Unionized employees often seek our advice regarding human rights issues in their workplace. Sometimes this is because human rights violations have occurred and the union is not assisting them. Other times, the union itself may be part of the problem.
The rights of unionized employees are different from those of non-unionized employees. Generally, employees in a union are not able to sue their employers in court, and are also not permitted to file a complaint with the Ministry of Labour for a violation of the Employment Standards Act. Instead, the union must file a grievance on behalf of the employee.
Despite these limitations, unionized employees have still been able to seek justice outside of the grievance process by bringing a claim at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO). The right of employees in a union to bring human rights claims came into question last year when a case from Manitoba went to the Supreme Court, but recently the HRTO has affirmed that unionized employees in Ontario can continue to bring human rights claims at the Tribunal.
In Weilgosh v. London District Catholic School Board, the HRTO considered claims from two unionized employees and deliberated on whether they were able to bring human rights claims to the tribunal. The HRTO looked at the legislation in question and affirmed that unionized employees may continue to bring human rights claims in Ontario.
This is an important ruling for unionized employees who have faced human rights violations in their workplace and who want to bring a claim without the help or support of their union.
If you have a human rights claim, you can file an application with the HRTO or your union can file a grievance. You cannot do both. You have one year from the date of discrimination/harassment to commence the legal process about the violation of your human rights, regardless of what the union says it will do for you.
If you have any questions about your human rights as a unionized employee, please contact Employment lawyer Nicole Simes at MacLeod Law Firm at [email protected] or 647-204-8107 and one of our lawyers would be happy to assist you.