Difference between Mrs. and Ms. shouldn’t matter in the Workplace

| Wednesday, May 19th, 2010 | No Comments »

By: Ellen A. S. Low

A recently-released Dutch study examines perceived differences between women who adopt their partner’s name, and those who chose to keep their own last name after marriage.

As part of the study, 50 participants were asked to judge a female job applicant for a human-resources manager position, as well as to estimate her potential salary.  Based on the results, participants were less likely to hire the woman if they knew she had taken her partner’s last name.  Further, participants estimated that the woman who took her partner’s name would earn, on average, $1,150 less per month than the woman who kept her own name.

In Ontario, differential treatment in your employment based on whether you are a “Mrs.” or a “Ms.,” is prohibited by the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”), and may be discrimination on the basis of marital status.  The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has previously determined that “perks” which are only available to married persons may be discriminatory.  For example, the Tribunal has held that it was discriminatory for a company to provide a “return-home” flight every three weeks to married employees, but deny the same benefit to non-married employees. Further, the Tribunal has also determined that the Code is breached if an employee is dismissed, or not hired, because of her marital status. For example, a company breached the Code by refusing to hire a married employee because it assumed she would be unwilling to relocate. The Tribunal held this was discrimination based on marital status.

Whitten & Lublin LLP is a team of legal experts who provide practical advice and advocacy for workplace issues.

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