Family status discrimination continues to be an area in which the law differs across Canada. In British Columbia, the test for family status discrimination has been more stringent than in other parts of the country for the past 15 years. A recent case involving a project manager who was assigned to work in another province for eight to 10 weeks a few months after the birth of his first child confirms that a personal preference to provide childcare, without additional factors, does not trigger a duty to accommodate based on family status.
A recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision has confirmed that a release signed by an employee should be overturned for unfairness only if there is clear evidence of a lack of fairness. The court specifically cautioned against making conclusions on motions without sufficient evidence, which may cause plaintiffs and defendants alike to reconsider under what circumstances the court will grant summary judgment.
Bill 18 – Workers Compensation Amendment Act 2019, which proposes to expand the definition of 'firefighter' under the Workers Compensation Act for the purpose of presumptions in favour of compensation for firefighters, has passed its third reading in the British Columbia Legislature. In addition, the second reading of Bill 8 – Employment Standards Amendment Act 2019 has been held, providing additional details around some of the government's proposed amendments to the act.
In 2018 the Ontario government issued a new compensation framework regulation that continued to freeze the current levels of compensation for executives at most designated employers within the broader public sector. While the freeze remains in effect, proposed amendments indicate that the government will be introducing a new regulation – and new compensation frameworks – that will provide further guidance on executive compensation going forward.
The federal government has published the draft Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations. The regulations will support the recently passed Bill C-65 and will replace the current workplace violence obligations in the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, as well as certain related provisions in the Maritime Occupational Health and Safety Regulations and the On Board Trains Occupational Safety and Health Regulations.
The Supreme Court recently decided a variation on limitation periods for employment actions – the so-called 'content doctrine' – which stresses the nature of relief sought by plaintiffs. However, the doctrine is problematic, as it implicitly extends limitation periods by calculating them from the date of termination of employment and not from the date on which any wrongdoing was committed.
The Ninth Civil Court of Santiago recently held that three state agencies had been negligent in protecting the occupational safety of 31 trapped miners and ordered the Treasury to pay approximately €101,523 to each miner. In its defence, the state argued that the significant amount spent in rescuing and compensating the miners (approximately €8.63 million) had protected their moral suffering.
Following a recent opinion rendered by the Labour Board, companies may continue to extend to non-union employees benefits which they received before they were added to a collective bargaining agreement, because such benefits are not an attribute of the collective bargaining agreement for non-union employees. This new position impedes union interference in the granting of benefits to employees who are not involved in union activity.
When structuring their businesses, companies must keep in mind that employment liability cannot be avoided by hiring personnel through their company affiliates or related entities. Fines may apply if the existence of multiple companies under a common employment management is found to be a scheme to avoid compliance with employment rights (eg, allocating profits in one company but hiring employees in another).
Evidence used in employment cases must be obtained in a lawful manner and in accordance with fundamental rights, such as due process. However, a recent Supreme Court decision has fostered debate about the protection of fundamental rights within the context of an employment relationship. The court found that a conversation recorded without consent by a concealed voice recorder at a meeting could be considered valid evidence and did not violate the fundamental rights of the individuals recorded.
In late 2018 the House of Representatives introduced amendments which granted paternity leave and benefits to unmarried working fathers. However, the government referred the amending laws to the Supreme Court, claiming that they would add unbudgeted costs to its budget and therefore violate the Constitution. The Supreme Court recently accepted the government's position and declared the amendments unconstitutional.
Four employment laws concerning seagoing vessels and their crew were recently amended. Among other things, the amendments relate to transfers of seagoing vessels and their crew under a transfer of undertakings, the definition of a 'competent authority' for notifying collective redundancies and the role and protection of merchant vessel crew members who act as employee representatives.
Cyprus case law has long established that reverse onus in criminal cases does not transfer the burden of proof to defendants; rather, it allows them to create reasonable doubt with respect to their guilt. A recent Supreme Court decision has confirmed this in regard to wage protection and clarified that all criminal courts (ie, not just employment tribunals) must examine the facts that establish employment relationships and interpret employment contracts where said facts are disputed.
