Section 34 offers certainty and protection to employers by imposing time limits on claims brought under the Ontario Human Rights Code (“the Code”). Recently, in Meiri v York Region District School Board, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (“the Tribunal”) affirmed the application of these time restrictions to employer policies with continuing effects. Such policies do not constitute new incidents, or a series of incidents, that reset the one-year time limit for bringing claims.
In general, employees seeking to bring a claim under the Code must do so within the timeframe provided by section 34: within one year of the impugned incident or the last incident in an impugned series of incidents. However, the Tribunal retains discretion to grant extensions to the one-year limitations period where the delay was incurred in good faith and no substantial prejudice will result to any person affected by the delay.
In Meiri, the Applicant made an application to the Tribunal in October 2015 related to her employer’s refusal to provide a written reference letter. The Applicant first made her request upon the completion of her contract in June 2006, then again in October 2014 following unsuccessful attempts to find other teaching positions. Each time, the employer refused to provide a written reference letter in accordance with its policy. The Tribunal held, citing Visic v Ontario Human Rights Commission, that the continuing effect of an employer policy does not constitute a new incident or series of incidents, and noted that holding otherwise would effectively remove any time limit on filing an application. Therefore, the Application filed in October 2015 was barred because the filing deadline was June 2007, i.e. one year after the date of the initial refusal in June 2006, not the last refusal in October 2014. The Applicant also had nothing preventing her from pursuing her Application within the required timeframe and did not satisfy the test for delay incurred in good faith. Accordingly, the Tribunal dismissed the Application.
Written with the assistance of Kassandra Shortt, summer student.