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If no settlement is reached by the parties or through the efforts of a Labour Relations Officer, an application will proceed to adjudication. This can take a number of different formats, depending on the type of application, the legislation involved, and the Board’s Rules of Procedure. Each of the formats described below is a legal proceeding before the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
A pre-hearing conference will be conducted before a Vice-Chair of the Board by telephone conference or in person at the Board’s offices. A pre-hearing conference is more like a meeting of the parties or their representatives than a consultation or hearing, and is held to narrow issues or otherwise case-manage a particular application. Pre-hearing conferences are usually short in duration and deal with preliminary or procedural matters. The Vice-Chair may make rulings directing the parties to do certain things to facilitate subsequent proceedings. These rulings or other agreements reached by the parties may be reflected in a decision or pre-hearing conference memo issued by the Vice-Chair. A pre-hearing conference will not normally end with a final decision on an application.
A consultation is less formal and meant to be less costly to the parties than a hearing. The Vice-Chair or panel plays a much more active role in a consultation. The goal of the consultation is to allow the Vice-Chair or panel to expeditiously focus on the issues in dispute and determine whether any statutory rights have been violated.
While the precise format of a consultation varies depending on the nature of the case and the approach of the individual adjudicators, there are some universal features. To draw out the facts and arguments necessary to decide whether there has been a violation of a statute, the Vice-Chair or panel may: (1) question the parties and their representatives; (2) express views; (3) define or re-define the issues; and (4) make determinations as to what matters are agreed to or in dispute. The giving of evidence under oath and the cross-examination of witnesses are normally not part of a consultation, and when they are, it is only with respect to those matters that are defined by the Board.
Because the opportunity to call witnesses and present evidence is limited, the Board relies heavily on the information that is provided in the application and response. As such, the parties are required to provide in their application and response all of the material facts that they intend to rely on. Parties who fail to do so may not be allowed to present any evidence or make any representations about these facts at the consultation. Similarly, if a party to a consultation fails to attend at the appointed date and time, the consultation may, and most likely will, go ahead without them.
The Board will normally issue procedural rulings at the conclusion of a consultation, or may decide a matter in its entirety based on the submissions made at the consultation.
A hearing before the Ontario Labour Relations Board is a legal proceeding. It will determine the rights and obligations of the parties, and may result in a variety of consequences, including deciding who wins and who loses, the issuing of Board declarations and orders, or the awarding of money.
Parties are advised of the time and place of the hearing in a Notice of Hearing which is sent to them from the Board well in advance of the date of the proceeding.
At the hearing, all parties are expected to attend and to be prepared to present the Board with all the evidence and information which they believe will assist the Board in understanding their position. As the Notice of Hearing makes clear, if a party who is given notice does not attend at the hearing, the hearing may, and most times will, go ahead without them. If the applicant in a proceeding does not attend the hearing, the Board will normally dismiss the application as having been abandoned.
Parties to a hearing are entitled to be represented by a lawyer at the hearing, but need not attend with one. They might choose to represent themselves, or to be represented by a person who is not a lawyer but is acting as their agent.
The hearing will convene at the time and place stated in the Notice.
If you are the applicant, you will generally be asked to make a brief opening statement explaining what you are seeking and why you filed your application. The other parties will also be given a chance to make an opening statement explaining their position.
Unless all the parties agree about what the facts are, evidence will have to be presented. This will usually involve the applicant and any witnesses giving a statement, or testifying. Before doing so they will be asked to promise or affirm that all the evidence they give will be true. Any documents which might assist the Board should be presented at this time - examples might include collective agreements, records of employment, pay stubs, letters of termination, and anything else you think might be helpful to the Board. The other parties will then call their evidence, if any. All parties will have a chance to ask questions of the witnesses called by the other parties (cross-examine them).
After all the parties have presented their evidence, everyone is given an opportunity to make final argument, or a closing statement. This is an opportunity to briefly review the evidence and tell the Board how it should decide the result. Usually, the Board will end the hearing and the parties will receive a written decision by mail in due course. Sometimes, the Board will decide the matter at the end of the hearing, make an oral ruling, and issue a decision in writing at a later time confirming that decision.
The Board must decide the case based only on the information obtained at the hearing. Parties cannot provide additional information to the Board afterwards, unless expressly requested to do so by the Board. Parties may not communicate privately with the Vice-Chair or panel about the case before, during or after the hearing. The Board is acting in the role of judge, and parties cannot try to influence the Board’s decision except during the hearing with all the other parties present.
Questions about the status of your application or proceeding before, during or after the hearing should be directed in writing to the Registrar, Ontario Labour Relations Board, 505 University Avenue, 2nd Floor, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 2P1.
Board hearings are open to the public unless the panel decides that matters involving public security may be disclosed or if it believes that disclosure of financial or personal matters would be damaging to any of the parties. Hearings are not recorded and no transcripts are produced.
The Board issues written decisions, which may include the name and personal information about persons appearing before it. Decisions are available to the public from a variety of sources including the Ontario Workplace Tribunals Library, and over the internet at www.canlii.org, a free legal information data base. Some summaries and decisions may be found on the Board's website under Highlights and Recent Decisions of Interest at www.olrb.gov.on.ca.
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Last modified date: September 2004
Ontario Labour Relations