What makes a strong human rights complaint?Team
As unfortunate as it is, many people experience discrimination based on human rights grounds. When people are in the workplace and they experience discrimination based on one of these grounds, they can try to receive some justice by bringing a complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO).
However, human rights complaints are not something to be made lightly. They can take a long time to get through the tribunal, and it can be a stressful process to see a resolution to your case. Before filing a human rights complaint, it is a good idea to first figure out whether your case will be strong enough to get the outcome you want.
What are the core components of a human rights complaint?
To figure out if you have grounds to make a human rights complaint in the first place, you will need to know if you have the core components necessary. These core components include being discriminated against based on a protected status within a protected social area.
Protected status is a status that a person can have that is protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code. Other people cannot discriminate against a person based on one of these statuses if they are within a protected social area. These statuses include:
- Ancestry, color, race
- Ethnic origin
- Place of origin
- Family status
- Marital status (including single status)
- Gender identity, gender expression
- Receipt of public assistance (in housing only)
- Record of offenses (in employment only)
- Sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding)
- Sexual orientation
There are lots of examples of how someone could be discriminated against based on one of these protected statuses. If you are unsure of whether your issue fits into one of the categories, make sure to speak to a lawyer about what your rights are.
Protected social areas are settings or circumstances that someone needs to be in to file a human rights complaint if someone is discriminated against based on one of the grounds listed above. The protected social areas include:
- Accommodation (housing)
- Goods, services, and facilities
- Membership in unions, trade, or professional associations
The protected social areas are set up to ensure that human rights complaints are not being filed based on insults exchanged in unregulated common areas, such as at home or at a park. Instead, the protected social areas represent places where the government can protect citizens from being discriminated against. A workplace is a common place where people will file complaints, as it is a protected social area where people spend a good deal of their time.
So, the first step is to determine whether you have a protected status and whether you were in a protected social area when you were discriminated against. For example, if you are someone who identifies as Muslim and you were denied the option to sign a contract with someone because of your religion, that is an example of an issue you might bring to the HRTO. However, if someone at the park insulted you based on your sex or gender identity, that is unfortunately not a situation you could make human rights claim about, since you were not within a protected social area.
While some issues may feel like they should be human rights concerns, not every issue is. For example, personal beliefs can cause a person to act a certain way, but they have not protected the way that religious beliefs are. Before deciding to make a human rights complaint, consider whether your issue fits one of the protected statuses.
Other components of a strong complaint
Other than the core components of a human rights complaint, which include being discriminated against based on a protected ground within a protected social area, there are aspects of a complaint that can make it stronger than others.
Timing can be particularly important when it comes to human rights complaints. You will need to prove in your claim that what was done to you was connected to a protected status. So, if you were terminated from your job immediately after announcing that you were taking maternity leave, you might have been discriminated against based on sex, and this might be a strong claim. However, if you were terminated six months later along with several other employees, the timing of the actions may not line up.
It is also important to remember that you will have twelve months after the incident to file a human rights complaint.
A stronger human rights complaint might include behaviour that has gone on for a long period of time and shows repeated action. So, one discriminatory email from a colleague might help another case if you are already taking legal action, but unless it is particularly bad, it might not make as strong of a complaint as a series of emails over a longer period of time.
Some situations are so severe that they do not need to be over a period of time to make a strong human rights complaint. What severity looks like may vary depending on the case.
Whenever you are making a claim, it will be easier to prove to the HRTO that you experienced discrimination if you have physical proof. That might include emails, phone messages, HR complaints, videos, or more. If you can bring in physical evidence to strengthen your case, it is always a good idea to do.
It is important to remember that a strong human rights complaint will clearly show that a protected status was the reason for discrimination. While someone might identify as religious or as a member of a particular gender identity, it doesn’t always mean that they were terminated based on that or otherwise discriminated against because of that. It is important to look for proof and logical connections between the events.
Making a human rights complaint can be a big deal, as it can mean engaging in a lengthy legal battle that can be time-consuming and stressful. Before making a claim, be sure to assess whether your claim is strong enough to get you the winning outcome that you are looking for.
For more information about your claim, be sure to reach out to the qualified human rights lawyers at Achkar Law. Only a lawyer can properly assess your case and let you know the odds of it being successful.
If you have questions about making a human rights claim, 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.
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