The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (HRTO) has issued an important decision on age discrimination and benefits. In Talos v. Grand Erie District School Board, 2018 HRTO 680 the HRTO found that terminating an employee’s health, dental and life insurance benefits at the age of 65 constitutes age discrimination and is a violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code).
This is a big deal in the human rights world because s.25(2.1) of the Code actually permits differential treatment in connection with benefits at age 65. The HRTO has now found that this section violates the equality rights guaranteed to all Canadians by section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Mr. Talos, the applicant in this case, worked as a teacher. Even though he continued working past age 65, the group health benefits and life insurance he had previously received were terminated when he turned 65. The Grand Erie District School Board relied on s.25(2.1) of the Code to justify terminating his benefits.
In deciding that s.25(2.1) violated the Charter the HTRO decided that, based on evidence from various expert witnesses, it was not cost prohibitive to continue benefits for employees beyond age 65.
Message for Employers
Practically this means that it is now a violation of the Code for employers to terminate the health, dental and life insurance benefits for employees at age 65. Prior to this decision this practice was permitted and common.
Employers who have benefits plans and policies that terminate benefits for employees at age 65 should consider extending these benefits. Continuation of a policy that terminates at 65 will invite discrimination claims.
Given that this is a big shift in the law, we expect the decision will be judicially reviewed by a court. We will keep you up to date on developments. For more on benefits, check out our past posts on this topic. If you’d like help sorting out a benefits issue in your workplace, get in touch, we are happy to help.