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Jonathan Cocker heads the Firm’s Environment & Environmental Markets Practice Group in Toronto. Jonathan advises and represents multinational companies on a variety of environment and product regulatory matters, including product content, dangerous goods transportation, regulated wastes, food and drug safety, extended producer responsibilities and contaminated lands matters. As Sustainability Officer of the International Bar Association, Jonathan is spearheading a strategic relationship with the World Business Council Sustainable Development on its Circular Economy Program. Jonathan also leads the Sustainability Working Group of the firm’s Global Consumer Products and Retail Group.

The range of potential sanctions under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act are vast and, on its surface, potentially ominous for even the most minor of OHSA infractions. Companies in non-compliance with a health or safety requirement are seemingly at the mercy of the Ministry as to whether they prosecute (in addition to orders and penalties) and, if so, whether they pursue fines or even (gulp) incarceration.

Whereas the range of fines for various types of breaches and resulting harms are somewhat predictable, the circumstances where a Court will take the extraordinary step of ordering jail time has been somewhat of a black box. The recent decision from the Ontario Court of Appeal, Ontario (Labour) v. New Mex Canada Inc., may have changed this.
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Until recently, about the only workplaces where employers had to worry about noise levels were factories, mines and oil rigs.

That all changed December 9th of last year when Regulation 381/15 was approved. Set to take effect July 1, 2016, the regulation extends noise protection requirements to the following workplaces:

  • farming operations,
  • construction projects,
  • health care facilities,
  • schools,
  • fire services,
  • police services, and
  • amusement parks


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Under British Columbia’s Workers Compensation Act (“Act”) an employer must immediately notify WorkSafeBC of a workplace accident that (among other things):

  • results in serious injury or death to a worker
  • involves a major structural failure or collapse
  • involves the major release of a hazardous substance

When such accidents occur, the scene of the accident must not be disturbed until an investigation has taken place.

At first glance the “reporting requirement” is clear. But in practice it can give rise to uncertainty. For example, if the worksite is not owned by the employer, must the owner report? And who is responsible for reporting incidents when there are multiple employers on a single worksite?
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The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario’s decision to reinstate Sharon Fair almost 10 years after her employment was terminated has been upheld by the Ontario Divisional Court.  This decision may signal an increase in reinstatement orders at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (“HRTO”), and in civil cases involving allegations of discrimination under the Human Rights Code.
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Corporate restructuring often requires an employee to change roles. If that change constitutes a fundamental change to the employee’s employment contract, the employer may become liable to that employee for a constructive dismissal. But how significant must the change be to qualify as a “fundamental change” resulting in constructive dismissal?
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