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Male Customer’s Challenge to “Ladies Night” as Discriminatory Found to Have No Reasonable Prospect of Success

Posted in Discrimination, Human Rights
Benjamin Aberant

With the help of some interesting facts, a recent decision of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO), demonstrates the type of case for which a summary hearing will be granted. In Maclean v. The Barking Frog, 2013 HRTO 630, the applicant, Kyle Maclean, filed a complaint after he and some friends attended a local bar and he was told that the cover charge was $20 for men and only $10 for women. The applicant was affronted, unwilling to pay the cover, and did not enter the bar. The question at hand was whether that amounted to discrimination on the basis of sex in violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

By way of a Case Assessment Direction dated October 4, 2012 the matter was referred to a summary hearing (where complaints are referred that appear to lack merit even if all facts are accepted as true) to assess whether the applicant had a reasonable prospect of success in establishing that his rights under the Code were violated.

Oral submissions were heard by teleconference on February 2, 2013 and the applicant argued that by charging men more than women the respondent was perpetuating a societal belief that men are less worthy than women. The applicant also argued that charging a cover for men discourages men from entering the bar. The HRTO rejected both arguments.

Finding that the concept of substantive equality recognizes that not all differences in treatment are violations of equality rights, and that charging a cover charge for men at a bar was not shown to perpetuate prejudice and stereotyping against men, the adjudicator dismissed the application as having no reasonable prospect of success.

The case is important, as it demonstrates the Tribunal’s willingness to use the summary hearing process to efficiently dispose of tribunal claims.