Court of Appeal Rules on Proxy Pay Equity Maintenance: Ontario Nurses’ Association Celebrates Another Win

March 9, 2021

TORONTO, March 9, 2021 – The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) is delighted with the decision announced this morning by the Ontario Court of Appeal, which has ruled that a 2016 Pay Equity Hearings Tribunal decision regarding pay equity maintenance for women working in participating nursing homes is unreasonable.

The Court held that the fundamental purpose of the Pay Equity Act is to redress systemic discrimination in compensation, and in order to do so, there must be an ongoing comparison between male and female job classes. "The court has found that the Act is clearly written to ensure ongoing access to male comparators through the proxy method in order to not just achieve pay equity, but to maintain it,” says ONA President Vicki McKenna, RN. “The court has found that the Tribunal’s decision was unreasonable and dismissed the appeals and cross-appeal of the Participating Homes.”

McKenna has been urging the Ford government and for-profit nursing homes to end their 15-year legal battle against female-dominated health-care professionals. Instead, she urges the government and for-profit nursing homes to respect fundamental human rights – especially during a time when a global pandemic has taken such a hard toll on these care providers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted the dedicated nurses and health-care workers in these for-profit homes,” notes McKenna. “We hear the Ford government hail these women as heroes publicly, but behind the scenes, the government joined the homes in fighting ONA – and our colleagues at SEIU Healthcare – in trying to prevent them from accessing equal pay for work of equal value.

Nursing remains a female-dominated profession and nurses have won the right to have access to an ongoing male comparator for pay equity maintenance purposes. ONA is urging the Ford government not to appeal this decision and to stop preventing these women from accessing their pay equity rights. Instead, the government should back up its praise for their heroism with the respect that equal pay would provide.

Pay equity is a fundamental human right protected by Ontario’s Pay Equity Act as well as under numerous international human rights treaties that Canada is party to. Employers have a legal obligation to maintain pay equity to prevent the gender wage gap from widening. The Supreme Court of Canada has held that “leaving wage inequities in place makes women ‘the economy’s ordained shock absorbers’”.

ONA is the union representing more than 68,000 registered nurses and health-care professionals, as well as 18,000 nursing student affiliates, providing care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, the community, clinics and industry.


For more information: 

Sheree Bond (416) 986-8240 (cell)