May 30, 2018

ONT: Human Rights Tribunal rules that terminating employee benefits at 65 is unconstitutional


If your organization’s benefits plan terminates for older employees the latest decision made by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario may interest you. 

Wayne Talos, a teacher with Grand Erie District School Board turned 65 and was surprised to find out that hitting this milestone age meant his group healthcare benefits and life insurance were going to terminate. This was outlined in the school board's benefits plan, and was permitted due to a provision in the Ontario Employment Standards Act that allows discrimination in benefits for individuals under age 18 and over age 65.

Talos decided to file an application with the Tribunal, citing that the termination of his benefits constituted age discrimination, which he felt violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Tribunal's verdict? They agreed with Talos, calling the exemption unconstitutional and noting that it breached the Charter's equality guarantee by permitting lower compensation to older workers.

Although the decision is still an interim one and the merits of the case will need to be finalized, it begs the question – will this set a precedent for employee benefits?

“While this decision only applies to this specific case, it will set a precedent and make way for more cases of this nature,” says Accompass Vice President, Tiina Liivet.

“A number of employee benefit plans in Canada terminate or reduce coverage when an individual turns 65 or 70," adds Liivet, "and since the principle behind the decision was based on age discrimination, the outcome would likely be the same whether dealing with someone who is 65 or 70." 

What could this mean for your organization? Again, while this outcome only applies to the Talos vs. Grand Erie District School Board case, it may provoke others to follow in Talos’ footsteps, but it could also ultimately make way for the Employment Standards Act to be amended to remove the provision that permits this type of differentiation.

Accompass will continue to monitor the outcome of this case and keep our clients informed on anything it may lead to.

If you have any questions, please reach out to your Accompass consultant.