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Faster Movement of Men up Pay Ladder not Remedied by Pay Equity Act

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On May 31, 2012 the Ontario Divisional Court ruled that the Pay Equity Act does not require the harmonization of wage grids as long as female employees achieve the same level of pay as men at the top of the grid. The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) appealed decisions by the Pay Equity Tribunal with respect to two Ontario employers: Lakeridge Health Corporation and the York Region District School Board. At both of these employers, it was found that workers belonging to the male dominated job class moved more quickly (nearly three times as fast) through pay levels than the workers belonging to the female dominated job class. The comparison was between the mostly male service workers versus the female dominated clerical staff.

In coming to its decision, the Divisional Court found that although the union argued that the fundamental objective of the Act is to “eliminate” gender discrimination in compensation, it would be more accurate to say that the purpose of the Act is to “redress” systemic wage discrimination in accordance with the detailed provisions of the legislative scheme.

The Court went on to state that “within that legislative scheme, the Legislature has made a number of choices about how pay equity is to be achieved…with the result that the Act does not contemplate the elimination of all discrepancies between comparably-valued male and female job classes.” At least one discrepancy that the Act does not contemplate addressing, as found in this case, is the time it takes to reach the highest rate of pay for men and women in comparable jobs. It has yet to be known whether this case will be appealed by CUPE.