Tag Archives: discrimination

Victory: Supreme Court reaffirms women’s equality in the workplace

PSAC welcomes the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent decision in the Fraser case, which reaffirms the obligation of employers to treat women equally and without discrimination – a protection guaranteed by section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In 1997, the RCMP introduced a job-sharing program allowing up to three employees to split the duties of one full-time position as an alternative to unpaid leave. In practice, the program has been almost exclusively accessed by women seeking reduced working hours to take care of young children. However, job-sharing penalized women by not allowing participants to buy back their pensionable time, an option available to employees using other types of leave.

The Supreme Court has now ruled that this discrepancy is a violation of women’s Charter rights and has ordered the RCMP to provide a pension buy-back option for all employees who participated in job-sharing. More broadly, this decision is a reminder from the top court to employers across the country: all human resource programs and policies must promote equity and prevent discrimination against historically disadvantaged groups.

While the lawsuit was brought forward by three now-retired RCMP officers who were not union members, PSAC joined in support of their case as an intervener at the Supreme Court.

“PSAC thanks Joanne Fraser, Allison Pilgrim and Colleen Fox for their courage, and congratulates them on this important victory,” said Chris Aylward, PSAC National President. “Treating women equally means they should not be penalized when they take leave from work to care for their children. This win is another milestone in our union’s long history of work in support of gender equity.”

Here is a brief overview of PSAC’s decades-long work in support of women and child care:

    • 1980s-1990s: With women at the forefront, tens of thousands of PSAC members launch a major strike in 1980 against Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal government that leads to groundbreaking paid maternity leave benefits, protecting mothers’ income while caring for their infants.  These benefits eventually expand to include paid leave for both parents and full salary replacement for one year.
    • 1989-1991: PSAC reaches an agreement with Treasury Board that a policy will be developed to encourage the establishment of workplace child care centres, open to both PSAC members as well as the general public.
    • 1999: The union negotiates a special Child Care Fund to help members at Canada Post address their child care needs.
    • 2004-2014: PSAC supports Fiona Johnstone, a member at the Canada Border Services Agency who requested accommodation for child care but was denied. In 2014, after a decade-long battle with her employer, the Federal Court of Appeals upheld a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling that CBSA discriminated against Johnstone by failing to accommodate her family obligations related to child care. The precedent-setting Tribunal ruling must now be followed by all large employers in Canada.
    • 2005: After more than a decade of advocacy by PSAC, the broader labour movement and women’s organizations, the federal government signs a series of child care funding agreements with provinces and territories, opening the way for a national child care system. A year later, however, the newly elected Harper Conservative government cancels all agreements.
    • 2010-2020: In collaboration with other unions and child care organizations, PSAC ramps up advocacy in support of a publicly funded, national child care system. Campaigns include ‘Let’s Rethink Child Care!’, ‘Child Care 2020’, ‘You can’t take your kids to work’, and “Affordable Child Care for ALL.” Each involves intensive lobbying of federal politicians.
    • 2020: PSAC files a policy grievance against Treasury Board regarding changes to its policy on the use of code 699 leave during the COVID-19 pandemic for childcare and caregiving responsibilities.
    • 2020: In the midst of ongoing campaigning for a national child care program by the labour movement, Justin Trudeau’s government promises to “make a significant, long-term, sustained investment” towards a Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care system. The plan will support millions of families across the country, promote a strong economic recovery and help prevent the pandemic from taking away the economic and social gains women have made over the last thirty years.

This article was first posted on the PSAC website.

CIU welcomes Auditor General’s report on harassment and violence in the workplace

CIU Flag / Drapeau du SDI

We applaud the Auditor General’s recent report that found that both the Canada Border Services Agency and Correctional Service Canada were well aware of issues of workplace harassment, discrimination and violence – yet did little to curb the problem.

The Auditor General’s report confirms what the union and our members have known for a long time. Despite being on the receiving end of hundreds of grievances regarding harassment and discrimination in the workplace, too often has CBSA chosen to delay and stall. Just last fall, CIU’s National President, Jean-Pierre Fortin, was vocal about CBSA’s management creating a “toxic workplace culture through fear, intimidation and harassment,” calling upon the government to “launch an independent, third party investigation to look into these serious abuses of power by managers.”

