Year: 2011 (Date of Decision: 17 November, 2011)
Forum, Country: Supreme Court; Canada
Standards, Rights: Non-discrimination and equal protection of the law; Reasonableness; Right to decent work; Women
Summary Background: The Canadian Supreme Court reviewed a decision of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) regarding a claim by the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSA) that employees in the male-dominated Postal Operations Group were paid more than employees in the female-dominated Clerical and Regulatory Group for work of equal value, contrary to section 11
On appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal, the majority agreed with Canada Post that the CHRT decision was unreasonable, as the use of job evaluations did not meet the requisite standard of proof to support a finding that wage discrimination had taken place. The PSA appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Holding: The Supreme Court endorsed the reasons of the dissenting Evans J.A from the Federal Court in support of the initial decision by the CHRT. This was based on the arguments that the CHRT was reasonable in using the Postal Operators group as the male-dominated comparator, even though this group included a large number of highly paid women [para. 5]. Justice Evans reaffirmed that this did not preclude the existence of systemic gender discrimination elsewhere in the corporation [para. 69]. Secondly, Evans J.A. supported the CHRT’s reliance on the job evaluations and its application of the “balance of probabilities” standard of proof in finding that a wage gap existed between the two groups [para. 68]. He reiterated the Tribunal’s discretion in choosing a methodology to determine the existence and extent of a wage gap, and that it did not act “unreasonably” in adopting one proposed by the CHRC. Finally, Evans J.A and the Supreme Court emphasized the high degree of discretion awarded to specialized tribunals in their determination of appropriate remedies. The Tribunal at first instance did thus not err in awarding compensation to “make the victims whole,” while reducing the cost of the damages where the magnitude of the damage was uncertain.
The decision of the CHRT was subsequently restored, requiring Canada Post to compensate 50 per cent of the wage gap between the two groups over the twenty-year period.
Link to Full Case: Public Service Alliance of Canada v. Canada Post Corp., 2011 SCC 57,  3 S.C.R. 572, available at http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/7975/index.do
Comments are closed.