Occupational Health & Safety

To navigate the most-pressing issues facing multinational employers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the COVID-19 Global Employer Guide offers jurisdiction-specific guidance across 41 countries.

Download the Guide now to read the latest employment law guidance on issues including: legal requirements, practical and operational considerations, and emerging government regulation related to the outbreak.

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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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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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Forty percent of Canadian workers experience bullying on a weekly basis. Moreover, 7% of adult internet users in Canada self-reported experiencing cyberbullying at some point in their life. The most common form of cyberbullying involves receiving threatening or aggressive emails or instant messages.[1]
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Recent arbitration decisions confirm that conduct amounting to harassment or bullying will not be tolerated in unionized workplaces and that an appropriate investigation needs to be carried out in response to a complaint. The approach is consistent with decisions concerning harassment in non-union workplaces, increased legislative protections for workers and a changed social climate brought on by the #MeToo movement.
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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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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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To ring in the New Year, we highlight the ten most significant developments in Canadian labour and employment law in 2018.
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One of the clearest messages from the #MeToo movement has been that sexual harassers need to be held accountable for their actions. This message has resonated with employers and most now appreciate that they need to promptly investigate and appropriately address misconduct once they become aware of it. But employer obligations extend beyond remedial action and include, in Ontario and other jurisdictions, implementing preventative policies and educating employees on the policies.

However, a new US research report indicates that policies aren’t enough and employers need to pay attention to certain warning signs in the workplace to effectively stem sexual harassment. The report’s authors contend that organizational climate is the greatest determinant of sexual harassment occurring in a workplace. In fact, corporate culture can either encourage or discourage an employee to harass, according to the authors.
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