Earlier this week, I received an email from the owner of a small company who was frustrated at all of the resources available for employees and the lack of resources for employers.  She pointed out that the various human rights commissions across Canada will often offer services to complainants, and that in general, the system felt biased towards employees.

I agree that once a matter gets to a hearing, our arbitrators and decision makers acknowledge the power imbalance that often exists between an employer and an employee, particularly if the employee is unrepresented.  This is the case throughout the law, and represents more of an attempt to ensure fair outcomes than any intentional bias towards one side.

Having said that, I thought it would be helpful to point out some useful (free) resources that do exist for employers:

(a) Ontario Employment Standards

(b) Federal Employment Law Information

(c)  Health & Safety 

 (d)  Human Rights

  • Although the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) no longer has carriage of files at the Human Rights Tribunal, the OHRC has produced a number of helpful publications over the years, including guides about hiring employees, developing compliant workplace policies, drug testing, employment-related medical information, and an extensive online publication called "Human Rights at Work".  These guidelines are not binding on the Tribunal, in court or at an arbitration, but are useful minimum standards to use as a defence should an employee claim discrimination in the workplace.
  • The Human Rights Tribunal has a number of online publications, including a Respondent’s Guide (the one most used by employers) and a Guide to Preparing for a Hearing.
  • Employees can access the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, the new organization established last year when the Human Rights Tribunal started accepting cases directly from complainants, rather than having to go through the OHRC as a gatekeeper.  The Centre is for "individuals throughout Ontario who believe they have experienced discrimination", not for employers. 
  • The Ontario Human Rights Code is online.
  • Practical Tip:  The Tribunal is now no different than any other legal proceeding, and given the assistance complainants (i.e. employees) can get through the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, I would caution an employer from trying to go it alone at the tribunal.  Whether you retain a lawyer to help with just the response at the beginning, or with the entire process, including the legal arguments at the hearing, there is no way to avoid the fact that this is an increasingly complicated a legal forum.

The above list is just a start and I know there are many, many more resources out there.  If you have a recommendation for a good employer advocacy organization, let me know and I’d be happy to post your link here as a resource to employers. 

Resources readers have since suggested to me:

  • The Office of the Employer Adviser (OEA) is an independent agency of the Ministry of Labour that helps Ontario employers manage their workplace safety and insurance costs.  They provide advice to any size employer, but represent primarily employers who employ fewer than 100 employees.