Following on its new complaint and application forms introduced earlier this year, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal recently issued new Rules of Practice and Procedure (the “2014 Rules”), replacing its former Rules from January 2008. The 2014 Rules are directed at reducing the number of rules and streamlining and simplifying the complaint resolution process.
Some of the changes in the Tribunal’s 2014 Rules that employers should take note of include the following:
- The Tribunal has done away with its previous “complaint stream” process;
- The Tribunal has better articulated resources under the new Rules to defer complaints or adopt alternate processes to resolve complaints. For example, Rule 16 permits the Tribunal to defer a complaint if 1) another proceeding is capable of appropriately dealing with the subject matter of the complaint; OR 2) it is fair and reasonable in all of the circumstances to do so (both of which require an application to the Tribunal, which can now be filed prior to the filing of a response to complaint). Rule 17 expands the flexibility for the Tribunal to address complaints, permitting it to use “expedited or alternate” processes or timelines to facilitate the just and timely resolution of a complaint. Rule 17 replaces former Rule 25, which required all parties to consent to an expedited hearing, and is intended to be a flexible rule that can be initiated by the parties, or the Tribunal itself;
- The Tribunal has increased the time limits and streamlined the process for filing an application to dismiss a complaint. Rule 19 extends the time limit for filing an application to dismiss a complaint to 70 days following the filing of a response to complaint (previously, a respondent had to file an application within 70 days of the Tribunal’s letter advising it had accepted a complaint, or at the same time as its response following an early settlement meeting), or 35 days from the date on which new information to substantiate an application to dismiss is known (which was 30 days under the previous Rules). In addition, if a respondent wishes to file an application to dismiss on the basis that it extended a reasonable settlement offer that was not accepted by a complainant, a respondent must apply at least four months prior to the date set for a hearing;
- Parties’ disclosure obligations under Rule 20 are more clearly tied to the steps in the proceeding, such as the filing of the response to complaint; and
- Rule 21 requires parties to file an expert report 90 days before the start of a hearing (previously 60 days).
More information about all of the changes in the Tribunal’s 2014 Rules can be found here.