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Author:
Kelsey Orth

Date:
2018.07.26

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Human Rights

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THE EMPLOYERS' EDGE

SOMETIMES A FULL AND FINAL RELEASE IS JUST THAT: MANITOBA HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION DENIES COMPLAINT ON BASIS OF SIGNED RELEASE

Practice Areas: Human Rights

You have read in this space about recent cases where the language and enforceability of an executed Release has been called into question, including whether a Release covered claims of sexual harassment and what it takes to set aside a Release.  Now, from the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, comes another decision upholding the Release signed by a former political staffer.

As reported by multiple news outlets (cbc.ca, theglobeandmail.com), a former researcher for the Manitoba Liberal Party was denied the ability to proceed with a complaint of discrimination based on the Release she signed when she received severance pay at termination.

As often happens in the political world, a changing of the guard at the top of the party meant many people on the way out as the new leadership came in.  In fact, this phenomenon is specifically recognized – in Manitoba at least – by the fact that the rules of the Manitoba Legislature allow for larger severance payments when parties elect new leaders and make the inevitable staff changes.

As part of his staffing change initiative, new Manitoba Liberal Party Leader Dougald Lamont terminated the employment of Ms. Elizabeth Gonsalves, along with others.  Ms. Gonsalves received a severance payment in exchange for signing a Release.  In finding that the executed Release constituted a bar to proceeding with her complaint for discrimination on the basis of mental illness, the Manitoba Human Rights Commission stated:

[Ms. Gonsalves’s severance agreement] specifically indicates that in exchange for payment of monies by the (legislative) assembly, the complainant will release and discharge the assembly ‘from any and all claims whatsoever’ arising from the termination of her employment,”

“It appears the release [is] valid, and it would be an abuse of process to investigate this complaint further.”

Interestingly, Ms. Gonsalves admitted that she agreed to that Release because it addressed the legislative assembly’s liability and she believed her employer to be the Manitoba Liberal Party – a belief that was not borne out by the facts as found by the Manitoba Human Rights Commission – which suggests that she had no intention of honouring the Release from the beginning and was looking for a way to have her cake and eat it too.

This is yet another illustration of the benefit to employers of a properly-drafted, comprehensive Release when terminating employment.  Trust the team at CCPartners to help you ensure that your settlement will have the finality you need by drafting an effective and enforceable Release.

Click here to access CCPartners’ “Lawyers for Employers” podcasts on important workplace issues and developments in labour and employment law.

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