Human Rights Office

Human Rights Office
Human Rights Office

Arnold v. Stream Global Services, 2010 ON HRTO 424 (CanLII)

Summary:

In this case, the applicant, Jane Arnold, worked as a Technical Support Professional (TSP) at Stream Global Services. In her role, Jane would answer inbound telephone calls on behalf of Stream clients concerning computers, printers and other technological devices. English-speaking TSPs answer inbound telephone calls on the English queue and Bilingual TSPs answer inbound calls primarily on the French queue. From 2000-2006 English-speaking and Bilingual TSPs earned the same starting wage ($10.50 per hour). In addition to this starting wage, bilingual TSPs earned a 10% language premium. In 2006 English-speaking TSPs were informed they would not be receiving a wage increase due to economic reasons (starting wage remained at $10.50 per hour). At the same time, English-speaking TSPs were also informed that the company was experiencing some difficulty in finding Bilingual TSPs and therefore the starting wage for Bilingual TSPs would be increasing from $10.50 per hour to $15.00-$18.00 per hour (10% language premium was removed). This increase in starting wage was developed as an incentive to attract more Bilingual employees. The applicant alleges that she performs the same work as the employees in the French queue and therefore feels that she is being treated differently because of language. The applicant further states that her language proficiency is tied to her place of origin and ancestry and therefore the differential pay rates are discriminatory. In this case it was determined that employees in the French queue were paid more because fluency in French was a skill set required for the work they perform. They were not paid more because they have an ethnic origin or ancestry linked to a French speaking place. The application was dismissed. 

 

Question to be Determined:

            1. Does the wage differential provided to Bilingual Technical Support Professionals amount to discrimination on a prohibited ground in the Code?

Findings:

            1. Does the wage differential provided to Bilingual Technical Support Professionals amount to discrimination on a prohibited ground in the Code?

NO.

Reasoning:

  1. In this case it was determined that the wage differential provided to Bilingual TSPs did not amount to discrimination on a prohibited ground in the Code. It was stated,

In some circumstances, where language is inextricably linked with one’s place of origin, the Code may prohibit some forms of discrimination linked to one’s language, such as speaking less grammatically or speaking with an accent: Segula, supra. Similarly, mocking a person who speaks another language has been found to amount to a breach of the Code: Espinoza v. Coldmatic Refrigeration of Canada Inc. (1995), 29 C.H.R.R. D/35 aff’d [1998] O.J. No. 4019 (Ont. Div. Ct.) (para 20).

It was however determined that in this case these circumstances were not applicable. In this case the wage premium was an incentive used to attract more Bilingual TSPs. The Code does not prohibit wage premiums based on skill sets including language proficiencies. It was further stated that,

This is not a situation where the employees in the French queue are paid more because they have an ethnic origin linked to a French speaking place. They are paid more because they can speak French fluently and that skill set is required for the work they do. Regardless of their ethnic origin, place of origin, or ancestry, they are paid the premium wage because they are fluent in French.

The applicant’s lack of fluency in French is not sufficiently linked to her place of origin, ethnic origin or ancestry to amount to a breach of the Code. The applicant and other Canadians from English speaking households are capable of becoming fluent in French and attracting the wage premium associated with this work (para 22 & 23).