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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.

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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On July 27, 2016, an Ontario court certified a class action against Just Energy, a natural gas and electricity retailer, in which 7,000 of its sales agents claimed they were misclassified as independent contractors.

The case, Omarali v. Just Energy, is the first of its kind to be certified in Canada. If the sales agents are successful, the company could face large liabilities relating to unpaid wages (including overtime, vacation and public holiday pay) and unremitted income taxes and other required deductions.
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Starting June 10, 2016, Ontario employees have increased protection regarding the tips and gratuities left by customers. As we discussed in a previous post, Bill 12 amends the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”) to prohibit employers from withholding, making deductions from, or collecting tips or other gratuities from employees, unless authorized to do so under the ESA.
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