If passed, Bill 147, the Human Rights Code Amendment Act, will provide the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (“HRTO”) with the statutory authority to award costs to successful parties in tribunal proceedings.
Lawyers argue that such a bill will improve access to counsel, deter applicants from filing frivolous claims and reduce pressure upon employers. Some, however, argue that such a bill may discourage vulnerable applicants from bringing forth claims, particularly those in a poor position financially.
Given that general damage awards most commonly fall within the range of between $10,000 and $25,000, the legal costs incurred by any party paying for legal representation almost always exceed the value of the damages awarded. As such, some lawyers maintain that employers are becoming increasingly cynical under the current system, in which they must fight off a barrage of groundless claims and so may choose to pay a “nuisance fee” purely to avoid costly encounters before the HRTO.
Bill 147 has the potential to change this, potentially increasing the likelihood of dispute resolution.
Whether the bill will become law, or not, remains to be seen.