Photo of Jordan Kirkness

Jordan Kirkness is a partner in our North America Employment & Compensation Law Practice Group. Advising and representing employers in all areas of labour, employment and compensation law, Jordan has a broad range of experience in both public and private sectors, including union and non-union workplaces. In every matter, Jordan works hard to understand each client’s individual needs, and provides tailored, strategic and pragmatic advice to assist clients in identifying the best legal solution.

The Supreme Court of Canada’s recent decision in Fraser v. Canada (Attorney General), 2020 SCC 28 (“Fraser“) raises fundamental questions about how allegations of discrimination under human rights legislation and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Charter“) will be adjudicated in the future. At a minimum, employers should carefully review distinctions drawn under workplace policies, practices, and benefits plans—particularly distinctions between full-time employees, part-time employees, and employees on a leave of absence—to ensure those distinctions do not disproportionally impact women with children.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Revisits Workplace Discrimination in the Context of Pension Service Buy-Back

Earlier this summer, several Ontario municipalities established bylaws requiring businesses to ensure masks or face coverings are worn by the public in enclosed public spaces (see our earlier article here). On October 3, 2020, the Ontario government amended the Rules for Areas in Stage 3, O Reg 364/20 (the “amended regulation”), establishing similar requirements for most Ontario businesses, summarized below.

Who Must Wear Masks or Face Coverings?

Generally speaking, businesses and organizations must ensure that anyone located in an indoor area within their premises, or within a vehicle that is operating as part of the business or organization, wears a mask that covers their mouth, nose, and chin.


Continue Reading Ontario Amends Mask and Face Covering Requirements for Businesses

The Ontario Government now requires most Ontario businesses and organizations to implement a workplace screening tool that requires staff members and essential visitors to complete a medical questionnaire before entering the workplace each day. This new requirement is established under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 and became effective on September 26, 2020.
Continue Reading New COVID-19 Workplace Screening Requirements for Ontario Businesses

On July 17, 2020, the federal government announced that it would extend the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program (“CEWS”) until December of 2020, and proposed several significant changes that will, among other things, allow more employers to access subsidies.

On July 20, 2020, the federal government introduced Bill C-20, An Act respecting further COVID-19 measures, to extend and adapt the CEWS program. On July 21, 2020, Bill C-20 received its third reading, and is expected to receive royal assent very soon. If passed, Bill C-20 will retroactively impact the CEWS program, generally commencing with the fifth qualifying period which commenced on July 5, 2020 (subject to a “safe harbour” discussed below).
Continue Reading Federal Government Extends & Amends Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy Program

Starting July 7, 2020, the City of Toronto will require businesses to ensure masks or face coverings are worn by the public in their enclosed public spaces.

Key Takeaways
  • The City of Toronto’s bylaw will come into force on July 7, 2020. It is currently set to expire on or about October 1, 2020, but may be extended.
  • The new bylaw will generally apply to all indoor spaces within the City of Toronto that are openly accessible to the public. The bylaw will not require individuals to wear masks or face coverings in workplaces that are not openly accessible to the public will not be required.
  • A list of public spaces exempted from the bylaw can be found here: https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-what-you-should-do/covid-19-orders-directives-by-laws/mandatory-mask-or-face-covering-bylaw/
  • Under the bylaw, there are exceptions for individuals who are unable to wear a mask or face covering for medical reasons, and for children under two years old. There are further exceptions for individuals who are, for example, eating a meal or engaging in athletic or fitness activity.


Continue Reading Many Municipalities Make Masks Mandatory

As of January 1, 2021, the new stand-alone Work Place Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations (the “Regulations”) will come into force to ensure employers prevent harassment and violence in federally regulated industries and workplaces. The Regulations will apply to all federal work places covered under Part II of the Canada Labour Code (the Code), including the federally regulated private sector, the federal public service and parliamentary work places. It will replace Part XX (violence prevention) of the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (COHSR), as well as portions of two other regulations that include violence prevention provisions.

Key Takeaways

Once the Regulations come into force, employers must:

  1. Prepare the workplace harassment and violence prevention policy working jointly with the policy committee, the workplace committee, or the health and safety representative;
  2. Assess the risk of workplace harassment and violence;
  3. Inform and train employees, and participate in training themselves;
  4. When an incident of harassment or violence is reported, respond within seven days;
  5. Keep records on every incident of harassment and violence in the workplace and report annually to the Labour Program; and
  6. Implement corrective measures in response to the investigation report of an investigator to prevent future occurrences of harassment and violence.


Continue Reading New Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Regime for Federally Regulated Employers

If you are an Ontario employer who has implemented, or is considering implementing, temporary layoffs, wage reductions, or hours of work reductions, the Ontario Government’s recent changes will matter to you.

On May 29, 2020, the Ontario Government filed a new regulation changing the rules regarding employee eligibility for infectious disease emergency leave, temporary layoffs and constructive dismissals under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the “ESA”), with retroactive effect.

Below is a summary of the most important aspects of this new regulation and why the changes will matter to your workplace and employees.

How Long Do These Changes Last?

The regulation applies retroactively, dealing primarily with the time period beginning March 1, 2020 and ending six weeks after the declared emergency ends. The Government has called this the “COVID-19 Period”. The Government recently extended the current declared emergency until June 30, meaning the regulation will be operative until at least August 11, 2020. A further extension to the declared emergency is possible, and this would automatically extend the life of the new regulation.


Continue Reading Ontario Files New ESA Regulation Affecting COVID-19-Related Leaves, Temporary Layoffs & Constructive Dismissals

On May 15, 2020, the Government of Canada announced that the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (“CEWS”) will be extended for an additional 12-week period to August 29, 2020. At the same time, the government announced retroactive regulatory changes, and legislative proposals expected to come into force at a later date. These changes were introduced in an effort to promote employment and stimulate economic recovery as restrictions are gradually lifted across Canada.

Immediate Changes to CEWS Eligibility:

The government introduced a series of regulations extending eligibility for the CEWS to the following categories of employers:

  • Partnerships with one or more non-eligible members will be eligible so long as non-eligible entity partners control a minority of the partnership’s interests at fair market value during the qualifying period;
  • Indigenous government-owned corporations that are carrying on a business and are tax-exempt under paragraph 149(1)(d.5) of the Income Tax Act, their wholly-owned subsidiaries that are carrying on a business and are tax-exempt under paragraph 149(1)(d.6) of the Income Tax Act, as well as partnerships where the partners are members of Indigenous governments and eligible employers;
  • Non-public education and training institutions, including for-profit and non-profit private colleges, schools, and institutions (i.e., arts schools, language schools, driving schools, flight schools and culinary schools);
  • National-level Registered Canadian Amateur Athletic Associations that are tax-exempt under paragraph 149(1)(g) of the Income Tax Act; and
  • Registered Journalism Organizations that are tax-exempt under paragraph 149(1)(h) of the Income Tax Act.


Continue Reading Federal Government Extends the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy

As Ontario prepares to reopen the economy, the province is providing employers with safety guidelines to protect workers, customers, and the general public from COVID-19. The guidelines provide practical recommendations so that employers reopen in a safe and responsible way.
Continue Reading Ontario Releases Safety Guidelines for Reopening to Protect Public from COVID-19