EDMONTON — What would stop you from hiring a babysitter? Lack of experience? They live too far away? They don’t have kids themselves? Their gender?
These are the questions that have arisen as an Edmonton legal group pushes to throw out complaints from a man who says parents discriminated against him when they didn’t hire him as a babysitter.
James Cyrynowski of Edmonton has filed multiple human rights complaints against parents in Edmonton alleging discrimination based on his gender and family status after being rejected for babysitting jobs.
This month, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms wrote to the Alberta Human Rights Commission on behalf of two parents it is representing.
“We believe that there’s no human right to babysit another person’s children and that the anxiety that these kinds of cases are causing to parents is something that should and can be avoided,” staff lawyer Marty Moore said in an interview Thursday.
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One mother of three, who the letter refers to as Danielle, posted an ad on Kijiji in February for an early-morning babysitter. Cyrynowski sent Danielle a text outlining his experience and credentials, which included an early child development certificate, a criminal record check and nine years of experience caring for kids. In a statement, Cyrynowski said she asked him whether he had any children and he replied “not yet.”
Danielle went on to choose a different babysitter who lived nearby.
“I applied for a caregiver job on Kijiji. I was asked if I have children. I do not. I did not get the job,” Cyrynowski said in his handwritten complaint.
Family status complaints like the one filed by Cyrynowski most often come from parents alleging workplace discrimination because they have kids or childcare obligations.
Not the first time
This is not Cyrynowski’s first complaint regarding babysitting jobs. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is also representing a single father, who is named in the letter as Todd. Todd posted a Kijiji ad in August 2017 looking for someone to watch his kids while he was out with friends.
Cyrynowski responded to the ad and Todd asked him his age, location and gender. Cyrynowski answered the questions.
According to the centre, Todd’s dinner plans fell through and he no longer needed a babysitter for the posting. The next day, Cyrynowski complained to the human rights commission that Todd discriminated against him based on age and gender.
In another case dating back to 2014, Cyrynowski claimed he was being discriminated against when a mother said she preferred a female babysitter. The case was dismissed and came to an end in May, when the Supreme Court of Canada rejected Cyrynowski’s application for leave to appeal.
According to court documents from that case, the mother stated in the advertisement that she was looking for an “older lady with experience.” Upon learning Cyrnowski was male, the mother replied: “Oh sorry I’m looking for [a] female.”
Moore said parents have a constitutional right to decide who looks after their children and to ask any questions they wish of potential candidates.
“It’s just a question of basic information about a person and for someone to view these questions as prohibited, or for the Human Rights Act to be interpreted in that manner, certainly goes against common sense,” said Moore.
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The debate around male babysitters
There are dramatically fewer male babysitters than female babysitters hired by parents. According to 2014 data from economic blog Pricenomics, less than three per cent of all babysitters are men.
However, many people argue that young boys also need to learn the fundamental skills of childcare.
In a 2013 op-ed for the Washington Post, Petula Dvorak defended her decision to hire a male babysitter. She noted that many fears around male babysitters are justified by the statistically highly likelihood of men perpetrating sexual assault.
“By telling the millions of men that they cannot be trusted with children, we are reinforcing gender stereotypes at school, at home and at work,” she wrote. “If men can’t take care of kids, women have to do it. And that’s holding us back.”
But even with that, the gender gap present in other industries persists in babysitting. According to 2014 data, male babysitters make an average of 50 cents more per hour than female babysitters.
With files from Canadian Press.