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Disabled worker paid $1.25 per hour has viable human rights complaint

Norman Grosman|

In the early 1990s, Terri-Lynn Garrie was one of several employees with disabilities hired to work for Janus Joan Inc. for $1.00 per hour. While her pay was later increased to $1.25 per hour, other employees, without disabilities, were earning minimum wage or more, essentially for performing the same tasks.

Janus Joan eventually terminated Garrie in the fall of 2009.  In October 2009, she made a complaint to the Ontario Human Rights Commission that she had been discriminated against on the basis of her disability.  The matter went to a Human Rights Tribunal, and Garrie was awarded $15,000.00 based on the discriminatory firing, and another $2,678.50 for lost income.

However, her claim that the company discriminated against her based on her rate of pay was dismissed, as the Tribunal had found that she had missed the one year limitation period dating back to her original hire date.

Recently, a three member panel of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, in a rare “reconsideration” of the decision, reserved for situations which are “compelling and extraordinary”, reviewed the decision and concluded that the company repeated the violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code, with every single pay period, up to and including the pay period preceding the termination of Garrie’s employment and that, therefore, Garrie’s complaint fell within the one year limitation period.

This is the first time the Tribunal has had to determine whether an ongoing wage discrepancy constitutes a continuing contravention of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Legal counsel for Garrie argued the wage disparity was an ongoing series of acts, repeated with every single pay cheque.  The matter has now been remitted to the Tribunal for a hearing on the issue that the company allegedly discriminated against Garrie based on her rate of pay.

Regrettably, it appears that the companyJanus Joan Inc. has since closed its doors and that the personal respondent is bankrupt.  As a result, it seems unlikely that Garrie will receive anything but a moral victory in this groundbreaking decision.

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Norman Grosman tackles your employment law dilemmas regularly on Workopolis. More information about him and his legal services can be found on his website grosman.com


Category: Employment Law,