The Quebec Human Rights Tribunal recently held that student status and the fact that students work during the summer to pay for their studies must be equated to a social condition protected under the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. According to the tribunal, a collective agreement clause that allocates a lower wage to students could constitute discriminatory treatment because it represents a distinction based on two prohibited grounds of discrimination: social condition and age.
Employees in common law provinces who are offered a job in the sale of business context may not necessarily be required to accept or be subject to a maximum common law notice period. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has determined that there is no upper limit on notice periods and that the duty to mitigate does not require employees to accept employment with a purchaser of a business where the offer would significantly affect them going forward.
Since the Supreme Court decision in Machtinger v HOJ Industries Ltd, it has been well established that employers in common law provinces can contractually limit the amount of common law notice or pay in lieu to which an employee may be entitled on termination. However, the case law on drafting such clauses is ever evolving and the courts are wary of enforcing these provisions, except in the clearest cases.
Workplace violence is a serious concern for employees and employers alike. Employees expect safe workplaces and employers have a concomitant duty to ensure their safety. Therefore, it is critical for employers to understand how to minimise workplace violence and respond if it arises. Syncrude's handling of this situation in Belyea v Syncrude Canada Ltd is exemplary and offers key lessons on how to address workplace aggression.
The Canadian workers' compensation system is funded entirely through employer premium payments. Generally, employers which have more claims or claims that have higher associated costs will pay additional monies to their respective compensation board in the form of increased premiums or premium surcharges. As such, employers should establish an effective health and safety management system to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses in the first place and actively manage claims should they occur.
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.