Human rights and duties

Wages differences and sex discrimination

Women and men have a right to the same pay for work that is similar or substantially similar.

Note: Complaints about discrimination in wages on grounds other than sex may be filed in the area of employment.

A complaint about wages based on sex must set out facts that, if proved, could be discrimination under the Human Rights Code.

This means that a complaint must include information showing:

  1. You and another person have the same employer.
  2. Your rate of pay is lower than the other person’s rate of pay.
  3. Your work is similar or substantially similar to the other person’s work.
  4. The other employee is a different sex.

Examples of cases that may be wage discrimination:

  • Mariko and John are drywallers. Their duties are similar. John is paid $20/hour and Mariko is paid $15/hour.
  • An employer has two groups of cleaners. One group is mostly men who clean a warehouse. The other group is mostly women who clean office space. Most of the work is similar. The group who clean the office space is paid less.

Who can be named as a respondent?

The employer is the only person who may be named as a respondent in a wages complaint.

Defence to discrimination in wages based on sex

If a complainant proves that she was paid less than a male employee for work that is similar or substantially similar, this is called a prima facie case of discrimination.

Even if a complainant proves a prima facie case of discrimination at a hearing, the employer may argue that there is no discrimination because the wage difference is justified.

To succeed with this defence, the employer must prove that the pay difference is based on factor(s) other than sex which reasonably justify the pay difference.