Guide to the settlement meeting
Last updated: January 22, 2024
Please note: The information in this guide is an overview of the settlement meeting process under the Human Rights Code. This guide is not intended as a substitute for the Human Rights Code or the tribunal’s Rules of Practice and Procedure. This guide is not legal advice. If you have legal questions, you should see a lawyer or seek other expert advice. See who can to help
- The settlement meeting
- Who attends the settlement meeting
- When is the settlement meeting
- Why agree to a settlement meeting
- Preparing for a settlement meeting
- What will happen at a settlement meeting
- Information gathering
- Issue identification
- Generating solutions
- When there is a settlement
- When there is no settlement
- Explore the topic
The settlement meeting
As part of its pre-hearing process, the BC Human Rights Tribunal (the tribunal) offers parties to a complaint the opportunity to attend a settlement meeting. This is a free service.
In many human rights cases, the parties resolve the complaint through settlement discussions without the need for a hearing.
In a settlement meeting, the parties meet with a mediator whose role is to help the parties to settle the complaint.
The process is flexible, and the parties can agree to a procedure that best suits their needs.
Who attends the settlement meeting
The complainant, respondent, and their lawyers or agents, if they are represented, attend the settlement meeting. In some cases, a party will not attend in person but will authorize someone else to settle the complaint on their behalf.
The settlement meeting may be conducted by a member of the tribunal, or by another mediator.
A member who conducts a settlement meeting will not hear or decide the complaint if it does not settle, unless the parties consent.
The meeting is private. Members of the public are not allowed. No one else may participate in the settlement meeting unless the parties agree.
If you want a friend, family member or other person to be with you at the settlement meeting, you should arrange this in advance.
When is the settlement meeting
A settlement meeting may be held at any stage of the process. For example:
- First, the parties may want to have an early settlement meeting, before the respondent files a Complaint Response Form. If you are a complainant, and you are interested in an early settlement meeting, check ‘yes’ in the Complaint Form. If you are a respondent and the complainant has checked ‘yes’ for an early settlement meeting, the tribunal will contact you to see if you are also interested. Note: Currently, when the Tribunal notifies the parties that the complaint is proceeding, the Tribunal sets a time for the respondent to file a Complaint Response.
- Second, a case manager may suggest a settlement meeting. After both the Complaint Form and the Complaint Response Form have been filed, a case manager may contact the parties asking for dates they could come to a settlement meeting.
- Third, a member may propose a settlement meeting.
- Fourth, the parties may ask for additional or different dates for a settlement meeting.
A settlement meeting is scheduled only where both the complainant and at least one respondent agree to attend.
Why agree to a settlement meeting
There are several reasons. Settlement meetings are often the quickest and simplest method of solving disputes, and they are confidential. If there is a settlement, there will not be a public hearing or a decision which is public. Sometimes, parties can figure out a way to resolve the complaint rather than having a tribunal member make a decision.
Preparing for a settlement meeting
A settlement only happens if a solution is found that both parties agree to. When preparing, it is helpful to think about the issues you want to talk about and to consider what issues the other party might want to talk about.
You should bring any documents you think relate to the issues that will be discussed.
For example, if the complainant is saying they lost wages, the parties should bring documents that relate to that claim. Documents could include information about the complainant’s efforts to find a new job, pay stubs, employer payroll records and records of other income received by the complainant.
Think about what possible solutions you might want. A settlement might include a letter of apology, a letter of reference, going back to a job, or having the employer change its rules.
You do not have to be represented by a lawyer at a settlement meeting. However, the tribunal strongly recommends that you get independent legal advice, or other expert advice, both before and after the settlement meeting. See who can to help
What will happen at a settlement meeting
The settlement meeting will be held in an office or meeting room. The tribunal will send you a letter advising you of the time and place. You and your representative will sit down at a table with the person conducting the settlement meeting and possibly the other party and their representative.
What happens at the meeting depends on the type of process the parties have chosen, the style of the person conducting the settlement meeting, and the type of case. Usually, there are some common elements in the process:
First, the mediator will introduce everyone. They will describe the process and their role and will make sure that everyone has signed the Agreement to Participate in Mediation. They will also discuss the Agreement, which says specifically that they will not give legal advice to any party and that the process is confidential.
B. Information gathering
Next, the mediator will ask each of the parties to tell their view of the dispute.
C. Issue identification
The mediator will help the parties to identify the main issues in dispute.
D. Generating solutions
The mediator will encourage the parties to identify possible solutions. They may talk to parties separately or together throughout the process.
For the meeting to be successful, all parties must feel able to speak freely to come to a compromise. All discussions during a settlement meeting are “off the record.” That means that a party may put forward a position or state facts and opinions without fear that they will be referred-to at the hearing or in public.
If the parties are able to reach an agreement, the parties, their representatives, or the mediator may write down the details of the agreement.
When there is a settlement
If you settle all or part of a complaint, the complainant will sign a Complaint Withdrawal Form, and file it with the tribunal. This may be done at the settlement meeting.
When the complainant files a Withdrawal Form, a tribunal member will order that the complaint (or the part of the complaint described in the form) be dismissed. That means that the complainant cannot proceed with all, or the settled part, of the complaint.
If there is a breach of a settlement agreement, a party may apply to the B.C. Supreme Court to enforce it.
When there is no settlement
In some cases, even where no settlement is reached at the settlement meeting, the parties continue to talk and reach a settlement sometime later. They may also ask the tribunal to set up another settlement meeting so they may try again.
If the settlement process is not successful, the complaint will go to the next procedural step in the tribunal process.
Three months before a hearing, parts of the complaint file (but not the parties’ addresses and phone numbers) will be made available to the public, who may be interested in intervening in or attending upcoming hearings.
At a hearing, a member hears evidence and arguments from both sides, and decides whether discrimination occurred and, if so, the appropriate remedy.
For more information about hearings, see Getting ready for a hearing.
The discussions at the settlement meeting are confidential. The information exchanged cannot be used as evidence at the hearing unless the party who gave the information consents.
If a tribunal member conducted the settlement meeting, that member will not conduct the hearing unless all the parties consent.