Resolving the Application Before an Ontario Labour Relations Board Hearing
Shortly after the application is filed with the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB), an OLRB Labour Relations Officer (LRO) will contact the parties. The LRO’s role is to help the parties reach a settlement that resolves the application without the need for a hearing. The LRO will usually try to schedule a face-to-face meeting with all parties to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s case.
An LRO does not decide the case. The LRO may explain OLRB case law and practices to help parties assess their chances of success, but cannot represent or give legal advice to any party in the case. Discussions with the LRO are confidential and will not be disclosed to the OLRB Vice-Chair who will hear the case if the matter is not settled.
Hearing/Consultation Before the OLRB
If no settlement is reached, a hearing will be held before an OLRB Vice-Chair. OLRB hearings have many of the same characteristics as a civil trial, including testimony under oath, cross-examination of witnesses and full legal argument. Each party is responsible for bringing its witnesses to the hearing (by Summons if necessary), producing all of the documents upon which they intend to rely, and presenting their case. All documents must be delivered to all other parties in the case and filed with the OLRB at least ten days (excluding weekends and statutory holidays) before the start of the hearing.
The presiding OLRB Vice-Chair may decide to hold a consultation rather than a full hearing. In a consultation, the Vice-Chair takes a much more active role, questioning the parties and their representatives, defining issues, expressing views and making preliminary rulings about the issues in dispute. Giving evidence under oath and cross-examination of witnesses are not normally part of a consultation. Despite its informality, however, the consultation has the same legal effect and consequences of a hearing.
Upon conclusion of the hearing or consultation, the OLRB Vice-Chair will issue a written decision that is legally binding upon all parties to the application. If the OLRB rules in the employee’s favour, it can order a wide range of remedies, including reinstatement, payment of lost wages, removing warning letters from an employee’s file, and payment of any other financial losses the employee may have suffered from the employer’s conduct. It is not the OLRB’s practice to have the “loser” pay the “winner’s” costs.