employment standards legislation

To wrap up 2023, we have highlighted the key developments in Canadian labour and employment law, with a focus on Ontario.

1. Ontario’s Working for Workers Acts

In 2023, the Ontario government continued building on previous legislation by passing Bill 79, Working for Workers Act, 2023, and introducing Bill 149, Working for Workers Four Act, 2023. These two bills are the latest in a series of legislative changes expanding employee rights which started with Bill 27 and Bill 88, passed in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

Bill 79, Working for Workers Act, 2023, received royal assent on October 26, 2023. Some of its key changes include:

  • The inclusion of remote employees in the head count for mass termination thresholds under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA“);
  • An increase from $1.5 million to $2 million in the maximum fine that may be imposed on a corporation under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act; and
  • An expansion of eligibility criteria for reservist leave to include employees in treatment, recovery or rehabilitation for an illness or injury resulting from participation in certain reservist operations or activities.

Please consult our previous blog post for more detailed information on this Bill.

If passed, Bill 149, Working for Workers Four Act, 2023, which carried second reading on November 23, 2023 and was referred to a standing committee on social policy, would also introduce significant changes to a number of Ontario employment-related statutes. Among them, the Bill would require employers to disclose pay information in job postings (i.e., expected compensation or a range of expected compensation), and whether they use artificial intelligence in the hiring process. Additionally, and in an effort to eliminate discriminatory requirements towards immigrants, employers would also be prohibited from requiring Canadian experience. For more information on these changes, please read our previous blog post on the topic. 

2. Legislative Push for Pay Transparency in Canada

The past year has also seen a growing pay transparency trend, both in Canada and abroad, intended to help bridge the pay gap for historically-disadvantaged groups. Among the latest developments in this area, British Columbia passed the Pay Transparency Act, creating new obligations for employers to disclose certain pay information in publicly-advertised job postings, and to prepare annual pay transparency reports if they qualify as a “reporting employer” under the legislation. This new law also prohibits reprisal against employees for discussing or inquiring about their pay or for asking the employer to comply with its statutory pay transparency obligations.

Other provinces, including Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island have passed similar legislation. We covered this pay transparency trend in greater detail in two blog posts, accessible here and here. Ontario is also expected to amend the ESA to require the disclosure of certain pay information in job postings as part of Bill 179, as discussed above.  

3. New Tort of Harassment

Alberta recently became the first Canadian province to recognize the tort of harassment. The development is significant because it departs from Ontario and British Columbia, which have declined to recognize the tort.

In Alberta Health Services v Johnston2023 ABKB 209, the Alberta Court of King’s Bench recognized the tort of harassment because the harm in question could not be adequately addressed by any existing torts.  In this case, Alberta Health Services (“AHS”) and two of its senior employees sued Mr. Johnston for defamation, invasion of privacy, assault and harassment. Mr. Johnston, an online talk show host and mayoral candidate, used his talk show to frequently criticize the AHS’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He referred to the AHS as Nazis and suggested that they should be subject to violent attacks. He targeted one AHS employee, Ms. Nunn, by sharing photos from her social media accounts, attacking her family and alleging she was an alcoholic.

The Court awarded Ms. Nunn, among other things, $100,000 in general damages for harassment.

In recognizing the tort, Justice Feasby canvassed existing case law across the country and found that no existing torts squarely addressed the harms caused by the harassment in question. Justice Feasby determined the tort of harassment exists where a defendant has:

  1. Engaged in repeated communications, threats, insults, stalking, or other harassing behaviour in person or through other means;
  2. That he/she knew or ought to have known was unwelcome;
  3. Which impugn the dignity of the plaintiff, would cause a reasonable person to fear for his/her safety or the safety of his/her loved ones, or could foreseeably cause emotional distress; and
  4. Caused harm.

Besides the tort of harassment, other legal avenues that victims of harassment-related claims may pursue include human rights claims, occupational health and safety claims, a complaint with the police and, in Nova Scotia, an application for a cyber-protection order.

Employers should be aware of the legal remedies that may be available to victims of bullying and harassment, including the newly recognized tort of harassment in Alberta. More information can be found on our blog post here.Continue Reading Top Canadian Labour & Employment Law Developments of 2023

To wrap up 2021, we have highlighted key developments in Canadian labour and employment law, with a focus on Ontario:

  1. Bill 27 – Working for Workers Act: On December 2, 2021, the Ontario government passed the Working for Workers Act, 2021 (the “Act“), which introduces significant changes to Ontario’s employment law, including:
    • A Right to Disconnect from Work Policies: Employers subject to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the “ESA“) with 25 or more employees must have a written policy which outlines employees’ right to disconnect from work. The term “disconnecting from work” means not engaging in work-related communications (e.g. emails, calls) and not sending or reviewing any messages, so that employees are free from the performance of work outside of normal working hours. Employers have six months from December 3, 2021 to implement the policy.
    • No Non-Compete Agreements: Employers subject to the ESA are prohibited from entering into non-compete agreements with employees. Non-compete agreements are those that prohibit the employee from working for or running a competitive business after the employment relationship has ended.

There is an exception to the prohibition on non-competition agreements in the event of a sale or lease of a business and for executive-level employees.

This amendment to the ESA is deemed to be in force as of October 25, 2021, and all non-compete agreements entered into before this date will remain unaffected. Non-solicitation, confidentiality, and assignment of intellectual property agreements are still permissible.

The Act brings about a number of additional changes that will be relevant for employers, which are fully summarized here.Continue Reading Top 10 Canadian Labour & Employment Law Developments of 2021

Overtime class actions are in the headlines again. On February 22, 2019, a class action claim seeking damages of over $100 million was filed against Flight Centre, an Australia-based travel services provider with stores in Canada and internationally. The claim alleges that Flight Centre systematically failed to pay overtime to its retail sales employees, referred to as “travel consultants”, requiring them to consistently work more than their scheduled hours, and implemented policies that fail to comply with the overtime entitlements under employment standards legislation.
Continue Reading Back in Class: Overtime Pay Class Action Brought Against Global Travel Retailer