We are pleased to see that Minister Blair as well as CBSA reacted favourably to the Auditor General’s recommendations. In light of this report, we remain fully committed to work with CBSA to foster a better environment for our members and ensure that real work is done to create a safer, healthier workplace.

Further reading

2017: Alternation and age discrimination case

This is the sixth vignette in a series celebrating our union victories.

In a matter of blatant age discrimination by the employer, Diane Legros, who worked for CBSA, sought to alternate with another employee to benefit from a Transition Support Measure. Alternation occurs in a Workforce Adjustment Situation when an employee switches with a person in an ‘opting’ position who wishes to remain in the public service, ‘alternating’ into this job and leaving the public service with a financial payout.

Legros’ request was refused: She was 62 and her manager expected Legros would likely retire soon, at which time her postion could be eliminated. With the support of the union, Sister Legros challenged the manager‘s position, and grieved – twice. The manager persisted, and Legros’ case eventually went to adjudication. It was found that her age was indeed a factor in the employer’s decision to deny her alternation – a clear-cut example of discrimination.

Ultimately, the employer faced consequences for violating the Canadian Human Rights Act: The adjudicator awarded Legros with $10,000 in damages for “willful and reckless discrimination”, as well as $15,000 for “significant pain and suffering”. The ‘Legros Decision’ thus helped reinforce the protections that benefit all our members, illustrating once more that labour rights are fought for and not given.

Image of a woman looking out the window with text explaining a union victory in a matter of age discrimination

Click for full-size version.

For more union victories, see this page, and follow us on social media using #CIUvictories.

Victory! PSAC Member Awarded Damages in Age Discrimination Case


In a recent adjudication decision, Diane Legros, a PSAC member who worked for Canada Border Services Agency, was awarded $25,000 in damages because her employer discriminated against her based on her age. The Federal Public Service Labour and Employment Relations Board (FPSLREB) decision awarded these significant damages because the employer refused to allow Legros to take advantage of a retirement incentive due to her age, and that the discrimination was “willful and reckless.”

“We are pleased to see that the adjudicator awarded significant damages for a violation of the Canadian Human Rights Act,” said Robyn Benson, PSAC National President. “It’s important that in cases like this, where managers so blatantly and recklessly discriminate against an employee, that there be a consequence for that. Hopefully, lessons will be learned from this case.”

Denial of alternation based on age

The adjudicator found that the grievor’s age was a factor in the employer’s decision to deny her alternation, which was discrimination. Alternation is available under the Workforce Adjustment Directive during reorganization or downsizing in the public service. It occurs when one employee switches or “alternates” with another employee who has been declared surplus and will lose their job. The employee can alternate into the surplus job and retire with a financial payout known as the “transition support measure”.

Legros wanted to alternate with a surplus employee and take the transition support measure and retire. But her manager refused to allow her to do so because of her age. She was 62 and the manager expected she would likely retire soon and her position could be eliminated at that time.

The adjudicator said that “due to the grievor’s age, [the manager] was relying on the grievor retiring to meet the DRAP’s objectives. For that reason, she denied her a benefit (leaving as an alternate) that others could claim.” This denial of the benefit was age discrimination.

Damages for pain and suffering, “willful and reckless” discrimination

According to the decision, the manager “did everything in her power to prevent [the alternation] from taking place.”

The manager’s refusal continued despite an adjudication decision in another case where the Board had ruled that alternation could not be denied based on the employer’s future plan to eliminate the alternate’s position once he or she retired.

The adjudicator awarded $10,000 in damages for “willful and reckless discrimination” under section 53(3) of the Act, because the manager continued the refusal for a long time, even after the other adjudication decision.

Stating that Legros suffered “significant pain and suffering”, the adjudicator also awarded $15,000 in damages under section 53(2)(e) of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

A version of this article was first published on the PSAC website.