Tribunal allows discrimination claim against Toyota to proceed after dispute about timing

Closeup of a steering wheel with the Toyota logo. Photo: Christina Telep/Unsplash

A workplace discrimination case against Toyota Canada can proceed, according to an interim decision from the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

The applicant, BW, said Toyota discriminated against them in employment on the basis of race, a violation of Ontario’s Human Rights Code.

The core of the complaint stems from an incident dated May 11, 2020, in which BW alleges that a manager at Toyota made a racially discriminatory comment.

Controversy over filing deadlines

The case faced preliminary challenges as Toyota argued for its dismissal based on technicalities. Under Section 34(1) of the Human Rights Code, applications of this nature must be filed within one year of the incident.

Toyota contended that the filing came after the allowed time frame, citing an Emergency Order from the Government of Ontario that suspended limitation periods from March 16, 2020, to Sept. 13, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It argued that, given the incident took place during the suspension period, the correct interpretation is that it occurred on Sept. 13, 2020, the last day of the Emergency Order period. Since BW’s application was filed on Sept. 14, 2021, is beyond the one-year limitation period.

However, BW argued that the Emergency Order effectively extended the one-year deadline by six months. This interpretation was upheld by the tribunal, which referenced prior cases, including Chouinard v. Canadian Mental Health Association York Region Branch, that set a precedent for adding six months to the limitation period due to the Emergency Order.

Tribunal’s Decision

The ruling stipulates that the allegations of the May 11, 2020, incident are deemed timely, allowing the case to proceed to the next stage in the tribunal’s process.

The parties have been given 21 days from the decision’s date (Sept. 22, 2023) to provide lists of relevant documents and their witness lists, followed by an additional 21 days to submit further materials, including witness statements and case summaries. The Tribunal, in its decision, encouraged both parties to engage in good faith settlement discussions.

For more information, see Wang v. Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc., 2023 HRTO 1445 (CanLII)

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