Could your unproven complaints soon be public?

A recent legal challenge from the Toronto Star could be of significant concern to employers, explains one industry lawyer.

Could your unproven complaints soon be public?

A recent legal challenge from the Toronto Star could be of significant concern to employers as campaigners are calling for an end to secrecy within provincial tribunals.

“The enshrined legal principle of openness in our courts — the hallmark of judicial proceedings — is a fiction when it comes to tribunals,” claims the news outlet.

“While tribunals appear, on the surface, no different than traditional courts — with adjudicators, hearing rooms, dockets and generally open hearings — they depart dramatically from open court rules when it comes to providing records.”

Currently, anyone who wants specific information about a tribunal hearing must file a Freedom of Information request – this can take weeks to process and is denied in some cases.

If successful, the Star's campaign could see information made publically accessible and a number of complaints against employers – including human rights grievances – would also be readily available despite the fact that those allegations are unproven.

Christopher Sinal, an associate with Siskinds' Labour and Employment Group says the potential change could easily cause serious reputational damage to an employer involved in a case.

“Applications before the Human Rights Tribunal and the Labour Relations Board often contain allegations that, even if unproven, could harm an employer's reputation in the community, hurt employee morale, and negatively affect business relationships,” he writes.

“It is also common for human rights applications to allege wrongdoing by other employees (for example, supervisors) that could be embarrassing if made public.”

It’s not yet clear how quickly the Star’s application will proceed but Sinal says it’s certainly worth paying close attention to any developments.

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