Supreme Court of Canada finds wage discrimination at Canada Post

Pay equity fight took 28 years, one tribunal and three courts; corporation must compensate for wage gap over 20-year period
|employmentlawtoday.com|Last Updated: 12/05/2011

The Supreme Court of Canada has ended a court battle that has been waged for nearly three decades, finding Canada Post guilty of gender-based wage discrimination.

The saga started in August 1983, when the union representing postal workers, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), filed a human rights complaint, claiming female employees were making less than men in similar jobs. Complicated comparisons and failures to agree on a method of evaluating jobs of female-dominated clerk positions and male-dominated postal operations positions — such as letter carriers, mail handlers and mail sorters — caused the case to drag on until 2005, when the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled Canada Post had discriminated against female employees up until it implemented a new job evaluation plan in 2002. Canada Post was ordered to pay female employees subject to the discrimination $150 million in back pay and interest.

Canada Post appealed the tribunal’s decision and the Federal Court overturned it in 2008, with the Federal Court of Appeal agreeing in February 2010. Both courts found the job evaluations upon which the tribunal based its decision were not reliable to prove discrimination.

The Supreme Court of Canada allowed PSAC’s appeal in December 2010 and recently restored the tribunal’s findings. The Supreme Court found it was reasonable to use the postal operations group as a male-dominated comparator, even though there were well-paid women in the group. It was reasonable, said the top court, for the tribunal to use the job evaluations as a basis to establish there was a wage gap.

Canada Post was once again ordered to compensate for the wage gap between clerical positions and postal operations positions from 1982 to 2002.

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