The applicant filed an application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario alleging discrimination with respect to employment because of sex contrary to the Human Rights Code (the “Code”). Tribunal case law has repeatedly demonstrated that discrimination may be direct or overt when an employer treats a woman differently due to pregnancy.
The application alleged she was discriminated against on the ground of sex when she became pregnant, and her work hours were reduced.
The applicant began working as an administrator for a family practise group in 2013. The next year, the practise was purchased although the applicant continued in her role. Following the purchase of the family practise, the applicant’s hours were reduced from 40 a week to 30. In November of 2014, the applicant disclosed to her employer that she was pregnant. Shortly after this disclosure, the applicant’s hours were reduced even further. The applicant alleged that the excuse that the employer relied upon to justify the reduction in hours, was that the employer was “worried about her sickness”. The applicant clarified that she was not “sick” but that she was pregnant. In spite of the clarification, the applicant’s hours were not increased. The applicant took early maternity leave and did not return after her child was born.[i]
A hearing was held, but the respondent did not attend. As the respondent was unresponsive to communications from the Tribunal, the Tribunal deemed the respondent to have accepted all of the allegations set out in the Application. The applicant attended and gave testimony.
In reviewing the facts and the evidence, inclusive of the submitted pay stubs, the Tribunal found that the applicant was scheduled less hours after the announcement that she was pregnant. The Tribunal’s decision stated:
“I accept the applicant’s evidence that she was not sick, she was pregnant. Given the temporal connection between the applicant telling…(the employer) that she was pregnant and the reduction in hours, coupled with…(the employer’s) comment that he was worried about her sickness (pregnancy), I find that the applicant’s pregnancy was a factor in the further reduction of her work hours. This finding is uncontested because the respondent chose not to defend the Application.[ii]”
The Tribunal went on to state that the applicant was pregnant at the time of these events, and that she was in a vulnerable position with respect to her employment and her entitlement to maternity leave benefits. The Tribunal found that the respondent had breached the Code.[iii]
The respondent was ordered to pay the applicant the sum of $4,114.00, in lost wages, and the sum of $10,000, as monetary compensation for damages to her dignity, feelings and self-respect
It is incumbent upon the employer to maintain adequate training in regard to human rights, regardless of the size and scope of the business. Employers may choose to retain the assistance of a human rights professional to assist with policy and Code-related issues. In addition, the Ontario Human Rights Commission continues to maintain online training that provides general human rights information at no cost.
Abrams v. Kupar: Pregnancy not a factor in short-term employee’s termination
Pregnancy and the burden of proof: Grudonic v. Ray Daniel Salon & Spa
Sloan v. Just Energy Corporation: Pregnancy and fairness under the Code
Maciel vs. Fashion Coiffures: pregnancy and employer’s continued obligation under the “Code”
Lugonia v. Arista Homes: Pregnancy, short-term contracts and the “Code”
[i] Ronquillo v. 2436436 Ontario Inc. o/a Healthplex Medical Services, para. 7
[ii] Ibid, para.14
[iii] Ibid, para.22