A lawsuit and Human Rights complaint alleging gender discrimination has been filed by two women previously employed by Bell Canada.
Fran Boutilier and Alison Green were recruited and hired on as vice-presidents in 2004. Their positions included managing over 1,000 employees (Boutilier) and the responsibility for a $350 million budget (Green). At the time of their hiring, the women were a small portion of the 25% of staff population that were women. By 2006, that number had dropped nearly 8%.
The women claim that Bell discriminated against them on the basis of gender. The claim points to several allegations in support, including pub nights that were virtually male only, and culminated in a 2005 war-themed retreat with martial arts training that included full body contact.
Bell has responded by denying the allegations wholly and maintains that they do not tolerate discrimination in the workplace based on sex. They further went on to defend the retreat in question, stating that it was organized by a woman and included creative, non-contact activities such as poster painting. Bell is also relying on the fact that they gave both women severance packages which included 8 months pay in lieu of notice and an offer for career transition services (which was declined) for Boutilier, and 12 months pay and the removal of a non-competition clause for Green which would allow her to work for a competitor.
Currently, there is no black and white method to calculate the amount of severance for an employee dismissed “without cause”. That being said, courts do tend to look at certain factors when evaluating wrongful dismissal disputes like Green and Boutilier’s. These factors include the terminated employee’s age, tenure, type of position, and ability to find similar employment. In respect of the claims of discrimination, given the current state of the law, the ladies may argue that proven discrimination justifies additional punitive or aggravated damages – usually reserved for the most serious of conduct.