Ontario’s revised regulatory framework for cannabis is now in effect. Bill 36, the Cannabis Statute Law Amendment Act, 2018, received Royal Assent and came into force on October 17, 2018, amending 18 provincial statutes including the Cannabis Act, 2017  (now the Cannabis Control Act, 2017 ) and the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017  (SFOA 2017).

Prior to Bill 36, recreational cannabis and medical cannabis were to be regulated separately, and consuming recreational cannabis in a “workplace” or “public place” (both broadly defined and not limited to enclosed areas) was to be entirely prohibited. Bill 36 effectively eliminates the distinction between recreational cannabis and medical cannabis for the purposes of regulating public consumption (among other things). To help employers adjust to the new reality of legalized cannabis, we outline below key aspects of the new legislation.

What is permitted

Smoking of cannabis, whether recreational or medical, is effectively permitted in locations where tobacco smoking or use of electronic cigarettes is permissible under the SFOA 2017, such as sidewalks, public outdoor spaces, parks, etc.

What is prohibited

The SFOA 2017 expressly prohibits:

  • smoking of cannabis, whether recreational or medical, in enclosed workplaces, enclosed public spaces and designated buildings, subject to certain exemptions for controlled areas in certain residential care facilities, hospices, designated guest rooms in hotels, motels and inns, and scientific research and testing facilities; and
  • consuming cannabis in any manner in a vehicle or boat, whether by the driver or passenger.

The meaning of “enclosed” is defined as any premises covered by a roof. Enclosed workplaces include places or vehicles where employees work or frequent in the course of their employment, even if they aren’t working at the time. Enclosed public spaces are where the public is invited or permitted access. Schools, child care centres, any indoor areas of condominiums and residences, and reserved seating areas of sports and entertainment venues also fall under prohibited areas.

Employer obligations

Employers are required to:

  • ensure that no one smokes or holds lighted tobacco or cannabis, or uses an electronic cigarette, in an enclosed workplace or other area over which the employer exercises control;
  • ensure that anyone who refuses to comply with the smoking prohibition does not remain in the enclosed area;
  • post prescribed signs respecting the smoking prohibition; and
  • remove ashtrays or similar equipment from the enclosed workplace.

Failure to comply with the above requirements may result in a fine of up to $100,000 for a first offence or $300,000 for subsequent offences.

No reprisals

Employers may not dismiss or threaten to dismiss, discipline or suspend, impose any penalty, or intimidate a worker because they are in compliance with, or sought enforcement of the SFOA 2017.

Substance testing

Substance testing policies are not impacted by the new legislation and are only permissible in limited circumstances.

Key takeaways

Employers can continue to expect that employees need to show up sober and ready to perform their duties. However, employers should nonetheless consider whether their workplace policies capture the employer’s expectations with regard to issues such as:

  • employee use of recreational cannabis during and prior to work (and at company-sponsored events); and
  • smoking prohibitions in or around the workplace (and at company-sponsored events).

The employer’s policies will need to clearly define any prohibitions the employer intends to enforce. Such policies need to be drafted as soon as possible, since legalization is now here, and should be reviewed by legal counsel prior to implementation.

  • Many thanks to Shereen Aly for her assistance with this article.

One of the clearest messages from the #MeToo movement has been that sexual harassers need to be held accountable for their actions. This message has resonated with employers and most now appreciate that they need to promptly investigate and appropriately address misconduct once they become aware of it. But employer obligations extend beyond remedial action and include, in Ontario and other jurisdictions, implementing preventative policies and educating employees on the policies.

However, a new US research report indicates that policies aren’t enough and employers need to pay attention to certain warning signs in the workplace to effectively stem sexual harassment. The report’s authors contend that organizational climate is the greatest determinant of sexual harassment occurring in a workplace. In fact, corporate culture can either encourage or discourage an employee to harass, according to the authors. Continue Reading Is Your Workplace Prone to Sexual Harassment? 5 Warning Signs to Watch For

Publicly-traded companies headquartered in California will need to have at least one female director on their board by the end of 2019 under a new law in California. Our colleagues in the Golden State, Susan Eandi and Caroline Burnett, provide details on the new law and initiatives in other jurisdictions to address the gender gap in pay, participation and leadership, see here.

