Court gives arbitrators more power

An important milestone in employment law
By Jeffrey Miller
|Canadian Employment Law Today

Background

In Canada, if a dispute arises from the collective agreement in a unionized workplace, it is up to a labour arbitrator, not the courts, to resolve the dispute. This can even apply to allegations of slander and theft, depending on the circumstances, although we might usually call such disputes personal, criminal, or not exactly work-related.

Now the Supreme Court of Canada has brought even more power into the arbitrator’s realm — and perhaps has blurred the line between the powers of arbitrators as compared to judges. The country’s highest court recently ruled that, even where the employer has not actually breached the collective agreement, labour arbitrators can consider allegations that the employer violated an employee’s human rights.