Complaint Handling

Image Courtesy April Branco: Gombey 1

Complaint Handling Process

How to make a complaint or submit a query

If you feel you have been harassed or discriminated against based on any of the protected grounds under the Human Rights Act, 1981 (‘the Act’) you can reach out to the Human Rights Commission with your complaint or query in the following ways:

  • Visit the Office walk-ins are welcome between 8:45am-5pm Monday-Friday
  • Email the Commission at humanrights@gov.bm
  • Telephone the Office at 295-5859

We are located at Milner Place, 32 Victoria Street (ground floor).

The complaint must fall within one or more of the areas covered by the Human Rights Act together with a ground. 

A complaint should be made within six months of the alleged incident(s) although complaints may be considered up to 2 years after the incident if there is sufficient reason for the delay, and no one would be prejudiced due to the delay.

Who can make a complaint?

Anyone residing in Bermuda who believes that they have been discriminated against or harassed by someone contravening the Human Rights Act, 1981 may make a complaint to the Commission.

Someone can make a complaint on behalf of another person, if that person consents and/or is unable to do so. Please note, we will also log complaints that are made anonymously, but without contact, we cannot progress the complaint.

The Human Rights Commission and its Officers treat all intakes, whether queries or complaints, with the strictest confidence.

What can you approach the Commission about?

You can feel free to visit the Commission with any complaints or queries you feel are related to the protections or duties under the Human Rights Act or related human rights obligations in Bermuda.

Your complaint or query will be logged confidentially, and an Officer will work with you to determine whether the Human Rights Act covers your complaint, if there has been a breach of rights, and how we can best assist. We will work with you to resolve the complaint or query and will also provide information about alternative agencies that may also be able to assist you in resolving your complaint or query where appropriate.

We also address queries related to broader human rights issues and are available for consultation.

Complaint Handling Process

Each complaint received is unique and considered with the particular details in mind. The following is a brief overview of the general procedure that the Human Rights Commission uses to handles complaints.  ‘Complainant’ is the term for anyone who brings forward a complaint, and ‘respondent’ refers to those that are responding to complaints against them or their organisation.

  1. Complaint Received: Once the complaint is received and logged, an Officer is assigned to obtain as much relevant information as possible to clarify the complaint. The Respondent(s) are notified and, in the first instance, a preliminary inquiry may be conducted. The Executive Officer considers the complaint and, if it is determined to be a prima facie case, the Respondent(s) are notified and requested to respond to the complaint.
  2. Investigation and Conciliation: An investigation into the complaint may begin once the parties have provided their initial statements. Efforts will be made throughout the process to try to resolve the dispute.
  3. Determination of Merit: Following an investigation, the Executive Officer considers the evidence adduced and makes a decision as to whether or not the complaint appears to have merit. If it is determined that the complaint does not appear to have merit, the Complainant is offered the opportunity to be heard and a final decision is made. If the complaint appears to have merit, mediation may be offered to the parties by the Executive Officer.
  4. Referral to the Chair: If the matter remains unresolved, or is unlikely to be settled, the matter is referred to the Chair of the Human Rights Commission to be heard by the Human Rights Tribunal

 

 

How to respond to a complaint

The Human Rights Commission helps facilitate complaints of discrimination. We do not represent one party over the other. When you receive notice that a complaint has been made from the HRC, you will be guided through the process and will have a chance to respond fully to the complaint, as well as an offer of mediation or conciliation to assist in finding resolution where possible and/or appropriate.

Confidentiality

All queries or complaints are confidential, and names are logged for internal reference only where necessary to progress a complaint. A complaint remains confidential until such time that a complaint progresses and the responding party is notified. Please note, no one is ever named and the respondent is not contacted without first seeking permission from the individual bringing forth the complaint or query.

Voluntary Mediation Program

Mediation is a method of resolving complaints by bringing the parties together and helping them move from a conflict situation into a process of collaborative negotiation and settlement. It is a practical process through which the mediator helps the parties to check their facts and assumptions, exchange perceptions and ideas, and work towards mutually agreeable solutions.

Mediation is a free service offered by the Commission. Once a mediator has been agreed upon by both parties, (the complainant and the respondent) he or she works closely with the parties to facilitate a resolution. Participation in a mediation process is voluntary, but recommended as a means to help address grievances.

Referrals

Each and every intake received (whether it is a complaint or query) is considered in relation to the Human Right Act, 1981. It may be that your complaint or query could be better addressed by alternative agencies or support services, and the Commission will work to identify referrals to aid your efforts in resolving your question or complaint.

If your particular complaint does not fall under the Human Rights Act, Officers will notify you and the complaint will be closed however, where appropriate, referrals will be provided to other agencies which may be better suited to assist in resolving the matter.

Human Rights Tribunals

A Human Rights Tribunal is an independent body empaneled to resolve cases of alleged discrimination in a fair, just and timely way. The Human Rights Tribunal is a quasi-judicial body whose main function is to adjudicate matters referred by the Executive Officer following an investigation for adjudication. Tribunals have no previous knowledge, involvement or information relating to the investigation process conducted by the Office. The decisions made by the Tribunal are enforceable and are registered with the Supreme Court.

All Tribunal decisions are saved on this site and can be found under Resources, here. 

Human Rights Tribunal Process

Parties are first offered the opportunity to settle the dispute through mediation. If the parties do not agree to mediation, or mediation does not resolve the dispute, the Chair empanels a Tribunal who holds a public hearing before a panel of three Tribunal members. The onus is on the parties to a complaint to supply the Tribunal with all evidentiary materials to support their claim, including witness statements.

The Tribunal is empowered to determine whether unlawful discrimination has occurred. Upon a finding of discrimination, the Tribunal may award damages and make such orders that are enforceable and may be registered by the Supreme Court. Appeals of Commission decisions may be brought before Supreme Court.

We are here to assist you!