The Human Rights Review Tribunal is an independent judicial body, separate to the Employment Relations Authority and Employment Court.
Cases are heard by a Chairperson and two panel members. Panel members come from a wide range of backgrounds and do not have to have legal training, although the Chairperson must be a lawyer.
Types of complaints
The Tribunal can hear complaints relating to breaches of human rights and privacy in employment, for example, discrimination, sexual harassment, racial harassment and breach of privacy under the Privacy Act 1993.
Examples of employment-related complaints
Examples of employment-related complaints that have been made at the Tribunal include:
- discrimination on religious grounds where an employer tried to force an employee to work on Saturdays, although the employee’s religion did not allow him to work
- sexual harassment where the employer frequently touched a junior employee in an unwanted and sexual manner
- gender discrimination where new male and female applicants were assigned to different roles because female applicants were viewed to be less capable than men and less willing to do the job
- a breach of privacy where an employer informed a former employee’s new employer and other potential future employers about something the employee had done privately after leaving her employment there, which the employer found objectionable
- discrimination due to family status where an employee who worked part-time for family reasons was made redundant because she wouldn’t work full-time, shortly after announcing that she was pregnant
- victimisation where an employer refused to re-hire an employee because his partner, who worked for the same employer, had made a complaint of discrimination about the employer’s actions.
If you do wish to take your claim through the human rights process, you are not subject to the time limitations of the personal grievance process, for example, you don’t have to raise a claim with your employer within 90 days.
Making a claim
To resolve an employment problem through the Tribunal, follow the steps on the Ministry of Justice website (external link) .
In order to help resolve a problem, the Tribunal can award compensation for harm to feelings and humiliation up to a total of $350,000. The Tribunal can also make a variety of orders to require the employer or employee to do something to fix the problem.
Cannot claim in both the Human Rights Review Tribunal and ERA
If you have a workplace problem that could be the subject of a personal grievance under the Employment Relations Act 2000 or a complaint under the Human Rights Act 1993, you must choose which process to go through. Once you’ve filed a personal grievance at the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) or made a complaint to the Human Rights Commission, you may not then start proceedings with the other.