Court reporter, denied late starts to drop kids off at school, wasn’t discriminated against: Tribunal

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A former court reporter wasn’t discriminated against on the basis of family status when his employer denied his request for a late start because he needed to drop his kids off at school, according to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.

The applicant, who worked at the Brampton Courthouse for the Ministry of the Attorney General, filed a complaint in 2018 alleging discrimination and accusing his employer of treating him unfairly. He thought it was trying to force him to accept the changes or leave his employment via constructive dismissal.

There are 52 courtrooms at the courthouse, each with a court reporter required to come in 30 minutes prior to the start of the scheduled proceeding to ensure the equipment is properly set up.

The worker said he needed to drop his children off at school for 9:20 a.m., and had an informal arrangement for the 2016-2017 school year to start work at 9:30 a.m. for a 10 a.m. court proceeding.

The following year, he was asked to submit a formal request. It was denied, and he was given four weeks of late starts in order to make alternate arrangements. On March 29, 2018, he left his employment.

The tribunal conducted a summary hearing to determine whether the application had a reasonable prospect of success under the Human Rights Code. The test applied during this stage considered whether there was any evidence or reasonable basis to connect the alleged unfair treatment with the code’s protections.

Despite the applicant strongly disagreeing with the treatment he received and the loss of his employment, the tribunal found he had not presented any evidence linking the employer’s actions to the alleged discrimination based on family status.

“The tribunal has repeatedly said that an applicant’s belief, no matter how strongly held, is not evidence upon which the tribunal might find that discrimination has occurred,” it said in the ruling, dated July 21, 2023.

The ruling cited previous cases that established the need for a factual basis beyond mere speculation and accusations to establish a connection between the respondent’s actions and an enumerated ground under the code. In this case, the applicant failed to provide such evidence, leading to the dismissal of the application.

For more information, see Hunter v. HMKRO (Ministry of the Attorney General), 2023 HRTO 1081 (CanLII)