Creating enforceable human rights releases

Ontario Human Rights Commission offers advice to employers, employees on how to create a proper release
|employmentlawtoday.com

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has produced a new guide,

Guide to Releases with Respect to Human Rights Complaints

, to help employers and employees structure termination agreements and releases that reflect appropriate human rights principle.

The 19-page guide includes sample text for a release of a human rights claim that is consistent with principles expressed by Ontario’s courts and the Supreme Court of Canada, the commission said.

The commission said that, under s. 34(1)(b) of the

Human Rights Code

, it can exercise its discretion to not deal with a complaint where the complaint has been brought in bad faith.

The commission said it often receives requests from employers to exercise this power in cases where an employee has either been terminated, dismissed or resigned from her position and has then signed a “release.”

“Many standard form releases will often contain a broadly worded clause simply indicating that the person agrees that he or she ‘will not bring any proceedings or claims’ or ‘waives all rights’ under, among other things, the code,” the commission said. “Employers take the position that in the face of such a release to permit the complaint to proceed would constitute bad faith. When confronted with such a claim, (employees) usually take the position that they were not aware of what they were signing, or that they did not know about the discrimination at the time the release was signed, or that they did not have enough tome to think about what to do, or that they felt pressured into signing the release because they believed that if they did not they would not receive any severance pay at all, or simply that they needed the money right away.”

The commission said Ontario courts, and the Supreme Court of Canada, have set out important principles that have helped it deal with these often difficult “release” cases. In the guide, the commission put together a sample proposed text for a release of a human rights claim.

The

Guide to Releases with Respect to Human Rights Complaints

is available on the commission’s website as a PDF at

www.ohrc.on.ca/english/publications/releases-guide.pdf

.

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