Employers are often frustrated by the fact that the BC Human Rights Tribunal rarely awards costs, even when an employee or former employee brings a frivolous complaint.
In Edwards v. Schnitzer Steel Pacific, the Tribunal accepted the employer’s submissions that the complainant should pay costs for resiling from a settlement agreement.
Edwards agreed to settle his complaint in a tribunal-assisted mediation at which he was represented by counsel. The next day, he changed his mind. He refused to withdraw his complaint as agreed, and tried to proceed to a hearing. The employer applied to dismiss the complaint on the basis that a settlement had been reached, and also asked for costs. In response, Edwards claimed duress, that his lawyer was unprepared for the mediation, and that he misunderstood the settlement. He also leveled unsupported allegations of criminal conduct, bad faith, forgery and fraud against the employer, and asked for costs against the Employer.
The Tribunal rejected Edwards’ submissions based on the need to protect the integrity of Tribunal processes. It also agreed with the employer’s submission that the response by Edwards was frivolous and vexatious. The Tribunal noted that it has in the past concluded that the use of inflammatory, derogatory and disrespectful comments constitutes improper conduct for costs purposes. Accordingly, in addition to dismissing Edwards’ complaint, the Tribunal awarded costs of $900 in favour of the employer.
While the level of costs was not significant, in our view it’s important that the Tribunal took this step to preserve the integrity of its processes in the face of a complainant who acted inappropriately.