We have reported before on the case of Wayne Talos and the Grand Erie District School Board. Mr. Talos was a teacher who chose to continue working past the age of 65, but was denied further benefit coverage due to his age.
Following a lengthy hearing, the Human Rights Tribunal ruled this month that the provision of the Ontario Human Rights Code which permits employers to cease benefit coverage at age 65 is unconstitutional because it violates the equality rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
During the hearing the Tribunal heard from various economists, actuaries and other expert witnesses on the sustainability of benefit plans if health, dental and life insurance benefits are to be extended to employees aged 65 and older. The Tribunal concluded that it is not “cost-prohibitive” to continue benefits. In other words, the Tribunal ruled that it is financially sustainable to include employees aged 65 and older in plans that provide health care, dental and modified life insurance benefits.
It remains to be seen whether the decision will be appealed. The Attorney General of Ontario had intervened in the case and submitted that the increased cost of providing benefits to older workers will either significantly increase the cost of benefits or, alternatively, will result in a significant reduction in overall benefits provided to all employees.
A remedy was not ordered by the Tribunal. Instead, the Tribunal ordered the parties to either engage in mediation or to return for a hearing on the remedial order.
The Tribunal assumed that 5 to10% of the School Board’s workforce is 65 or over when calculating the significance of the increased costs. One wonders whether more employees over age 65 will choose to work if benefits are now available, thereby further increasing the benefit costs.
We will update you with further information about this significant decision.