In the recent decision of Covenoho v. Pendylum Ltd., 2017 ONCA 284, the Ontario Court of Appeal put an end to any debate about the enforceability of termination provisions in employment agreements that may violate minimum employment standards legislation in the future. The takeaway for employers from the case is as simple as it is noteworthy: a termination provision that breaches minimum employment standards legislation in the future – even if compliant at the time of the employee’s termination from employment – is void and therefore will not be enforced. Continue Reading Into the Void: Potential Future Violations of ESA Sufficient to Set Aside Employment Contract

Recently, we discussed employees’ attempts to obtain health plan coverage for medical marijuana (you can find the post here). In the midst of speculation surrounding the Federal government’s soon-to-be-released legislation on recreational marijuana use, one Canadian employer has announced that it will cover prescription cannabis under its employee health benefits plan. Loblaws has taken the lead in this area and will now accept claims from its employees for marijuana prescriptions. Continue Reading “Puff, Puff…. Give” — Employees Can Now Claim Benefit Coverage for Medical Marijuana

In a recent decision, Merritt v. Tigercat Industries, 2016 ONSC 1214, an Ontario court held that the employer did not have sufficient cause for dismissing an employee on the basis of his pending criminal charges and allegations by another employee of potentially related conduct, where the employer had failed to carry out a proper investigation into the matter. This case underscores the need to carry out an appropriate investigation before determining that termination, or any form of disciplinary action, is merited.

The case also brings clarity to the issue of whether an employee can refuse to answer questions in a workplace investigation that pertain to criminal charges brought against him. Continue Reading The Right to Remain Silent: Employer Mishandles Workplace Investigation (and Pays for It!)

Does the workplace extend into cyberspace?  In a precedent setting decision with potentially far-reaching implications, a labour arbitrator has found an employer liable for failing to protect its workers from harassment and discrimination in customer posts on the employer’s Twitter account (Toronto Transit Commission and ATU, Local 113, 2016 CarswellOnt 10550).  Employers using social media to communicate with clients, customers or the general public may need to rethink how to they respond to uncivil, abusive or threatening online posts targeting their workers. Continue Reading Are Employers Responsible for Protecting Their Employees on Social Media? “Yes” According to a Recent Decision

Catch ’em all!  Pokémon Go is a mobile game that uses “augmented” reality to create a virtual scavenger hunt.  In the quest to catch ’em all, over 15 million people have downloaded the Pokémon Go game since its recent release.  Employers have grappled with employees’ personal use of electronic devices during work hours since gaming fads such as Candy Crush and Draw Something were released.  However, beyond creating a simple distraction in the workplace, the explosion of Pokémon Go subjects employers to potentially costly risks, including worker safety issues, lost productivity, data breach possibilities, and misuse of company resources. Continue Reading Pokémon Whoa – Reality Game App Creates Unprecedented Risks for Employers

Our U.S. colleagues recently wrote a great piece about the long-awaited and much-debated decision of the National Labour Relations Board (the “NLRB”) in Browning-Ferris Industries of California, 362 NLRB No. 186,  (“Browning-Ferris”) which has dramatically changed the concept of “joint employment” south of the border.  U.S. employers who – on the basis of 30 years of NLRB precedent – have operated on the basis that workers supplied by temporary staffing agencies were not their employees should take heed.  The rules have changed and employers will need to adapt.  Readers who want a purely U.S. analysis of this landmark case can link to it here. Continue Reading Meet the New Boss…. Same as the Old Boss? Temporary Workers and Joint Employment in the U.S. and Canada

On June 30, 2015, the Canadian federal government passed a law (“Bill C-377”) requiring unions to publically disclose sensitive financial information within six months of their year-end.  The information will be published on the internet by the Minister of National Revenue.

Unless this law is repealed, it will come into force on December 30, 2015.  Unions who fail to comply may be fined $1,000 per day of non-compliance, up to a maximum of $25,000. Continue Reading Union Financial Information to be Published Annually on the Internet

A recent New York Times article about the workplace culture at Amazon has spurred increased debate about the value of so-called “purposeful Darwinism”, in which competitive pressures (both internal and external to the workplace) and grand ambitions foster a cut-throat and gruelling workplace environment that leaves employees struggling to keep up or out in the cold.

Being at the top of any field, some would argue, demands this type of attitude and requires employees and managers who settle for nothing less than the best. When a company operates in a fast-paced, high-stakes industry that rewards continual improvement, hyper-efficiency, precision, and immediate satisfaction, there may be very little room for either error or rest. In exchange for a few years of catering to extraordinary expectations, employees receive above-marker compensation, responsibility, and experience that they might not gain in a less exacting workplace. This assumes, of course, that employees have the option of moving up or moving on, which is often more true for white-collar employees than blue-collar ones.

On the other hand, some companies appear to have achieved remarkable growth while maintaining a positive space for employee engagement and encouraging a more even work/life balance – on the whole, even if not day-to-day. For these companies, corporate sustainability extends beyond ensuring a healthy profit margin and minimal carbon footprint. Rather, it also involves ensuring that key talent can be attracted, encouraged, and maintained and that the diversity of the workforce is harnessed and propelled into innovative ideas and approaches. This attitude towards employee relations may require sacrificing short-term gains for potentially long-term viability – a cost that some employers, particularly those with demanding shareholders, may be unwilling or unable to pay. Continue Reading Workplace Tug-of-War: Balancing Employee Demands with Employer Expectations

We rarely think about emergencies before they arrive on our doorstep. Yet, the recent civil unrest in Baltimore has presented another eye-opening reminder that no one can predict how or when an emergency might strike. While it might come as a fire or a flood – rather than a riot – it’s clear that when an unexpected crisis arises, it may take a toll on business. But don’t panic. Remain calm. There is one helpful thing that every employer can do; have a plan.

Few people can think clearly and logically during a crisis, so it is important to prepare thoroughly in advance. While no amount of preparation can eliminate all the risks, careful and meticulous planning will undoubtedly limit the costs of inevitable emergencies, save money in the long run and help get the business back to prospering. Continue Reading Before Disaster Strikes: Planning for the Worst Instead of Hoping for the Best

Most employers are familiar with the prohibitions against discrimination that exist in human rights legislation throughout Canada.  At the centre of the legislative web are protections for employees with disabilities which includes the right to equal treatment in employment.

But what about employees who do not suffer from disabling conditions and are simply predisposed to serious, or life-threatening, conditions? Where do they fit into the legal framework? What protections, if any, do they have in the workplace? What rights, if any, do employers have to know about their genetic vulnerabilities? In short, how do genetic markers and family medical history impact the employment relationship?

These are questions that our human rights laws will be forced to grapple with, and the outcome of ongoing debate about “genetic discrimination” is likely to impact employers across the country. While hard and fast answers for are not yet entirely clear, employers should be aware of the differing viewpoints and potential ramifications. Continue Reading It’s All in the Genes: Genetic Discrimination in the Canadian Workplace