IMPORTANT NOTE: These questions and answers are presented for information purposes only, and do not constitute legal advice.
Ontario’s Pay Equity Act applies to:
- Public sector organizations as listed in the Pay Equity Act and its regulations
- Provincially regulated* private sector** organizations with 10 or more employees
- Full-time and part-time positions, including seasonal positions
- Unionized and non-unionized positions except a student employed for his or her vacation period (students working part-time while attending school are covered by the Act)
- Former employees of a workplace covered by the Act
*The Pay Equity Act considers the “private sector” to include the not-for-profit sector.
**Ontario regulates all industries that are not regulated by the federal government. Click here to access the list of federally regulated workplaces.
The Pay Equity Office may be able to assist you if we are able to confirm that you are in a female job class. “Female job class” is different from the gender identity of an individual incumbent.
It’s also possible that your concern may be governed by the Employment Standards Act (“equal pay for equal work”). Alternatively, your concern may be governed by Ontario’s Human Rights Code.
To get more information about the Employment Standards Act, you can contact:
Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development
Employment Standards Information Centre
To get more information about the Ontario Human Rights Code, you can contact
Ontario Human Rights Commission
Ontario Human Rights Legal Support Centre
Fill out the Application for Review Services form and submit it to PayEquityComplaint@ontario.ca. You will need Adobe Reader XI or higher to open and complete the form. If you do not have Adobe Reader XI, you can download a free copy here.
If you require accommodation in order to submit an application, please call or email the Pay Equity Office and we will be pleased to provide you with the Application Form in a different format.
Yes. An employee may file an anonymous application by appointing another person (called an agent) to file the application on their behalf. All communication will then be done through the agent.
Filing an anonymous complaint with the Pay Equity Office requires the following:
The name and contact information of the individual who is filing the complaint;
The name and contact information of the agent designated to represent the anonymous applicant; and
The agent must agree in writing to represent the individual.
An employer is entitled to know and respond to allegations being made against it. Investigation of your allegations will require disclosure to the employer of the details of allegation. These particulars may enable the employer to identify who is making the complaint. The Pay Equity Act prohibits employers or anyone acting on behalf of an Employer from penalizing employees in any way for seeking to enforce their pay equity rights.
An employee in Ontario has a right to find out from his or her employer about the gender predominance of their job class. If you are represented by the bargaining agent (union), then you should contact your bargaining agent. If you are an unrepresented employee, then you should contact your immediate supervisor or manager, or the Human Resources department of your employer.
Being a unionized employee, can I grieve a pay equity issue and file a complaint to the PEO simultaneously? Or should I do one first and then the other later?
The answer to this question depends on your specific circumstances, so you should contact your union representative or seek a legal advice from a qualified counsel. Generally speaking, nothing in the Pay Equity Act precludes you from grieving a pay equity issue and filing a complaint to the PEO simultaneously.
What resolution/remedy will result from my complaint to the PEO? What about the impact on my pension? What about damages for dignity and self-worth?
Should your complaint to the PEO be successful, i.e., should the investigating Review Officer find that your job class is owed a pay equity adjustment, then the Review Officer may order the Employer to pay out the retroactive adjustments to all the current and former employees in the specific job class, for the period for which the gap existed. There may or may not be an impact on your pension and the Employer will be responsible for calculating it. There are no provisions in the Pay Equity Act for any other damages.
Can the employer be ordered to pay me back to the date of hire? Or to the date I filed my complaint?
Should your complaint to the PEO be successful, i.e., should the investigating Review Officer find that your job class is owed a pay equity adjustment, then the Review Officer may order the Employer to pay out the retroactive adjustments for the period for which the gap existed. If your date of hire is later than the start date of the gap, the Employer is required to pay your adjustment back to your date of hire. If your start date is earlier than the start date of the gap, then the Employer is required to pay your adjustment back to the date the gap first appeared.
My complaint could be considered both a pay equity and equal pay for equal work complaint. So, who should review the details and advise me how to proceed?
You should contact your union representative or seek legal advice from a qualified counsel. Generally speaking, nothing in the Pay Equity Act precludes you from filing a complaint under the Employment Standards Act (equal pay for equal work) and filing a complaint to the PEO (pay equity) simultaneously. Please note that even though there is no time limit to file a pay equity complaint, there is a time limit of two years to file a complaint about equal pay for equal work. A complaint under the Employment Standards Act must be filed with the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. Please see below:
Your guide to the Employment Standards Act: Filing a claim | Ontario.ca
I am a full-time employee for an Ontario employer. I live and work in Ontario; however, I am here on a work permit. Can I file a pay equity complaint?
Yes, any employee in Ontario who works for an Ontario employer and who is legally eligible to work in Ontario can file a pay equity complaint.
If my employer is found to be out of compliance with the Act, or if my employer is refusing to comply with the Act, what is the fine or penalty?
The Act gives Review Officers authority to order employers to comply, and the PEO can refer matters to the (Pay Equity Hearings Tribunal) PEHT for further enforcement.
In addition, the Act describes offences and penalties for anyone who:
- Prevents a Review Officer from exercising his or her duties
- Violates [9. (2)] by intimidating a person who is exercising their rights to pay equity.
- Fails to comply with an order of the Hearings Tribunal
- Breaks confidentiality of information provided under the proxy method
As an employee, what pay equity information am I entitled to receive from my employer and/or from my union?
As an employee, you are entitled to receive pay equity information that is relevant to your job class, such as gender predominance, job ratings, job value, job rate and the male comparator for your job class. You are also entitled to know whether your job class is owed any pay equity adjustments and if so, then how those adjustments have been calculated.
Yes, your employer will eventually know if you make a complaint to the Commission. You can file an anonymous application with the Commission; however, employees in small companies, or an employee who is the only incumbent in his or her job class, may be identifiable anyway. The Review Officer assigned to your case will discuss your circumstances with you before notifying your employer of the investigation.
In addition, employers are not allowed to penalize employees in any way for being involved in or asking questions about pay equity processes, objecting to pay equity plans, or otherwise exercising their rights to pay equity including making a complaint to the Commission.