Amid a relentless pandemic, it’s no surprise that most employers now require or plan to mandate vaccination for employees.

For the majority of Canadians these protocols are seen as a necessary step for keeping everyone safe. (In fact, in a recent survey conducted by Angus Reid Institute, 66% of Canadians indicated that they were in favour of proof of vaccination in their own workplace. [Footnote 1]) But for some workers, such policies are viewed as a fundamental violation of their bodily autonomy and freedoms.

This tension between protecting the rights of individual workers and ensuring employers meet their health and safety obligations have put HR leaders in a delicate position: How do you determine whether an employee has a legitimate claim under the human rights code to be exempted from vaccinations?

One potential solution that’s growing in popularity is ADR Chambers’ COVID-19 Vaccination Exemption Request Program. Designed by one of the largest, private alternative dispute resolution service providers in Canada, HR leaders can share this resource with employers and employees who would prefer a neutral third-party to review human rights related exemption claims. HRPA spoke with Allan Stitt, President and CEO of ADR Chambers, to learn more about this program.

What is the COVID-19 Vaccination Exemption Request Program?

“What we have done is set up a program where employers can retain us so that when employees claim that they are being discriminated against on human rights grounds, by being required to be vaccinated, we have a human rights professional [ADR Chambers’ Evaluator], who will talk to them to gather their information, and assess whether they have a valid human rights claim and that they can’t get vaccinated on human rights grounds,” says Stitt.

Why did ADR Chambers Create This Program?

“We’ve had a number of companies come to us and ask us to do this work. And we’re currently doing it,” says Stitt.

“And obviously, for companies, it’s not a large percentage of employees who are claiming they can’t get vaccinated on human rights grounds. As we know, most people in Canada are vaccinated and for those who aren’t, the vast majority are claiming that there’s a medical exemption. It’s just those claiming that it’s a human rights issue – those are the ones that come to us.”

How does the COVID-19 Vaccination Exemption Request Program work?

Step 1: Referral

Employee alerts HR leader and/or employer that their workplace vaccine policy in place infringes upon their human rights. HR leader refers them to the ADR Chamber’s COVID-19 Vaccination Exemption Review Program.

Step 2: Review

Employees that are looking to be exempt from their workplace vaccination policy due to human rights concerns submit their claims in writing to ADR Chambers or discusses these claims over a Zoom meeting with an ADR Chambers’ Evaluator.

ADR Chambers’ Evaluators are tasked with reviewing the employee’s claims and/or arguments. The Evaluators are independent and/or neutral. The employee’s claims are kept confidential and never shared with the employer and HR leader.  

Evaluators are also well-versed in human rights related matters.

Step 3: Results

“After reviewing the claim, the Evaluator determines whether there has been a human rights violation and provides that opinion to both the employer and the employee. The Evaluator also produces written reasons for his or her decision and provides those reasons only to the employee (to maintain confidentiality),” says Stitt.

“The written reasons only go to the employee. They do not go to the company,” says Stitt. “This is because if an employee believes that the vaccine mandate violates their religious beliefs, for example, they may not want to share these religious beliefs with their employers so that information is always kept between the Evaluator and the employee.”

“We only share the results of the evaluation with the company,” Stitt reiterates. Either ‘yes’ there is a human rights claim or ‘no’ there isn’t one.

Although these are non-binding results, meaning that the employer is not obligated to act on ADR Chambers’ decision, this service can still be a valuable tool for your company. After all, defining a sincere religious belief (or other human rights exemption) is a notoriously difficult task. But ADR Chambers’ program gives HR leaders, employers, and employees the expert advice needed to navigate workplace vaccinations more fairly and effectively.

ADR Chambers is working on a program that can be tailored to the employer’s needs too. Contact adr@adrchambers.com for more information about this program or visit their website


Footnotes:

Footnote 1: see article from Angus Reid about Vaccine Passports

Bio:
Allan Stitt
Allan Stitt

President and CEO of ADR Chambers

Allan Stitt is the President and CEO of ADR Chambers, the largest, private alternative dispute resolution service provider in the world. ADR Chambers has administered over 55,000 mediations and arbitrations since 2012.

Stitt is a mediator, arbitrator, negotiation consultant, facilitator, trainer, and ADR systems design specialist. Allan is both a Chartered Mediator (C.Med.) and a Chartered Arbitrator (C.Arb.). He has mediated two-party and multi-party disputes in numerous contexts, including commercial, employment, corporate governance, workplace, banking, personal injury, sports, entertainment and breach of contract. He has also arbitrated numerous commercial cases including cases for the National Transportation Agency and the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Board. His book on ADR systems design, ADR For Organizations, and Mediating Commercial Disputes, were both business books bestsellers. He also wrote Mediation: A Practical Guide and he is the Editor-in-Chief of the LexisNexis ADR Practice Manual.

Stitt has been awarded the Ontario Bar Association Award of Excellence in Alternative Dispute Resolution. He is listed in The International Who’s Who of Commercial Mediation, The Best Lawyers in Canada in ADR and Who’s Who Legal: Mediation.

Allan Stitt
Allan Stitt

President and CEO of ADR Chambers

Allan Stitt is the President and CEO of ADR Chambers, the largest, private alternative dispute resolution service provider in the world. ADR Chambers has administered over 55,000 mediations and arbitrations since 2012.

Stitt is a mediator, arbitrator, negotiation consultant, facilitator, trainer, and ADR systems design specialist. Allan is both a Chartered Mediator (C.Med.) and a Chartered Arbitrator (C.Arb.). He has mediated two-party and multi-party disputes in numerous contexts, including commercial, employment, corporate governance, workplace, banking, personal injury, sports, entertainment and breach of contract. He has also arbitrated numerous commercial cases including cases for the National Transportation Agency and the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Board. His book on ADR systems design, ADR For Organizations, and Mediating Commercial Disputes, were both business books bestsellers. He also wrote Mediation: A Practical Guide and he is the Editor-in-Chief of the LexisNexis ADR Practice Manual.

Stitt has been awarded the Ontario Bar Association Award of Excellence in Alternative Dispute Resolution. He is listed in The International Who’s Who of Commercial Mediation, The Best Lawyers in Canada in ADR and Who’s Who Legal: Mediation.

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