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A tribunal has ruled that employment insurance rules discriminate against women because as primary care givers, its harder for them to work the hours needed to qualify.

Kelly Lesiuk, a Winnipeg nurse, challenged the EI requirement that you must work 700 hours a year to qualify for benefits.

The tribunal said the rules violate equality provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, arguing that when a mother works part-time because of her unpaid parental responsibilities, she should not receive inferior employment insurance coverage.

I just hope (the ruling) forces a change that will prevent other people from suffering as we did, Lesiuk told reporters.

She was denied maternity benefits in 1998 after the birth of her second child because her part-time job meant she fell a few hours short.

Under new rules imposed in 1996, women are less likely than men to be eligible for employment benefits. The CLC and other unions have been leading a fight to force changes to the legislation to end this discrimination.

While the ruling is not binding, it sets an important precedent, increasing pressure on the federal government to amend its restrictions.