Good news for employers! The Alberta Court of Appeal recently upheld a termination resulting from the violation of its workplace drug policy. The decision in Stewart v Elk Valley Coal Corporation demonstrates the effectiveness of a well-sculpted company drug policy in justifying termination decisions, particularly in the context of human rights obligations relating to the duty to accommodate addictions. In this case, the court appreciated that the employer went to great lengths to a) demonstrate the reasonableness of its policies and b) tie each policy back to the overarching goal of promoting safety in the workplace. This case should prompt a review of workplace drug and alcohol policies to ensure alignment with the court’s guidance.
Continue Reading Terminations For Contraventions of the Employer’s Drug Policy – Who Knew?!

In 2005, the Government of Ontario enacted the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (“AODA”), which sets out a framework for developing province-wide standards on accessibility. To date, two sets of standards have been created under AODA: (1) the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service (the “Customer Service Standards”); and (2) the Integrated Accessibility Standards.

Most organizations have already complied with the AODA Customer Service Standards. A number of new deadlines related to the Integrated Accessibility Standards are fast approaching, including reporting deadlines on December 31st. The Integrated Accessibility Standards cover such things as employment, communication, transportation and public spaces. Some of the standards and accompanying deadlines are applicable to organizations of a particular size, while others relate to specific business activities or services.
Continue Reading Deadlines Looming to Comply with Accessibility Standards

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”

Since 2007 there have been five significant overtime class action cases in Canada.  Two of these cases have been labelled “off-the-clock” cases — cases in which employees allege they were expected to work overtime without being paid for it.  Both off-the-clock class actions were eventually certified.  One of those cases has now settled.

The remaining three overtime class actions are “misclassification” cases in which employees allege that their employer misclassified them as exempt from statutory overtime entitlements.  Courts have been more reluctant to certify the misclassification cases because, in a majority of those cases, the proposed plaintiff class has not been sufficiently similar to justify a class action proceeding.

The Ontario Court of Appeal’s recent decision in Brown v. Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce confirms the prevailing view that employers are most vulnerable to issues that arise when their employees’ hours are not properly monitored, recorded, enforced or compensated.  Employers continue to be liable to individual employees for misclassifying them as “overtime exempt”, but it is less likely that such misclassifications will give rise to the added liability that is associated with a class action.
Continue Reading Ontario Court of Appeal Refuses to Certify Another “Misclassification” Overtime Class Action

In Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, Local 30 v. Irving Pulp & Paper, Ltd., 2013 SCC 34 [“Irving”], the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) issued a landmark decision concerning workplace drug and alcohol testing. Irving strikes a new balance between the competing interests of employee privacy and workplace safety.
Continue Reading Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing: Current Best Practices