Northern Regional Health Authority v. Horrocks, 2021 SCC 42
In this 2021 Supreme Court of Canada decision, the Court held that a labour arbitrator has exclusive jurisdiction to decide all disputes arising under a collective agreement, including human rights disputes, unless another law states otherwise. This decision does not apply to non-unionized employees.
Ms. Horrocks, a unionized employee, was terminated for breaching an agreement with her Employer to remain abstinent from alcohol. Alcohol addiction is a disability under Human Rights legislation. As such, Ms. Horrocks filed a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Board of Adjudication, which held that the Employer discriminated against Ms. Horrocks on the basis of a disability.
In assessing whether the Manitoba Human Rights Board had jurisdiction to hear her complaint, the Supreme Court found that nothing in the Manitoba Human rights legislation granted the Board concurrent jurisdiction with a labour arbitrator. The Board could not hear her complaint.
Application to Ontario Human Rights Cases:
The Supreme Court’s decision does not likely apply to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. While Manitoba’s Human Rights legislation did not have language to provide the Manitoba Human Rights Board concurrent jurisdiction with labour arbitrators, it appears that the Ontario Human Rights Code contains such a provision. In Ontario, individuals continue to enjoy the option of either pursuing their human rights claims through labour arbitration or the Human Rights Tribunal.