“This is just a symbolic way of expressing the fact I’m discriminated against,” Patrick Le Lann said last week, according to the Canadian Press. After 26 years of employment with the city, the 50-year-old single father says he wants to retire to spend more time with his two young children.
Le Lann, who is 6-foot-3, has garnered a lot of publicity for his protest, as he began wearing a beige sleeveless sundress he purchased for $12 from a discount store to work. Le Lann says it is “cheaper than a $5,000 lawyer.”
At the heart of the matter: an employment provision dating back to the 1950s that allowed women, who tended to enter the workplace later due to childrearing duties, to retire with full pensions after just 25 years of service, seven less than for men (that clause also didn’t allow the spouses of female workers to receive pension benefits in the case of death, but the spouses of men received those benefits). The minimum years of service for men was later reduced to 30, and those labor contracts were changed in 1983 to remove any distinction between the gender of employees – but the clause was grandfathered for women hired before May 1, 1983.
After complaining without success for several years, Le Lann opted for a more dramatic “statement.” He wore a sleeveless T-shirt to work one day, followed a day later by the dress. After a couple more days of wearing a dress and bringing his kids to work, a letter of reprimand was placed in his employment file, and he was directed to see a psychologist.
The city has ordered Le Lann to no longer wear the dress because it doesn’t adhere to the image the municipality wants to present. His union has refused to press his claim, citing a 2003 Quebec Human Rights Commission ruling of a similar complaint filed in 1999 by another worker.
The case has generated a fair amount of press attention – and some of the corniest headlines one can imagine, including:
- Bureaucrat seeks pension re-dress (the Toronto Star)
- Man not skirting issue (the Sun)
- Trying to go out in style (the Sun)
A TV news report of the incident (including a picture of Le Lann in the dress) is HERE
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