Employer Sponsorship of Men-Only Ski Event Found to be Discriminatory


McConaghie v. Systemgroup Consulting Inc., 2014 HRTO 295

Naomi Rozenberg, nrr@lmlaw.ca Phone: 604-685-3911

Paul G. Mendes, pgm@lmlaw.ca Phone: 604-685-4894

Sometimes even your best marketing ideas can land you in hot water with the Human Rights Tribunal.

Systemgroup Consulting Inc. sponsored a customer appreciation day that was for men only. Systemgroup paid for some male employees and clients to attend Mansfield Ski Club’s “Men’s Day 2012”. The ski club’s brochure advertised the event as “A day for Men without Women and Children”, using the tagline “Bring your friends, bring your acquaintances, just don’t bring your wife!” The respondent’s electronic calendar invitation to Men’s Day listed planned activities including: “massage” and “Hooters Girls™”.

A female employee of the company filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal about the “men only” event.  After she filed her complaint, the company, presumably acting without the benefit of legal advice, fired the employee for making the complaint.

The Tribunal found Systemgroup liable for (1) discrimination against a female employee on the basis of sex and (2) retaliating against the employee by terminating her employment after she complained about the event.

The Tribunal ordered Systemgroup to pay the female employee:

  1. $150 (the value associated with the goods and services she would have received if she had attended the ski event as a participant);
  2. lost wages for the period April 16, 2012, to October 8, 2012, inclusive, less statutory deductions and applicable taxes;
  3. $18,000 as compensation for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect; and
  4. pre-judgment and post-judgment interest.

This case illustrates the creative ways in which Human Rights Tribunals can find discrimination in cases that seemingly have no merit at first.  The case also illustrates the importance of obtaining legal advice before terminating an employee who files a regulatory complaint against the employer.  The result probably would have been quite different if the employer had not fired the employee for making the complaint.

Posted:  2015

WHAT WE DO: Lesperance Mendes has been advising employers and employees on employment law matters, including wrongful dismissal and human rights complaints.  For more information about our employment law practice, please contact Bob Lesperance, partner, at rjl@lmlaw.ca, or Naomi Rozenberg at nrr@lmlaw.ca.


THIS ARTICLE IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE:  This article provides general information and should not be relied on upon without independent legal advice.