The appeal by Carter from the dismissal by the Supreme Court of her petition for judicial review of the decision of a British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal (the “Tribunal”) which had dismissed her complaint under Section 27(1)(d)(ii) of the Human Rights Code, R.S.B.C. 1996 c.210 (the “Code”) was dismissed where the Court agreed that the Tribunal was within its jurisdiction to dismiss the claim in circumstances where proceeding would have resulted in the same or nearly the same award as a rejected and reasonable settlement offer

Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Human Rights Tribunal – Jurisdiction – Public interest – Employment law – Termination of employment – Human rights complaints – Discrimination – Disability – Judicial review – Jurisdiction of tribunal – Standard of review – Patent unreasonableness – Natural justice

Carter v. Travelex Canada Ltd., [2009] B.C.J. No. 828, British Columbia Court of Appeal, April 28, 2009, P.A. Kirkpatrick, S.D. Frankel and D.M. Smith JJ.A.

Carter claimed that she was wrongfully dismissed from her employment with Travelex Canada Ltd. and Travelex UK Ltd. (“Travelex”) in April 2005. Carter claimed that as a result of events that occurred at her workplace in November 2004, she suffered severe depression to the extent that she went on short term disability leave on February 18, 2005. Carter continued to receive long-term disability benefits. Travelex insists that Carter’s employment was never terminated and it had not discriminated against her in any way stating that Carter continued to be employed but remained on long-term disability leave. Travelex contended that Carter was a disabled employee who, by reason of her disability, was unable to work. Carter filed a complaint with the Tribunal on October 13, 2005 alleging that Travelex dismissed her from her employment in April 2005 by reason of a mental disability contrary to Section 13 of the Code.

On February 12, 2007, Travelex made a formal settlement offer to Carter agreeing to pay her $12,500 less statutory deductions upon Carter withdrawing her complaint from the Tribunal. Carter made a formal counter offer requesting payment of $10,000 for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect, an admission of discrimination on the basis of mental disability and an admission that the settlement of the Human Rights complaint was without prejudice to Carter’s other legal claims against Travelex. Travelex applied to dismiss the complaint. Prior to the Tribunal’s determination, Carter commenced a wrongful dismissal action against Travelex in the Supreme Court.

On June 21, 2007, the Tribunal granted Travelex’s application and dismissed Carter’s complaint. The Tribunal concluded that Carter’s primary purpose for pursuing her complaint was to obtain a finding of liability under the Code which she could then use to her litigation advantage in her wrongful dismissal proceedings in the Supreme Court. The Tribunal held that it was not in the public interest to use the Tribunal’s limited resources for gaining a litigation advantage.  Carter filed a petition seeking judicial review of the Tribunal’s decision on the basis that the Tribunal had no jurisdiction to dismiss a complaint on the bases that a complainant failed to accept a reasonable settlement offer and that the Tribunal’s order dismissing her complaint was patently unreasonable.

The Court held that the appropriate standard of review for discretionary decisions was patent unreasonableness pursuant to Section 59(3) of the Administrative Tribunals Act, R.S.B.C. 2004, c.45.

After reviewing the arguments, the Court noted that common sense dictated that the Tribunal was within its jurisdiction to dismiss a claim if, to proceed with it, would result in the same or nearly the same award but with the inevitable attendant costs to the Tribunal and the parties. To find otherwise would burden the Tribunal and parties willing to settle with unnecessary expenditures of time and money. In reviewing the settlement offers, the Court noted that there could be no doubt that Carter’s primary aim in bringing her complaint was to obtain a finding of discrimination in order to advance her claim for punitive damages in her wrongful dismissal action. The Court rejected Carter’s submission that Travelex’s offer was unreasonable noting that her failure to provide details or make submissions on issues which she later alleged were critical to her claim led inexorably to the conclusion that the Tribunal’s decision to dismiss was rational and in no way patently unreasonable. The Court further rejected Carter’s submission that she was treated unfairly or denied the right of natural justice, finding nothing in the record to support her submissions.

In the result, the appeal was dismissed.

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