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Alberta Human Rights Tribunal adopts findings of Workers’ Compensation Board

human rights

In Kebede v. SGS Canada Inc., 2019 AHRC 3the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal (the “Tribunal”) recently dismissed a portion of a human rights complaint on the grounds that the issue was already decided by the Alberta Workers’ Compensation Board (“WCB”).

The Complainant filed a human rights complaint asserting, among other things, that he suffered racially-based harassment and discrimination during the course of his employment with SGS Canada Inc. (“SGS”).

The Complainant sought compensation under the Workers’ Compensation Act for psychological injury that he alleged he suffered as a result of the same alleged racially motivated harassment and discrimination. The Complainant’s claim for compensation was denied by the WCB as it found no objective confirmation of work-related events or stressors that supported the Complainant suffering from “a chronic onset psychological injury arising out of and occurring during the course of employment.”

SGS sought the dismissal of the human rights complaint on the basis of the WCB’s denial of the Complainant’s WCB claim.

The Tribunal found that it could exercise its discretion to dismiss a portion of the complaint on the basis of issue estoppel as it found that:

  1. the same question was decided by the WCB;
  2. WCB’s decision was final; and
  3. the parties to the WCB’s decision were the same as in the human rights complaint.

The Tribunal exercised its discretion to dismiss the racially-based harassment and discrimination portion of the complaint as the Tribunal found that dismissing that portion of the complaint would not create unfairness. Specifically, the Tribunal noted that there was no new evidence or evidence of unfairness in the adjudication of the WCB claim.

This decision serves as a useful reminder of the Alberta Human Rights Commission’s powers under s.22 of the Alberta Human Rights Act to, at any time, refuse to accept a complaint on the basis that the complaint is one that: (i) could or should more appropriately be dealt with; (ii) has already been dealt with; or (iii) is scheduled to be heard; in another forum or under another Act.

This provision of the Alberta Human Rights Act may be particularly helpful to employers given the current delay in Alberta human rights matters proceeding to a hearing and the likelihood that another forum will issue a decision well in advance of an adjudication of the human rights matter. Further, dual proceedings may become more frequent given the increasing overlap between WCB and human rights matters, the increase in harassment related concerns in the workplace, and the added jurisdiction of Alberta Occupational Health and Safety over harassment in the workplace.

By Justin Turc and Danielle Douglas

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Employer Advisor, McCarthy Tétrault LLP

Employment and labour lawyers at McCarthy Tétrault LLP
McCarthy Tétrault through their Employer Advisor blogs offers their perspectives on the latest legal developments applicable to the workplace. It provides their insights on legislative and regulatory developments, as well as new case law, while providing practical tips for employers and their human resources professionals when managing the workforce. McCarthy Tétrault is a Canadian law firm that delivers integrated business law, litigation services, tax law, real property law, labour and employment law nationally and globally. Several of their blog posts will be republished with permission on First Reference Talks. Read more
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