A recent New York Times article about the workplace culture at Amazon has spurred increased debate about the value of so-called “purposeful Darwinism”, in which competitive pressures (both internal and external to the workplace) and grand ambitions foster a cut-throat and gruelling workplace environment that leaves employees struggling to keep up or out in the cold.

Being at the top of any field, some would argue, demands this type of attitude and requires employees and managers who settle for nothing less than the best. When a company operates in a fast-paced, high-stakes industry that rewards continual improvement, hyper-efficiency, precision, and immediate satisfaction, there may be very little room for either error or rest. In exchange for a few years of catering to extraordinary expectations, employees receive above-marker compensation, responsibility, and experience that they might not gain in a less exacting workplace. This assumes, of course, that employees have the option of moving up or moving on, which is often more true for white-collar employees than blue-collar ones.

On the other hand, some companies appear to have achieved remarkable growth while maintaining a positive space for employee engagement and encouraging a more even work/life balance – on the whole, even if not day-to-day. For these companies, corporate sustainability extends beyond ensuring a healthy profit margin and minimal carbon footprint. Rather, it also involves ensuring that key talent can be attracted, encouraged, and maintained and that the diversity of the workforce is harnessed and propelled into innovative ideas and approaches. This attitude towards employee relations may require sacrificing short-term gains for potentially long-term viability – a cost that some employers, particularly those with demanding shareholders, may be unwilling or unable to pay.
Continue Reading Workplace Tug-of-War: Balancing Employee Demands with Employer Expectations

One of the questions we are commonly asked by non-unionized employers is whether they should use written employment agreements with their employees. While written employment agreements are not a replacement for sound human resources planning or judgment, a well-written agreement, tailored to the specifics of the employment relationship, can be an invaluable component of successfully managing employees throughout the life-cycle of the employment relationship, beginning to end.
Continue Reading Early New Year’s Resolutions: Are You Using Written Employment Agreements With Your Canadian Employees?

On November 14, 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a three sentence decision that has important implications for Canadian employers who provide “top ups” to employees during pregnancy, parental and adoption leave. This case is significant because it suggests that pregnant employees cannot be denied a parental leave benefit simply because they enjoy a “similar” pregnancy leave benefit. In some cases, this may require employers to provide additional benefits to employees who take both pregnancy and parental leave.
Continue Reading Supreme Court of Canada Confirms Pregnant Employees Are Entitled to Two Periods of “Top Up”

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?
Continue Reading Is a Demotion a Constructive Dismissal?