Building confidence in HRPA member complaints investigations
In HRPA’s annual membership survey, we include questions about professionalization and professional regulation. One question that has caused us some concern is around the perception of fairness and impartiality in HRPA’s investigations into complaints against members. Over the past two years a sizeable minority (36%) have expressed doubts—by answering don’t know/not sure— about this issue.
HRPA’s VP Regulatory Affairs Claude Balthazard has written a detailed article on why HRPA members should feel confident that any investigation into a complaint made against them would be fair and impartial. I urge you to read the full article, but I will use this column to give you a quick explanation of why members can feel 100% comfortable with how complaints are handled.
There are eight basic reasons
- As a quasi-judicial body, HRPA is subject to the Statutory Powers Procedure Act, 1990 which sets standards of fairness for all key proceedings. The same rules apply to tribunals such as the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal, and the Ontario Labour Relations Board, to name just a few.
- Any decisions by the Complaints Committee—and for that matter, all regulatory decisions made by HRPA—are subject to judicial review, eventually, by a division of the Ontario Superior Court. As a start, any affected party can appeal directly to HRPA’s Appeal Committee and if that is not satisfactory, through the Ontario Court system where matters such as the fairness and impartiality of the process that led to the decision would be considered.
- HRPA Panels that review complaints are made up of three highly experienced members. To prevent even an inadvertent or unwitting bias, one of the individuals on the panel will usually be a member of the public with no affiliation to the Association.
- When appropriate, the Complaints Committee panels will appoint an external investigator to conduct the investigation. These external investigators are very skilled, thorough and have to be fair and impartial. Should the case be referred to the Discipline Committee, the investigation report would be disclosed to the member and the investigator would be subject to cross-examination.
- All adjudicative panels, including panels of the Complaints Committee, have access to Independent legal counsel for advice on procedural matters.
- HRPA has implemented an extensive Code of Conduct for Members of Adjudicative Committees dealing with conflict of interest; the conduct of hearings; decision-making; the handling of confidential information; and behaviour vis-à-vis other members of the panel. All members of adjudicative committees must agree to abide by this code before taking on any adjudicative duties.
- HRPA provides training and has developed a series of webinars on various facets of regulatory adjudication such as regulatory governance; panel assessment skills; conducting investigations; conducting hearings; writing reasons; and process review skills. Members of adjudicative committees, including the Complaints Committee, must complete the requisite modules before they can be assigned to a panel.
- The Registered Human Resources Professionals Act, 2013, imposes a duty of confidentiality upon all who are covered by the Act and this would include anyone involved in the review of any complaint. The Act treats the need for confidentiality very seriously and provides for fines, which would be levied by the regular courts, of up to $25,000 for any person found in breach.
With all these safeguards in place, many of which have been created or upgraded in the last two years, all members can feel reassured that any complaint will be dealt with fairly, impartially and with total confidentiality.