After four years of struggling to get my union officials (CUPE) to fairly represent me [see Shannon’s Union Experience], I came to terms with the fact my union officials had conflicting interests in presenting my case against SMU, and my discrimination concerns were unlikely to be fairly investigated.
I filed a Duty of Fair Representation (DFR) complaint against my union officials with the N.S.Labour Board in November 2014.
The Labour Board official who reviewed my 376-page complaint (which detailed and provided evidence for 15 incidents of unfair representation on my case), held onto it for a year and then summarily dismissed it without asking any questions. This was hardly surprising given that the N.S. Labour Board statistics show that from 2007 to 2018 (earlier records unavailable), none of the 232 DFR complaints received, were granted.
In 2011, shortly after I realized that my union officials were not representing me fairly in my discrimination grievance, I contacted the NS human Rights Commission to have my workplace discrimination concerns with SMU properly addressed. The official I spoke with told me that the commission could not investigate workplace discrimination claims for unionized workers while their union officials were still actively working on the case.
This was untrue; there is no restriction on filing human rights complaints with the HRC and one’s union at the same time. I believed the HRC official at the time, though, and accordingly focused my efforts on trying to get my union to fairly represent me.
Unfortunately, the fair union representation I was seeking didn’t happen. It only wasted a great deal of my time, energy, and resources, eventually leading me to appeal to the N.S. Labour Board, and then the Nova Scotia Supreme Court. My option to pursue a human rights complaint against SMU with the HRC expired, I later discovered, because of a 1-year restriction (from the date of the last incident) on filing human rights complaints with the HRC, a detail the HRC official mislead me about.
I eventually retained legal counsel who advised that my only option, now, was to submit an HRC complaint against my union officials for human rights breaches, which I did in early 2016. The HRC denied my request over the phone, without asking for any details, or agreeing to open a file on my case. We appealed the decision with the HRC, but that too was denied. Soon after that, we filed for a judicial review of the HRC’s refusal to investigate my case.
A few days before the judicial review of the HRC’s non-investigation was scheduled to be held, the HRC reversed their denial and agreed to investigate my case. A year and a half later, hearing nothing from the board since they agreed to investigate, we contacted them requesting an update on the progress of the investigation. No action had been taken at that time, but we were assured they were working on it.
As of Fall 2018, we’ve finally seen some evidence they are taking my case seriously. Fingers crossed.