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Feds Discriminate Against Women ‘Term’ Workers

The Canada Human Rights Tribunal issued an interesting decision recently in which it ruled that a federal government policy had an adverse impact on women workers.  The government likes to hire people on one year term contracts, but then often renews the contracts for subsequent years.  The federal Treasury Board, where the employee in this case worked, had a Term Employment Policy that specified that an employee  employed in the same department as a term employee for a cumulative period of three years without a break in service longer than sixty days, was required to be hired on a full-time basis at the level of his or her substantive position.   The trouble was that the policy did not count periods of time off work due to maternity and parental leave.   Ms Lavoie took mat leave during one of her three one year terms, and the employer did not count that period in calculating the three years.   As a result, Ms Lavoie did not qualify for full-time employment under the policy, and when her last contract expired, she lost her job.  [The background facts are explained in this preliminary decision]

Ms Lavoie, with her union, filed a human rights complaint.  She argued that the government’s policy of not counting maternity and parental leave in its term policy discriminated against women.  How?  Well, she argued that it is mostly women who take extended leaves to care for children, and that it is mostly women who hold term contracts.  As a result, the Term Policy has a disproportionately negative effect on women.  According to the website of Sack Goldblatt Mitchell, who represented the union and the employee, the Tribunal agreed with that argument and found the Term Policy to be in violation of the federal Human Rights Code.  Ms Lavoie was awarded $43,000 in damages.  I will post the final decision once the tribunal makes it available.

Can you think of other sorts of employment policies that might have an adverse impact on women workers using the same sort of analysis as this case?

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