In an effort to alleviate a significant backlog of cases, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (the “HRTO”) has devoted all available resources to a summertime mediation blitz. As a result, hearings may be postponed until after the blitz, which is expected to last to the end of August 2019.
With the HRTO hosting so many mediations at once, there are likely to be accompanying logistical challenges. For example, the availability of break out rooms may be limited when parties attend mediation, forcing the parties to negotiate in a single room. Mediations during the blitz may also be conducted by mediators who are cross-appointed from different tribunals, without particular expertise in human rights. Further, many of these mediations may be conducted over the phone to increase efficiency.
This blitz is in response to significant delays at the HRTO that have worsened in recent years. It was reported that there were nearly 800 cases in queue for mediation as of Spring 2019.
As a result of the slow pace of HRTO proceedings, some applicants have withdrawn their existing HRTO applications altogether and have filed actions or complaints before other adjudicative forums like the courts. Other parties are opting to jointly hire a private mediator to conduct the mediation outside of the usual HRTO process. While this is an added cost, it is typically much more expeditious than mediation at the Tribunal – even in light of the blitz – and the parties are able to select their mediator.
Employers looking for guidance on how to proceed during the mediation blitz are encouraged to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer.