According to reports in the November 8th edition of the Ottawa Citizen, “The Federal Court of Canada has sentenced a notorious white supremacist to 30 days in jail for ignoring an order issued by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.”
The report goes on to note that, “This week’s contempt sentence… is believed to be the first time a Canadian court has ordered someone jailed for flouting a tribunal order in an Internet hate case.”
The case has relevance to those in the employment realm because “employment” is one of the five areas over which the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (“HRTO”) has jurisdiction; “membership in a vocational association” is another area.
Often employment cases will be advanced in the HRTO instead of the Superior Court for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being the ability of the HRTO to order reinstatement. Furthermore the HRTO has jurisdiction to find managers, directors and officers of offending employers jointly and severally liable to employees for damage awards to affected employees, (see e.g. Lombardi v. Walton Enterprises, 2012 HRTO 1675)
The implications can thus be serious. If an employer elects to flaunt the orders of a Human Rights Tribunal it is possible that any person found jointly and severally liable with the employer may be sentenced to jail time.
For employers this case should stand as an important reminder to not only obey the Orders of the courts, but also to adhere to the strictures of Human Rights legislation to avoid these issues in the first place.
For employees who suffer workplace discrimination, the case should stand as a victory for those with the courage to take matters through.
As always, everyone’s situation is different. The above is not intended to be legal advice for any particular situation and it is always prudent to seek professional legal advice before taking any decisions on one’s own case.
Sean Bawden is an Ottawa, Ontario employment lawyer and wrongful dismissal lawyer practicing with Kelly Santini LLP. He tweets from @SeanBawden.