In Garrie v Janus Joan Inc, the Human Rights Tribunal
of Ontario (the "Tribunal") ordered Janus Joan Inc. (the
"Company") to pay over $186,000 to Terri-Lynn Garrie,
(the "Applicant") a developmentally disabled woman who
was paid $1.25 an hour for years before her employment was
terminated by the Company.
In the late 1990's, the Company employed the Applicant, and
other individuals with developmental disabilities, as general
labourers and paid them $1.00 per hour. After a few years, the wage
increased to $1.25 per hour for full-time work. General labourers
without disabilities were paid the statutory minimum wage for doing
substantially the same work. The Company is an Ontario packaging
The Company acknowledged that it paid disabled employees less
than non-disabled employees but asserted the disabled employees
were "trainees" whose compensation amounted to an
"honorarium". According to the Company, the disabled
employees were allowed to work, look at magazines, play cards and
games, make crafts or go bowling. The Company also emphasized that
the pay scheme was devised in such a way that the Applicant
continued receiving Ontario Disability Support Program payments
from the Ontario government.
The Applicant's mother and sister were also Company
employees. According to the Company, the Applicant's mother
became a supervisor with duties that included overseeing the
trainees, including the Applicant, as well as giving the trainees
their honorarium. The Applicant's mother never demanded the
Applicant receive a higher wage nor claimed discrimination until
the Applicant's employment was terminated on October 26,
Tribunal Rules Company Violated Human Rights and Employment
The Tribunal rejected the Company's arguments and found the
Company discriminated against the Applicant on the basis of
disability by paying her less than those employees who did not have
developmental disabilities, despite those employees performing
substantially similar work. The Tribunal held that the
employer's discriminatory pay practice was a blatant breach of
the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000, and a serious
violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code.
While the Tribunal was troubled by the fact that the
Applicant's mother and sister worked for the Company, yet
neither of them demanded that the Applicant be paid the same wage,
the Tribunal concluded that the role of the Applicant's mother
in the workplace did not change the fact that the Company was the
employer and responsible for ensuring its practices were not
The Tribunal ordered the Company to pay the Applicant $142,124
in back-pay for lost income, $19,613 for lost income
post-termination of employment, and $25,000 as general damages for
the violation of the Applicant's inherent right to be free from
discrimination as well as for injury to dignity, feelings and
The Tribunal also recommended the Ontario Human Rights
Commission determine how widespread the practice of paying
developmentally disabled people less than minimum wage is within
Employers Should Review Pay Practices to Ensure Compliance with
Human Rights Legislation
While the facts in this case are shocking and unique, the
Tribunal's decision demonstrates its willingness to award
significant damage awards where an employer's conduct violates
the Ontario Human Rights Code. Employers ought to be
mindful of this decision and ensure that all their pay practices
are in line with the Ontario Employment Standards Act,
2000 and the Ontario Human Rights Code. Failure to do
so could expose employers to significant damage awards.
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