Female OPP employees say they’re being paid far less than uniformed police doing the same workMore than 80 OPP civilian managers and specialists have filed a human rights complaint claiming they are paid less than uniform male officers for similar work.
Dozens of female Ontario Provincial Police civilian employees are alleging systemic, gender-based discrimination by the province’s largest police service, claiming they have for years been paid salaries far lower than their predominantly male, uniformed police colleagues performing the same or comparable work.
A group of more than 80 OPP civilian managers and specialists has filed a human rights complaint claiming they are paid less than uniformed male officers for similar work. They allege they have reduced access to benefits and promotions, less job security, and are provided fewer professional development and training opportunities.
In addition, the group alleges they are too often the recipients of sexist comments and humiliating behaviour, according to Janet Borowy, the lawyer presenting 84 civilian employees.
Indeed, their treatment must be viewed within the context the OPP’s “deeply masculine” and “brothers in blue” work environment, she said.
“A ‘men take care of the men’ culture prevails,” Borowy alleged of the OPP in her opening statements at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario on Tuesday, inside a hearing room packed with complainants.
“We say this police culture cannot be ignored in the context of systemic discrimination,” she said.
The allegations are “firmly denied” by the OPP, said Jennifer Richards, deputy director of Ontario’s Labour Practice Group and one of the lawyers representing the OPP.
That includes the claims of gender-based harassment in the workplace raised by Borowy. While stressing that she could not say there had been no such incidents, Richards said any cases of workplace harassment were “isolated” and perpetuated by a small minority.”
“We have zero tolerance for these kinds of incidents,” she said.
Richards said no discrimination has occurred, as these employees — filling positions within human resources, finance and information technology — are compensated in line with other comparable employees within the Ontario Public Service.
In some cases, a uniform police officer may be paid more because he has specialized training and certain obligations under Ontario’s Police Services Act.
“The evidence will show (the civilian employees) were not subjected to the same hiring procedures, they did not pass the same extensive training” as police officers, said Richards.
The civilian employees involved in the human rights case perform a variety of roles, ranging from accounting and human resources work within corporate services to the maintenance of OPP property, such as its fleet of vehicles and weapons.
Some of these jobs are considered “hybrid,” meaning they can be filled by a civilian or police officer. However, the group alleges that the pay differential between civilians and officers performing equivalent or comparable work can be as high as 42 per cent.
“It makes me feel cheap,” said Lee-Anne McFarlane, a 10-year OPP employee who is a manager within the career development bureau, a role she says was previously filled by a uniform police officer at a higher salary.
McFarlane is also the president of the association representing the group, Civilian Association of Managers and Specialists (CAMS), formed in 2015 to address the fact that they were not represented by a union.
According to documents filed in support of their complaint, the group says that, unlike in Toronto, Ottawa and London, the civilian managers and specialists within the OPP are not recognized by their police force as members of their senior officers associations.
The examples of a problematic masculine culture cited by Borowy include an OPP-supported event in Waterloo last year, the annual meeting of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police.
During the dinner portion of the meal, a female civilian OPP employee was allegedly cajoled by her mostly male colleagues into participating in a joke being made by one of the evening’s entertainers, not realizing she was about to be asked to participate in a “German Handshake” in front of an audience.
The game involved putting her hand inside the pants, or lederhosen, of a male actor, and “vigorously shaking” the hand of another woman through the front pocket of his pants. Many in attendance took photos, said the employee, Amanda Weaver, who works as a co-ordinator of the Respectful Workplace program within the OPP.
“I was embarrassed. I knew that it wasn’t going to go over well, but I felt like I couldn’t say no,” she told the Star in an interview Tuesday.
Among the remedies the civilian employees are seeking is a declaration that the treatment of the group constitutes systemic discrimination, and an order directing that the compensation structure be applied equally to all employees.
The hearing, which is being heard by Michael Gottheil, chair of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, continues in April.https://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2018 ... -work.html