Dispute Resolution within an Internal Justice System

The Pro Bono Cause

The United Nations (UN), headquartered in Manhattan, is an intergovernmental organization of 193 member states, maintaining international peace and security, promoting human rights, fostering social and economic development, protecting the environment and providing humanitarian aid in cases of famine, natural disaster and armed conflict. As an extraterritorial organization, it is not governed by local or national laws, and has its own Charter and an internal justice system, including a first-instance and an appellate tribunal.

The Office of Staff Legal Assistance (OSLA) works within the UN’s internal justice system to ensure that UN employees can effectively access the appropriate recourse mechanisms to resolve workplace-related disputes.

The Osler Pro Bono Connection

Osler is the only major Canadian law firm that participates as external counsel with the UN and OSLA, and has been involved in several important cases since 2010.

Osler partners—notably, David Stamp, Mary Paterson and, prior to his retirement, Lyndon Barnes—have been involved in cases dealing with employment termination, access to pension funds, stress leave and disability coverage.  

In one ground breaking case, Osler helped a UN employee obtain a widower’s benefit after his same-sex partner died while working for the UN. This decision set a new precedent for the equality of treatment associated with same-sex marriages.

Volunteer Reflections

"Working with OSLA has been very rewarding for me personally, as each case has the potential to positively impact many employees of the UN as they undertake their work in some of the most troubled regions of the world."  Mary Paterson

Mary Paterson

Mary Paterson: Litigation Partner