AN END TO DISCRIMINATION ….
The following is a brief explanation of some aspects of the Bill
What is Equal Opportunity?
What is discrimination?
What is the purpose of the Bill?
What are the key features of this proposed legislation?
- The Commission is charged with the responsibility to encourage and support the development of a society in which there is respect for equality and human rights
- Amends a number of definitions including:
- HIV/AIDS status
- Marital status
- Amends the definition of “Relative” to include any person:
- Adopted by the family
- Dependent on the family
- A member of the household of the family
- The Bill imposes a duty on an alleged discriminator to make adjustments as are reasonable for disabled persons, unless such adjustments would impose unjustifiable hardship.
- The Bill enables aggrieved persons to seek redress for alleged discrimination that occurred during the period when the Act had not been operationalized i.e. between January 31, 2001 and April 21, 2008 no later than one year after the date of commencement of this Act
- The Bill allows the Commission to accept complaints lodged after six months from the date of the alleged act of discrimination where the Commission thinks it is reasonable to do so.
- Complaints of discrimination may be lodged with the Commission by:
- A person allegedly discriminated against
- A person who was part of a group/class of persons who were allegedly discriminated against
- An organization who was allegedly discriminated against
- An interim injunction may be granted at any time after a complaint is lodged with the Commission by the Tribunal
- The Bill empowers the Commission to issue a certificate of non-compliance where a request has not been complied with and to make an ex parte application to the tribunal for an order directing persons to comply with the Act as well as impose other conditions which it sees fit after the expiration of twenty-one days of the issuance of a certificate of non-compliance
- The Bill enables third-parties who are directly concerned about alleged discrimination, victimization or offensive behavior to seek redress, and also empowers the Commission to initiate an inquiry in the absence of a specific complaint.
- In instances where a complainant is dissatisfied with the Commission’s decision that there is no evidence of discrimination, he may request, within forty-two (42) days of the decision, that the Commission refer the complaint to the Tribunal
- The Attorney General is given the responsibility of assisting the Tribunal in proceedings where the AG believes that the relief claimed may affect rights of persons who are not parties to the proceedings significantly and proceedings that involve matters in the public interestA new complaint form is inserted
Important issues for consideration:
- The Commission is responsible for deciding whether there is evidence of discrimination or not
- Discrimination is generally difficult to prove.
- Sufficiency of penalties
- The determination of what is “reasonable” or an “unjustifiable hardship” is subjective.
- What mechanism will be used to measure whether the Commission encourages and supports the development of society where persons have equal opportunity?
- What role will the Sections 4 and 5 of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago play in equal opportunity rights?
- Is the Commission properly staffed to efficiently and effectively handle discrimination claims in a timely manner?