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LAO lawyers file pay equity complaint

July 13, 2016

Steven Barrett talks to Canadian Lawyer about female dominated workplaces and the Pay Equity Act

Canadian Lawyer reports on the pay equity complaint filed with Ontario’s Pay Equity Commission by three lawyers who work for Legal Aid Ontario. They maintain that legal aid staff lawyers are predominantly female, and that their pay is not in line with male lawyers doing similar work.

Steven Barrett represents the complainants. He told Canadian Lawyer what the Pay Equity Act requires employers to maintain pay equity.

“Given that the class is now confirmed to be predominately female, [LAO] has to do a gender-neutral job evaluation…to make sure that the predominantly female lawyers working as duty counsel at LAO are not being underpaid relative to their male comparators,” Barrett says.

Barrett says a similar complaint was previously rejected on the basis that the complainants did not have sufficient evidence to suggest that the staff lawyer position at LAO can be deemed “a female job class” for the purpose of the Pay Equity Act.

“If the staff were unionized, they’d be entitled to disclose of that information but because LAO has refused to recognize the Society [of Energy Professionals] as their bargaining agent, they weren’t able to get the information they needed,” Barrett tells Legal Feeds.

But the information they needed has since come from an interesting place, the complainants say. When, in 2015, LAO lawyers launched a Charter challenge in regards to their bargaining rights, former legal aid CEO Bob Ward submitted a sworn affidavit in which he “bragged” that by the end of 2015, two-thirds of LAO lawyers were women, says Barrett.

“They’ve now conceded whatever the pay equity process had earlier determined there wasn’t sufficient evidence [to support],” he adds.

LAO lawyers have also been in a lengthy battle to unionize. They filed a Charter of Rights application against LAO and the Ontario government after those efforts were stymied. That case is scheduled to be heard by the Superior Court on December 5, 2016.


Steven Barrett

Practice Areas

Pay Equity