Talleys Fisheries Ltd. v. Lewis

This case concerns the application of §§22(1)(b) and 21(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act of 1993 (‘the Act’). It was first heard before the Human Rights Review Tribunal. The plaintiff, Ms. Lewis, claimed that the defendant, Talleys Fisheries, had engaged in employment discrimination on the basis of gender, alleging that they offered her less favorable terms than her male counterparts who had substantially similar capabilities for substantially similar work. At the defendant’s fish processing plant, there was a noticeable divide between the roles for which male employees were hired and those for which female employees were hired. The roles of male employees included that of filleter, which was more difficult and had a higher rate of pay. Female employees were rarely hired for this role, despite being qualified for it. The Tribunal held that this disparity amounted to gender discrimination. Expert witness for the defendant testified that such gender disparity among roles in fish processing plants was standard industry custom, and, therefore, that the defendant had not engaged in gender-based employment discrimination. The Tribunal rejected both the factual finding of the existence of industry custom, as well as the conclusion that industry custom would be dispositive in this case. It held that mere existence of an industry custom of gender-based hiring practices would not justify gender-based employment discrimination. On appeal, the High Court of New Zealand affirmed.



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