On May 20, 2021, the government of British Columbia passed Bill 13, Employment Standards Amendment Act (No. 2), 2021, which amends the Employment Standards Act, 1996 to provide employees with three days of paid sick leave for reasons related to COVID-19, as well as a permanent paid sick leave for any illness or injury.
Human Rights & Accommodation
Supreme Court Revisits Workplace Discrimination in the Context of Pension Service Buy-Back
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.
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Update on COVID-19: Impact on the Workplace in Ontario
Ontario Government Declares State of Emergency
The Government of Ontario declared a province-wide state of emergency in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. This will impact employers and employees.
The government ordered the closure of all facilities with recreational programs, public libraries, private schools as defined in the Education Act, licensed child care centres, movie and performance theatres, concert venues and bars and restaurants. Bars and restaurants that offer take out or delivery services can remain open for that purpose.
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COVID-19 Checklist for Canadian Employers
The spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus — the virus responsible for COVID-19 — is now anticipated to reach pandemic levels. Officials from the Public Health Agency of Canada reiterate that the risk of a mass outbreak in Canada remains low, but have encouraged and enforced precautionary measures.
Employers should continue to be vigilant in ensuring a safe and healthy workplace. In addition to our previous client alert, employers should be mindful of the following checklist:
1. Appoint one or more coordinators who will be responsible for tracking and communicating the latest developments of COVID-19. The coordinator(s) should have the authority to make or advise on emergency decisions such as office closures and meeting cancellations.
- According to the size of the employer’s organization, a cross-functional team may be necessary with designated individuals to handle issues such as employee health and safety, medical/personal leaves and accommodations, communications, and compliance.
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The Coronavirus: How Ontario Employers Can Prepare
With the spread of the novel 2019 coronavirus, employers may face significant disruptions in the workplace.
As of January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. Officials from the Public Health Agency of Canada have stated that the risk of a major outbreak in Canada remains low, but has encouraged extra precautionary measures. Two cases in Ontario, and one in British Columbia have been confirmed.
Employers should be aware of the legal framework within which they can prepare, manage, and address developments caused by the spread of this virus.
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Top 10 Canadian Labour & Employment Law Developments of 2019
To ring in the New Year, we highlight the ten most significant developments in Canadian labour and employment law in 2019.
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Less Benefits for Less Work is Not Discrimination – Reaffirmed by Divisional Court
In City of Toronto v. CUPE, Local 79, the Ontario Divisional Court reaffirmed that employers may provide less compensation to an employee who works reduced hours due to a disability without violating the Human Rights Code (“Code”). In this case, the employer discontinued its past practice of permitting employees working part-time hours to remain in the full-time bargaining unit. The change meant that the grievor, who worked part-time hours as an accommodation for his disabilities, suffered a reduction in his benefit entitlements. The Court held that the reduction to the grievor’s benefit entitlements was not discriminatory under the Code.
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The Verdict is In: Ontario Court of Appeal Finds No Tort of Harassment (Yet)
As we reported in our earlier post, in Merrifield v The Attorney General, 2017 ONSC 1333, the Ontario Superior Court allowed an employee’s claim against his employer and two superiors for the “tort of harassment” and awarded significant damages against the defendants as a consequence. In its decision released today, the Ontario Court of Appeal (“ONCA”) held that there is currently no independent tort of harassment in Ontario, overturning the lower court’s decision. However, the ONCA did not rule out “the development of a properly conceived tort of harassment” that may apply in appropriate contexts.
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Not Just South of the Border: Canadian Employers Should Expect More Gender-Based Disputes
The #MeToo and Times Up movements have led to significant cultural shifts and a collective call to action to end sexual harassment and related forms of exploitation. Since many of the high profile allegations involved abuse of power and quid pro quo demands in the context of employment relationships, the impact on employers has been profound.
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Salary History Bans Sweep The US, While Most Global Efforts To Close The Gap Target Transparency
To mark International Women’s Day, we’re pleased to share an article from our US colleagues on recent efforts to close the gender pay gap, including salary history bans in the US and global efforts toward transparency reporting. The article, authored by Todd Boyer, Caroline Burnett and Elizabeth Ebersole, can be accessed here.