Does a local pub's discount for women violate a man's human rights?

A London, Ont., pub's promotion that offers women a 13 per cent discount as a nod to the wage gap has prompted a possible human rights complaint, the restaurant's owner says.

The Morrissey House in London, Ont., will offer women a 13% discount on lunch and dinner items on Mondays

Women who fancy the Manhattan clam chowder or cobb turkey wrap at the Morrissey House in London, Ont., now get to enjoy any lunch or dinner menu for a 13 per cent discount. (The Morrissey House)

A London, Ont., pub's promotion that offers women a 13 per cent discount as a nod to the wage gap has prompted a possible human rights complaint, the restaurant's owner says. 

Women who fancy the Manhattan clam chowder or Cobb turkey wrap at The Morrissey House will now get to enjoy  lunch or dinner at a discount on Mondays.

It is owner Mark Serre's way of tackling the gender pay gap that has left Canadian women earning 87 cents an hour for every dollar made by men, according to Statistic Canada data.

But the promotion, dubbed "Mind the Gap," was hit by a complaint on Saturday from a London man adamant that the discount was discriminatory.

The complainant vowed to lodge a formal gender-discrimination complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission if Serre didn't stop the discount offer, according to the restaurateur.

"It's his right. If he feels wronged, then I applaud him for taking it to the OHRC. But I think he's taking it the wrong way," said Serre.  

"As a general rule of life, women should get paid equally. I think that's important. Is it worth my 13 per cent on a Monday night? Absolutely. Is it worth a conversation? Absolutely. I hope people embrace it."

Lawyer questions validity 

CBC contacted officials at the OHRC who said an application was not processed on Monday and would likely take time to go through.

Serre is confident a possible complaint wouldn't stand at the provincial level, as other women's nights in London have been given the green light to operate.

Susan Toth, a London-based human rights lawyer who also specializes in employment law, echoed Serre's sentiments.

Toth questioned whether a possible complaint would have a chance at succeeding in court, given a similar situation in London was dismissed.

"There's a difference between formal equality, which essentially means everyone gets treated exactly the same, and substantial equality, which recognizes that sometimes you need differential treatment to reach an equitable state," she said.

"[You can] put everyone in the same size booster box, but if you're extra short you may need a higher booster box than someone who is average height. So it's OK to give someone a little extra leg up, and that might be the only way to establish equality."

Local charities a focus

For the last eight years, Monday nights at The Morrissey House, a Dundas Street eatery, have been reserved for crowds taking part in pub quizzes over pints.

Now, the Monday women's discount night will also involve donations to local charities such as Anova, My Sisters place, Life Spin and the London Abused Women's Centre, among others.

Megan Walker, executive director of the London Abused Women's Centre, hopes to see other local restaurants and shops follow suit.

"This is really really progressive and so important, particularly when we know that the most recent stats Canada on gender pay gap show women only earning 87 per cent to every man's one dollar," she said.

"Men have a lot of power and privilege in society … men already making more money than women are."

Minimum wage hike influence

The Monday women's discount seemed fitting to roll out in 2018 along with other changes influenced by a provincial minimum wage hike, said Serre.

The pub took steps to slightly shorten hours in December to mitigate any negative fallout from the hike in the new year, he said.

"We had to adapt… We understand that there will always be change."

The Mind the Gap women's discount begins today. 

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