(Hypothetical) Say I had a boss who was crazy enough to make a statement like, “All men get a raise, and all women get a paycut.”

The hypothetical women in the hypothetical office are refusing to take action (maybe they feel intimidated or just don’t trust the legal system).

As a man, I would get more money out of this, but as a human being, I find it unconscionable, and I also don’t want to have any part in something that is obviously illegal.

Would I have standing to file a discrimination complaint if the discrimination was to my advantage?

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    @Greendrake that shouldn't affect the outcome, so I don't think the exact example used really matters?
    – Someone
    Commented Apr 4 at 0:32
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    @Someone Yes it shouldn't affect the outcome, but it is precisely that it very well might what makes that angle interesting.
    – Greendrake
    Commented Apr 4 at 0:42
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    @Greendrake that is a good point, but I'm not sure it really fits with this question, which is asking about discrimination in general using a specific example. Maybe that could be a new question, "Is there a legal difference between discrimination against men and discrimination against women?"
    – Someone
    Commented Apr 4 at 3:15
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    Importantly, if this was discrimination, but positive, you would have standing, e.g. if it was instead "all the women get an undeserved pay rise" that could be considered discrimination, especially if it (as one would expect) causes a negative perception towards the women in the company Commented Apr 4 at 8:29
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    Another possibility is that currently women are paid more than men, and after the pay adjustments they will earn the same. So don't complain until you are sure. Commented Apr 4 at 10:29

3 Answers 3


You wouldn't have standing to bring a lawsuit, since you suffered no actual injury. A law review article from 1990 discusses the question of standing to sue in discrimination cases (which is almost entirely a matter of case law), but focuses, like the cases in this area, mostly on the issue of employees v. agents v. independent contractors, rather than on the more fundamental actual injury issue presented by this question.

You could call the incident to the attention of government regulators to investigate on behalf of the government, rather than on your behalf.

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    It would be a long shot, but would there be any chance of the discrimination-beneficiary being able to sue for emotional damages if they were truly distressed enough by the policy that they suffered actual damages?
    – Someone
    Commented Apr 4 at 3:17
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    @Someone No. This would not be possible.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Apr 4 at 4:53
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    Looking at the other two answers this seems to be jurisdiction dependent. Which jurisdiction are you referrring to?
    – quarague
    Commented Apr 4 at 8:54
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    @quarague This answer, brief as it is, is essentially the correct one for the United States. The OP tagged his question United-States and Oregon. The other two answers, for the UK and Canada, are poorer than this one. I have upvoted this one. Although it should be expended with references, at least it answers the question.
    – Wastrel
    Commented Apr 4 at 14:15
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    @quarague It is jurisdiction dependent. I'm answering for the jurisdiction for which it is tagged (although, in practice, on this particular question, all U.S. states are more or less the same, because procedurally, state law closely tracks the federal law model in this area).
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Apr 4 at 21:05

You can't sue someone for what they have done to someone else.

The Citizens Advice Bureau states

If you make a discrimination claim, you need to show the court that you’ve been unlawfully discriminated against.

What you can do is

  • refuse the pay rise

  • look for work with a more fair-minded employer

  • ask the trade union to take action

  • report a breach of the Equality Act to the police.

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    I'd add (5) Inform your discriminated-against coworkers that you support them and are willing to testify if they decide to take action.
    – Stef
    Commented Apr 4 at 9:52
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    @AaarghZombies: This has been discussed to death and is explained in the help center [bold italic emphasis mine]: "we expect and encourage answers dealing with other jurisdictions […]. If you do this, please tag your answer using the tag markdown: [tag: some-tag]." Commented Apr 4 at 19:51
  • But they have DONE something to you, namely a change in pay. Discrimination, from the word, does just say "setting aside", not necessarily in which way or how it should be perceived.
    – Marcel
    Commented Apr 5 at 7:00

The B.C. Human Rights Code allows a complaint to be filed on behalf of another. See s. 21:

a complaint under subsection (1) may be filed on behalf of (a) another person, or (b) a group or class of persons whether or not the person filing the complaint is a member of that group or class.

The Tribunal may order the contravening party to:

  • stop the discriminatory practice,
  • take steps to ameliorate the effects of the discriminatory practice,
  • make available to the person discriminated against the opportunity that was denied,
  • compensate the person discriminated against.

Ontario has a similar provision. See s. 34(5). It empowers a third party to seek an order directing compensation or restitution to the party whose rights were infringed or an order directing the infringer to do anything that would promote compliance with the act.

Ontario also has a Human Rights Commission with the power to independently bring a matter to the Human Rights Tribunal.

The above probably cannot be used to bring a claim on behalf of a deceased person. See HMTQ v. Gregoire, 2005 BCSC 154, at para 32:

human rights established by the Code are “personal” and abate on the death of the person whose human rights have been breached.

However, that limitation would not prevent the Ontario Human Rights Commission for bringing a systemic issue to the Tribunal, seeking one of the non-compensatory remedies.

  • And if that person is already deceased (and the reason why you are the one suing instead of them)? Where does the money go?
    – AlanSTACK
    Commented Apr 4 at 4:50
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    @AlanSTACK In that case, the tribunal could not order increased compensation. They could still order the company to stop, assuming there was evidence that they'd continued. (I suppose they could order it anyway, but in the absence of more cases it would be hard to tell if the company complied.)
    – Cadence
    Commented Apr 4 at 8:41

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