You Can Complain, But You Cannot (Usually) Hide at the HRTO

If you aren’t savvy with acronyms, the “HRTO” is the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. This Tribunal deals with claims of discrimination and harassment brought under the Ontario Human Rights Code. 

As business lawyers we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of HRTO Applications being filed against employers. In fact, there’s been a 25% rise in the number of applications being filed in the last few years, compared to 2016. 

While some Applications have merit and should be dealt with through the HRTO, we also come across Applications of disgruntled employees who file claims against their former employers out of spite.

For those that do choose to abuse this process, all we can say is – you can file your Application, but you can’t hide!

One thing to remember for those considering an HRTO Application is that your name and the relevant details to your Application become part of the public record. HRTO hearings are open to the public and written decisions, which include party names, are available to everyone.

Some parties bring an Application with the HRTO thinking that they can later conceal their personal information by way of a Tribunal Order. These Orders, which a party might seek to “anonymize” their name in the HRTO’s decision, are granted in extremely rare cases.

There are really only two circumstances in which initials will be used instead of names to anonymize the individuals mentioned in HRTO decisions: (1) protecting the identity of children and (2) exceptional circumstances.

Examples of “exceptional circumstances” include specific threats to personal safety, where there are parallel criminal proceedings relating to an alleged sexual assault, and where there is highly sensitive medical information.  

So if you are thinking about commencing an HRTO Application, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons because this decision may follow you whether you like it or not!

Robin K. Mann, JD, Associate Lawyer