This case concerned the constitutionality of eligibility criteria for employment benefits, which effectively prevented part-time workers from receiving employment insurance.
LEAF intervened before the Federal Court of Appeal.
Kelly Lesiuk worked part-time as a nurse in Brandon, Manitoba. After her husband got a job in Winnipeg, she moved there and applied for first Employment Insurance (EI) and then maternity benefits. She was turned down as she had only worked 667 hours in the qualifying period, and the Employment Insurance Act required her to have worked 700 hours to qualify for benefits. She appealed to the Board of Referees, but the appeal was denied. She then appealed to the Umpire, who held that the eligibility criteria violated s. 15 of the Charter as they discriminated based on sex. The government applied to the Federal Court of Appeal for judicial review.
LEAF argued that the eligibility requirements discriminated against women and violated s. 15. The hours-based eligibility requirement disproportionately excluded women from benefits. It preferred “male”-modelled, full-time, full-year paid work over women’s paid and unpaid work. The requirements failed to consider the gender-related factors that distinguish the employment patterns of men and women.
Disproportionately denying benefits to women negatively impacted women’s economic well-being. Itwas particularly devastating to lone parents, recent immigrants, Indigenous women, racialized women, and women with disabilities.
The Federal Court of Appeal accepted that Ms. Lesiuk had experienced differential treatment based on her sex and parental status. However, the Court found that the requirements did not create or reinforce stereotypes or prejudice, and so they did not undermine Ms. Lesiuk’s human dignity. As a result, it held that her equality rights had not been violated.
LEAF is grateful to Kerri Froc and Yola Grant, counsel in this case.
Download the factum here.
Read the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision here.
Our records are imperfect, but we are doing our best to update them – if you were involved with LEAF on this case but your name is not reflected here, please email us at [email protected].