The Supreme Court of Canada authorizes the appeal of a litigation relating to pay equity

January 11, 2011

On December 16, 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada authorized the appeal by Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) of a decision rendered with dissent by the Federal Court of Appeal relating to pay equity.

This dispute involving PSAC and Canada Post Corporation (CPC) has been ongoing for almost 30 years. It was in 1983 that the PSAC first filed a lawsuit before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal claiming equal pay for equal work pursuant to the Canadian Human Rights Act. PSAC maintains that CPC is guilty of wage discrimination against a group of employees comprised mainly of women. The complaint was granted by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, however the complaint was successively rejected by the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal.

This litigation reminds us that the issue of pay equity is far from being resolved. Certain Canadian provinces, such as Quebec and Ontario, have enacted specific laws relating to pay equity requiring employers to perform an exercise comparing job positions and salaries. However, the scope and legal consequences of this legislation still remains unknown to many employers. On January 8, 2011, the Quebec Pay Equity Commission revealed that less than 60% of Quebec businesses have complied with the Pay Equity Act adopted in 1997.

In Quebec, all enterprises with ten (10) employees or more are required to comply with the Pay Equity Act.  Complaints may be filed against businesses who have not performed or completed their first pay equity exercise. The defaulting enterprises are at risk of being imposed the payment of retroactive salary adjustments as well as penalties ranging from $1,000 to $45,000.

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