By Paula Krawus.
Just like an argument between spouses or best friends, disputes between an employee and employer can be complicated. Usually, a workplace dispute is not about just one thing.
For example, an employee who is wrongfully dismissed may also have suffered workplace discrimination in violation of their human rights. In other cases, an employee who is injured on the job (physically or psychologically) may experience discrimination either along with or because of that injury.
Unsurprisingly, employees in such cases are often left asking themselves: how do I assert my rights?
A quick Google search brings up what seems like a dozen options for an employee wanting to bring a claim against their employer or coworker: the Human Rights Tribunal, the Employment Standards Branch, WorkSafeBC and Small Claims Court, to name a few. So, where to go?
Recently, in Geisler v. SYNQ Access+Security, the Human Rights Tribunal was asked to decide this very question. The employer in that case attempted to have the employee’s human rights complaint dismissed without it even being heard, arguing that the issues were identical to those that the employee had already raised in a WorkSafeBC complaint. WorkSafeBC had already made a decision and, in the employer’s view, the matter was closed.
It is a fundamental principle under Canadian law that once an issue is decided, it cannot be considered again. The Human Rights Tribunal commented on this principle when it agreed that an employee may not simply “re-litigate” the same problem over and over again in different forums.
However, in Geisler, the Human Rights Tribunal ultimately sided with the employee. It noted that the “discrimination” complaint before WorkSafeBC was based on the issue of whether the employer retaliated against the employee for raising an occupational health and safety issue. The “discrimination” complaint before the Human Rights Tribunal was based on the issue of whether the employer had treated the employee adversely at work because of his mental disability.
The Human Rights Tribunal also noted that the type of compensation awarded at the Human Rights Tribunal is different from that at WorkSafeBC.
The same workplace dispute can involve many different issues, of different types, that need to be addressed in different forums. To save you time, money and additional stress, it is important to decide at the beginning which forum(s) can address those issues and also offer you the best resolution.
Have questions about how or where to assert your employment law rights? Contact us!