In 2006, the Ontario Human Rights Code was amended to prohibit mandatory retirement. However, this change was accompanied by new provisions that permitted employers to reduce or stop providing certain group benefits for workers when they turn 65.
In 2012, Wayne Talos, a high school teacher at the Grand Erie District School Board, commenced a proceeding at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal after his health and dental benefits were cut off when he turned 65. He challenged the constitutionality of the provisions that allowed for this, arguing that they violated his right to equal treatment on the basis of age.
As an occupational group, university professors are the most likely to work past 65. Consequently, the outcome of these proceedings were of significant concern for Ontario faculty. OCUFA applied for and was granted intervenor status in these proceedings, along with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, and the Ontario Elementary Catholic Teachers’ Association.
On May 18, 2018, the Tribunal released a decision finding that the Ontario Human Rights Code provisions being challenged breached the equality provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and were unconstitutional. While the Tribunal’s decision only applies to the Talos case, it creates an important precedent – especially for grievance arbitration. The decision will still need to be judicially reviewed and upheld for it to substantively impact existing law.
Faculty associations now have a strong basis on which to engage with employers and discuss what steps they are taking to bring their group benefit plans into compliance with the Ontario Human Rights Code as interpreted in the Talos case.
OCUFA is very pleased with the decision. We firmly believe that no one should be discriminated against based on their age and the Tribunal’s decision represents a significant victory for Ontario’s faculty. We will continue to defend the constitutional rights of Ontario’s professors and academic librarians.