The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld the decisions of the Quebec Court of Appeal and the Quebec Superior Court declaring Sections 76.3, 76.5 and 103.1, Paragraph 2 of the Pay Equity Act invalid on the grounds that they are discriminatory and thus contrary to Section 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. According to the Supreme Court, rather than ending systemic wage discrimination, the impugned provisions "place barriers along the path to equal pay for women".
Key employees, which are crucial to the success of any organisation, are entrusted with authority and autonomy to execute their duties. A recent case concerned a key employee who broke this trust by profiteering for several years from kickbacks while the employer paid inflated prices for supplies. When the fraud was discovered, the employee was fired. However, termination alone may be cold comfort to an employer that has suffered losses from fraud. Can anything else be done?
The Bill 18 amendments to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act have come into force, moving the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board one step closer to holding client employers financially responsible for insurance premiums and accident costs associated with workplace injuries to temporary employment agency workers who have been assigned to them. The changes are part of Ontario's efforts to increase workplace protection for temporary employment agency employees.
Bill C-65 – which aims to expand employer obligations with regard to allegations of harassment and violence, including sexual harassment and violence in federally regulated workplaces – has passed its second reading and is expected to receive royal assent. Employers should proactively review the proposed amendments, as well as their current policies and procedures, in order to ensure compliance when the amendments come into force.
The New Brunswick government has introduced draft legislation amending the General Regulation 91-191, made under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, to include provisions regarding workplace violence and harassment. The amendments will require employers to establish a written code of practice, conduct a workplace violence risk assessment and develop measures and procedures for incident reporting, investigations and summoning immediate assistance.
Occupational health and safety professionals, HR professionals, in-house counsel and operations managers responsible for implementing health and safety management systems should be aware of two recent appeal decisions relating to serious occupational health and safety charges. The cases indicate that in both extreme and unusual cases, health and safety regulators are becoming more aggressive in their enforcement of the legislation when workers are critically or fatally injured.
Employment and Social Development Canada's Global Talent Stream is a two-year pilot project providing Canadian employers expedited access to unique, specialised and highly skilled temporary foreign workers. Under the project, employers must develop a benefits plan rather than a transition plan, which is required in a regular labour market impact assessment. But what is the difference between these two types of plan?
The Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act has received royal assent and serves as the provincial framework in anticipation of the enactment of federal legislation relating to the cultivation, sale, distribution and consumption of cannabis. The act brings significant changes for employers, including with regard to the prohibition on the use of products in several locations, the right to a smoke-free workplace and the prohibition against smoking while driving.
The Ontario government is increasing the risks and penalties for employers that misclassify workers as independent contractors as part of the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act. The burden is now on employers to prove that workers are not employees under the Employment Standards Act. This change of presumption will make it even more difficult for employers to defend claims filed by individuals challenging their status as an independent contractor in favour of being classified as an employee.
The Human Rights Tribunal recently examined discrimination in hiring, specifically in regard to ethnic or national origin. It opined that the purpose of Section 18.1 of the Charter of Human Rights and Liberties is to eliminate discrimination in hiring at its roots by prohibiting any question relating to a personal characteristic. Accordingly, a mere question relating to one of the grounds listed in Section 10 of the charter will constitute an automatic violation of Section 18.1.
Employers are entitled to require employees to visit in-house occupational health department physicians to obtain reasonably necessary medical information if that right is provided for in their collective agreement. This was recently confirmed when an arbitrator found that an employer had not violated employee privacy rights when it required employees to visit in-house occupational health department physicians to confirm eligibility for wage loss protection benefits.
British Columbia's minority New Democratic Party government recently introduced Bill 6 into the British Columbia legislature. The bill contains many amendments dealing with the British Columbia Employment Standards Act. Among other things, the proposed amendments align provincial leave benefits with the changes made to federal employment insurance benefits. Bill 6 would also provide new and extended maternity, parental and compassionate care leave.
While the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act 2017 (known as 'Bill 148') made many changes to the Employment Standards Act 2000, it made only one change to the Occupational Health and Safety Act. However, the Stronger, Fairer Ontario Act (Budget Measures) 2017 also made changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act – most significantly, an increase in the maximum fines following a conviction and a change to the limitation period for charges to be laid.
The Ontario Pay Transparency Act has been enacted as a central piece of Ontario's strategy for women's economic empowerment. The act will require employers with more than 100 employees to collect information and prepare pay transparency reports, which may be published online by the Ministry of Labour. The Ontario legislation is part of an emerging Canada-wide trend reflecting increasing efforts to improve pay equity and, more generally, equality in the workplace.
Bill 1097: the Right-to-Disconnect Act was recently introduced and aims to ensure that employee rest periods are respected by requiring employers to adopt an after-hours disconnection policy. However, implementing a disconnection policy could encourage the culture of presenteeism (or face time) at the expense of efficiency and new ways of working, as well as put more pressure on employees who are subject to stricter work schedules.
Bill 148 introduced a host of new requirements for Ontario employers. Three changes which should (but may not) be on the radar of Ontario payroll and HR information system administrators are new vacation time and vacation pay requirements, changes to the calculation of overtime pay where employees have multiple rates of pay and new record-keeping requirements.
When privacy and confidentiality are important in a job, a manager's breach of confidence may provide just cause for termination, particularly when the employer's policy on confidentiality obligations is known to the employee. The British Columbia Supreme Court recently affirmed these principles and highlighted the value of a properly executed release if the employee later challenges an agreement made at the time of termination.
For years, lawyers have debated whether a termination clause must specifically state that the employee will not be entitled to common law reasonable notice in order to limit his or her entitlements upon termination. According to a recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision, the answer is no. The decision has also confirmed that a termination clause need not address all of the employee's statutory entitlements in order for it to be valid.
The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act 2017 (known as 'Bill 148') is now in force and has made significant changes to the Employment Standards Act 2000. Included in the changes to the act are new provisions on scheduling, including on-call work, changes to scheduled shifts and shift cancellation. Although these changes do not come into effect until January 1 2019, employers should be aware of them in order to ensure compliance in time.
Whether a poisoned workplace justifies a claim for constructive dismissal depends on the facts. The key question is whether the employer fundamentally breached its obligation to provide a safe and harassment-free workplace. The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench recently addressed the issue of how an employer can properly address a poisoned workplace complaint to ensure that it adequately cares for its employees and minimises its liability exposure.