Mark Pavelich

MMA promotions that refuse to include female fights are clearly haters. They also may be guilty of a human rights violation.

In a recent interview with Bloody Elbow, Maximum Fighting Championship prez Mark Pavelich (aka The Canadian Poor Man’s Dana White) stated in no uncertain terms that the only women we’ll ever see in the MFC ring will be holding signs with numbers on them.  Erik Magraken over at Canadian MMA Law Blog points out that such a policy is discriminatory and very likely illegal:

Now, we are all entitled to our views and not everyone is a fan of MMA or WMMA.  That said, can an Alberta fighting organization take such a stance?  Likely not given Section 7 of the Alberta Human Rights Act which stipulates that:

7(1) No employer shall
(a) refuse to employ or refuse to continue to employ any person…because of gender

But can’t it be argued that the MFC is not an employer but instead an organization which obtains the services of independent contractors?  Probably not given the “broad, liberal and purposive interpretation” that Canadian Courts give to Human Rights legislation.  The Alberta Human Rights Commission provides the following expansive summary of “employment” situations in the Human Rights context:

Alberta courts have considered the definition of employment in human rights legislation in a number of cases including those cited below. In Cormier, the court defined an employment relationship as “any contract in which one person agrees to execute any work or labour for another.” In Bugis, the court stated that to employ is “to utilize.” Under human rights law, courts and human rights tribunals have found employment relationships in situations which are broader than conventional ideas of what is “employment.” Independent contractors, subcontractors, taxi drivers, army cadets and volunteers have all been found to be in employment relationships under human rights legislation and therefore protected against discrimination.

Human rights/labour laws aren’t super liberal here (the Alberta government notoriously tried to block federal gay marriage legislation, for example), so I assume an equivalent argument could be made in most jurisdictions.  Still, it’s a bit hard to imagine someone actually slapping a promotion with such a lawsuit, unless it’s just to prove a point and there’s no real intent to fight for them, since suing or threatening to sue a prospective employer presumably makes for a terribly awkward workplace.  Frankly, I’m sure most women would rather sign with Invicta or the UFC anyway, but for local Alberta fightin’ chicks looking to cut their teeth, the MFC is by far the biggest show in town.