The Ontario government has introduced proposed amendments to the province’s regulatory framework for cannabis. If passed, Bill 36, the Cannabis Statute Law Amendment Act, 2018, will alter the newly-introduced Cannabis Act, 2017  (not yet in force) and other provincial legislation to reflect the current government’s plan for dealing with the legalization of recreational cannabis on October 17, 2018. Continue Reading Legalization is in the Air – Ontario Moves to Amend Previous Government’s Cannabis Legislation

Join us on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 for an interactive seminar in our Whitespace Legal Collab in Toronto. Our talented team will share their perspectives and facilitate an exchange of ideas and best practices on hot button issues including:

  • Ensuring the workplace doesn’t go to pot
  • Bill 148: where are we now?
  • Responding to #MeToo

You’ll also hear from Peter MacKay, Partner, who will share his thoughts on the broader implications and challenges to come with the legalization of recreational cannabis. Peter joined our Firm in 2016 after serving in many senior Federal cabinet positions.

For the event details and to register, please click here.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) refused the union’s leave application in Suncor Energy Inc v Unifor Local 707A, 2017 ABCA 313 (Suncor ) thereby leaving the Alberta Court of Appeal’s (ABCA) ruling intact. The ABCA had held that evidence of substance-related safety risks across an employer’s workforce (including both union and non-union workers) may be taken into account when assessing the permissibility of random testing of unionized workers.

Suncor  is a favourable result for employers because it is in step with taking a holistic approach to workplace safety. But it is by no means a green light for drug and alcohol testing in the workplace. With the legalization of recreational use of cannabis fast approaching, we outline the current state of the law and key best practices for workplace impairment testing. Continue Reading Legalization Draws Near, Where are We Now on Employee Testing?

We’re pleased to share an informative article, “Know the Joint Employer Risks Where You Operate“, authored by our colleagues Will Woods and Emily Harbison. The article outlines key developments in joint employer liability for franchisors operating in Australia, Canada and Mexico and describes a proactive approach to help mitigate against risk. It was published in the September 2018 edition of Franchising World. Follow this link for further information about how we can assist employers in this area.

Ontario universities and publicly-funded colleges are now required to develop and publicly post a free speech policy by January 1, 2019. No Bill has yet been introduced to detail these requirements. However, the government outlined the minimum standard for the policy and related requirements in a communication issued by the Office of the Premier on August 30, 2018. Continue Reading Ontario Moves to Protect Free Speech on Campus: Universities and Colleges Must Develop Free Speech Policy

Recreational cannabis is very much in the spotlight as the date for legalization approaches. Yet issues related to employee use of medical cannabis are still front and centre for many employers, as demonstrated by a pair of recent arbitration decisions: Re IBEW, Local 1620 and Lower Churchill Transmission Construction Employers Assn. Inc. (Uprichard) (2017), 281 LAC (4th) 246 (“Lower Churchill 1”) and Re Lower Churchill Transmission Construction Employers Assn. Inc. and IBEW, Local 1620 (Tizzard) 2018 Carswell Nfld 198 (“Lower Churchill 2”). Continue Reading Inability to Monitor Residual Impairment From Medical Cannabis May Constitute Undue Hardship

On August 2, 2018, the Supreme Court of Canada refused the plaintiff’s leave application in Krishnamoorthy v Olympus Canada Inc, 2017 ONCA 873. As such, the Ontario Court of Appeal’s ruling still stands. The ONCA held that a purchaser of assets of a business is free to offer employment on new terms to employees of the vendor and can rely on the resulting written employment agreement as binding – the employment offer constitutes sufficient consideration for the employee agreeing to the new terms. See here for more information about the case.

Nonetheless employers who seek to add or revise a termination clause should involve legal counsel in drafting the clause since such provisions must still comply with local employment standards legislation to be enforceable.