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Jennifer Bernardo has a broad trial and appellate advocacy practice, with a focus on labour, employment, and administrative law. She has acted as lead counsel in grievance arbitrations, administrative proceedings, and trials, and has served as junior counsel on judicial reviews, corporate/commercial trials and appeals, class actions, and complex labour and employment hearings and appeals. In addition to her litigation practice, Jennifer advises clients on contentious and non-contentious workplace issues, such as employment standards requirements, workplace accommodation, discrimination and harassment, collective bargaining and labour relations, and reductions in force, as well as issues relating to international labour and human rights standards, corporate compliance and risk management, and internal investigations.

This is an update to our recent blog post summarizing the measures the federal government has implemented to assist Canadian employers and employees. You can find the first part of our post here.

On March 24, 2020, Canada passed Bill C-13. It introduces and implements measures by the federal government to provide financial assistance to employers and employees across the country.
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Today, after an official announcement that Canada and the United States have restricted all non-essential travel between the countries, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Finance Bill Morneau also announced a variety of measures intended to economically assist Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Below is a summary of the employment-related measures that have been confirmed so far. This is a rapidly evolving situation and we anticipate further changes and clarifications in the coming days. We are monitoring the situation closely, and will continue to communicate updates as soon as they become available.
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The Supreme Court of Canada will decide if an employee is entitled to payments owed in the event of a corporate acquisition despite the fact that the employee resigned over a year before the triggering event. On January 31, 2019, the SCC granted leave to appeal in Matthews v. Ocean Nutrition Canada Limited. The employee asserts that he is entitled to over $1 million in profits following the acquisition of his former employer – even though he had resigned 13 months before the transaction. If the SCC decides in the employee’s favour, employers may face more challenges (and increased litigation) when seeking to enforce limiting clauses in employment agreements.
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A recent decision of the Alberta Court of Appeal adds further confusion to the issue of the enforceability of termination clauses. In Holm v AGAT Laboratories Ltd, 2018 ABCA 23 (“Holm“), the Alberta Court of Appeal (“Court”) held that explicit language must be included in a termination clause to oust an employee’s common law rights.
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The Ontario Court of Appeal just released another decision on the interpretation and enforceability of termination clauses – the latest chapter in a less-than-clear set of guidelines. Generally speaking, a properly drafted termination clause can be used to limit an employee’s entitlements on dismissal.
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In its recent decision in North v. Metaswitch Networks Corporation, the Ontario Court of Appeal concluded that a severability clause could not be used to “rewrite” or “read down” a termination provision to make it comply with the Employment Standards Act (the “ESA”). Instead, the Court of Appeal held, where any part of a termination clause is void, the entire provision must be struck and the severability clause becomes inoperative. This case is a reminder to employers that there are no shortcuts when it comes to drafting your employment agreements—termination provisions must be carefully drafted to limit termination liability without breaching local employment standards.
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In the recent decision of Humber River Regional Hospital and Ontario Nurses Association (“ONA”) (Cherubino Grievance), an Ontario arbitrator dismissed the union’s grievance alleging harassment by a supervisor and found that neither management duties nor the employer’s internal investigation process should be held to a standard of perfection.
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