The Protection of Paternity Law provides paternity leave only to men who are married to their child's mother before the child's birth or adoption. The House of Representatives recently tried to address this oversight by introducing an amending law, under which all fathers would be entitled to paid paternity leave regardless of their marital status. However, these changes have yet to come into force because the president referred the amending laws to the Supreme Court, claiming that they are unconstitutional.
The Industrial Disputes Tribunal recently issued a decision regarding a person working for the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) under a series of fixed-term contracts, some of which were referred to as contracts of employment and others as contracts for services. The tribunal ruled that, even when working under an alleged contract for services, the applicant was a CTO employee working under a genuine contract of employment.
The European Court of Justice recently ruled that EU member states must require employers to establish an objective, reliable and accessible system for measuring their employees' daily working times. Without such a system, the hours and overtime actually worked cannot be reliably measured and employees' ability to enforce their rights cannot be guaranteed.
With respect to employers with a multi-jurisdictional presence in the European Union, where a dispute arises between them and an employee concerning the law applicable to cross-border employment contracts, it is first necessary to assess whether the objectively applicable law was deviated from by way of a choice-of-law clause. If so, it is then necessary to determine whether this affects the objectively applicable law's mandatory provisions and whether these are more favourable to the employee than the law chosen.
In employment contracts with a cross-border reach, it is always necessary to determine the objective law to which the contract is to be subject and to what extent this may be deviated from by way of a choice-of-law clause. While the primary deciding factor in this context is the place in which employees generally perform their work, a number of problems may be encountered when determining where this is.
Foreign companies planning to transfer local business units to a domestic company must first resolve a number of issues. Since the cross-border spin-off is currently not regarded as a feasible option, the transfer of assets and liabilities must be effected by way of an asset deal. In Europe, this generally triggers a business transfer under local law whereby the employment contracts of the staff within the unit in question are transferred to the domestic company.
Many international companies run their domestic operations via a branch of a foreign parent, rather than a locally established company. While cross-border spin-offs are theoretically permitted under European law, they do not represent a feasible option due to inadequate domestic regulations. Whether such reorganisations will affect workers' employment status and works councils' co-determination rights, particularly following a change in operations, must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
The so-called 'Macron ordinances' overhauled the Labour Code in September 2017. One of the main effects was the introduction of a schedule of damages in French labour law, whereby a judge can award damages for unfair dismissal only within certain limitations depending on the employee's seniority. While some lower courts have applied the new law, an increasing number of courts are challenging it on the basis that it would be contrary to international law.
While French employment law has a reputation for being strict, judges have only recently been faced with the challenge of determining whether individuals who work for digital platforms are employees of said platforms or self-employed. As France has been somewhat reluctant to address the employment status of digital platform workers and has issued only a few pieces of legislation in this regard, recent decisions on platform workers' employment status have garnered significant interest.
In recent years, the Court of Cassation and the courts of appeal have ruled in several cases relating to inappropriate or offensive Facebook comments made by employees against their colleagues, managers or employers. However, an analysis of the rulings shows that the courts remain hesitant to establish a legal framework to govern the various, fast-changing facets of this particular social network.
The Modernisation of the Labour Market Act recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. The act introduced a legal procedure for terminating employment contracts by mutual agreement that has proven successful over time. No fewer than 36,600 mutual termination agreements were signed in May 2018 alone, an increase of more than 5.5% compared to the previous month. However, despite their relative simplicity and flexibility, mutual termination agreements are far from perfect.
The new majority in Parliament has announced, and in some cases already enacted, many changes. Among them, those dealing with employees' representatives are important, as they reshape a significant part of the Labour Code. While these changes are not expected to radically alter industrial relations in the workplace immediately, some of the major modifications and their general characteristics are worth highlighting.