This case concerned the implementation of Ontario’s pay equity legislation with respect to nurses. 

LEAF sponsored the intervention of the Equal Pay Coalition before the Ontario Court of Appeal.  

Facts 

After Ontario’s Pay Equity Act was enacted, the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) applied to the Pay Equity Hearings Tribunal of the Pay Equity Commission for a declaration that the Haldimand-Norfolk Regional Police Force was part of the establishment of the Regional Municipality of Haldimand-Norfolk for the purposes of pay equity. This would allow for the comparison of the pay for nurses, who were predominantly female, with the pay of police officers, who were predominantly male. 

The Tribunal determined that the Haldimand-Norfolk Regional Police Force was in the establishment of the Regional Municipality of Haldimand-Norfolk for pay equity purposes. The Ontario Divisional Court dismissed an application for judicial review of the Tribunal’s Decision. The Police Force and Municipality appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal. 

Arguments 

The Equal Pay Coalition, sponsored by LEAF, argued that the Pay Equity Act should be interpreted broadly to benefit largest number of women. The interpretation needed to take into account the pervasive nature of pay inequity and occupational segregation in Canadian society. For example, women had been historically afforded lesser pay and work rights compared to men, reflecting the devaluation of their societal contributions in the public and private spheres. Women had also been largely segregated into occupational fields which did not grant women the same rights, entitlements and protections as men despite the equivalent amount of skill, efforts and responsibilities required.   

The interpretation also needed to take into account s. 15 of the Charter, and the legislative purpose, scheme and application of the Pay Equity Act. The undervaluation of women’s work was sex discrimination. The Tribunal’s broad interpretation of the term “employer” allowed for the comparison of “female job classes” with a broader base of “male job classes”, which best promoted women’s equality. 

Outcome 

The Ontario Court of Appeal held that the Tribunal had the jurisdiction to make the decision it did, and that the decision was reasonable. As a result, nurses’ pay could be compared with police officers’ pay in assessing pay equity. 

LEAF is grateful to Chris Paliare and Martha Milczynski, counsel in this case. 

Download the Equal Pay Coalition’s factum 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].