

When To File For A Human Rights Application And Grievance

Human rights issues may still be a matter to solve through the union. Suppose an employee experiences dismissal from employment for discriminatory reasons and the union’s collective agreement addresses wrongful dismissal; in that case, it is necessary to file a grievance.

But there are situations where a human rights lawyer will recommend an employee files an application to the Human Rights Tribunal as well. If an employee experienced bullying for discriminatory reasons, but they haven’t been dismissed, it’s possible the collective agreement does not have terms addressing the situation. In this case, you may be able to file a human rights application to ask for damages to compensate for injury to dignity, feelings, and self-respect.

In a scenario in Quebec, the Supreme Court of Canada found other reasons a human rights matter in a unionized workplace should be dealt with by the province’s Human Rights Tribunal. In this case, the workers filed a Human Rights Application arguing that the collective agreement itself violated their human rights. In essence, the Supreme Court found that the Tribunal was a better “fit” for this matter because workers might not be able to expect that their union will argue that its collective agreement violates the law. Those workers may not have other options to defend their rights if they cannot go to the Human Rights Tribunal.

Arbitration Versus Human Rights Application

In any situation where a unionized employee can choose to file a grievance or a human rights application, a human rights lawyer can review your case and advise whether to file for both. At this stage, it is important to consider that the Tribunal and an arbitrator cannot offer the same remedies. 

In arbitration, remedies are set in a collective agreement. This could mean the arbitrator can order a company to reinstate an employee’s position if they were dismissed for discriminatory reasons. The employee may be compensated for some or all of the income that wasn’t received during the dismissal. An arbitrator also has the power to decide that a term in the collective agreement violates the Human Rights Act and cannot be applied.

Arbitration cannot provide compensation for your dignity, feelings, and self-respect. Only the Human Rights Tribunal can award these damages. If you want compensation for being bullied or dismissed for discriminatory reasons, filing a Human Rights Application may be a suitable path where having a lawyer will help.


The rights of unionized workers are complex, and this area of law is constantly evolving. A worker’s union exists to protect employees. When an employee doesn’t trust the union and suspects human rights have been violated, seeking counsel from a human rights lawyer is important to help determine the best course of action. However, if a unionized employee does not suspect their human rights have been violated, a human rights and employment lawyer will be unable to assist due to the collective agreement governing the employee’s relationship with the employer. In cases outside of human rights, an employee will need to speak with their union representative to begin their conflict resolution process.

Related Topics

Can I Start An Action Against My Union For Discrimination?

What Do I Do If My Union Won’t Advance My Grievance?

Can Unionized Employees Start Human Rights Complaints?

Can An Employer Stop Employees from Unionizing?

Contact Achkar Law

Whether you are an employer or an employee looking for a human rights lawyer to assist with workplace issues or employment relationships, our skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced labour 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 would be happy to assist.