supreme court of canada

At common law, employers have a right to terminate an employment relationship, subject to reasonable notice of termination. When an employer breaches this implied duty, employees are entitled damages for wrongful dismissal, which presumptively include damages for lost incentive compensation unless an employer unequivocally ousts that right in an employment agreement or incentive plan. In Matthews v. Ocean Nutrition Canada Limited, the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed that absent “absolutely clear and unambiguous” language in the employment agreement or the incentive plan restricting such entitlement, incentive compensation is considered part of the damages owed in lieu of common law reasonable notice.
Continue Reading SCC Reminds Employers of the Costly Implications of Imprecise Language in Incentive Compensation Plans

On June 26, 2020, the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision in the highly publicized case of Heller v Uber Technologies Inc. The case arises from a Toronto-based UberEATS driver’s effort to bring a $400-million class action against Uber, on behalf of Uber and UberEATS drivers in Ontario. Mr. Heller alleged that Uber violated the Employment Standards Act, 2000 by treating Uber and UberEATS drivers as independent contractors and failing to provide them with employment-related entitlements like minimum wage, vacation, and overtime pay.

The issue before the Court was the validity of an arbitration clause in a standard form service agreement. The agreement was governed by the law of the Netherlands and required drivers to litigate their disputes with Uber in the Netherlands. Uber required all of its prospective drivers to enter into this agreement by having them accept the terms through their app. The Court ruled in favor of the drivers, finding that the arbitration clause was unconscionable because its terms effectively made it effectively impossible for the drivers to arbitrate their claims.

As a result of the decision, the class action can proceed to a certification motion.

Key Takeaways

Employers with arbitration clauses in their employment contracts or independent contractor agreements must revisit their agreements to determine whether they continue to be valid in Canada. Based on the Court’s decision, employers should not have arbitration clauses that require employees to pay substantial upfront fees to initiate the process. Employers should also consider whether they should pay the administration fees required for private arbitration, subject to the company’s right to a refund of those fees if it is successful in arbitration. If employers choose to keep arbitration clauses, they should ensure that in-person hearings remain local.


Continue Reading Supreme Court of Canada Invalidates Uber Arbitration Clause in $400-Million Class Action

In a recent decision, Modern Cleaning Concept Inc. v. Comité paritaire de l’entretien d’édifices publics de la région de Québec, the majority of the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) held that a cleaner who had a franchise agreement with a cleaning company was actually an employee, not an independent contractor. This “employee” determination, however, was in the context of a very particular legislative regime, which applied to the specific franchise relationship. Since the cleaner offered his cleaning services in public buildings, he was covered by a collective agreement, the Decree respecting building service employees in the Quebec region (“Decree”), which sets out minimum standards in the workplace (wages, hours of work, overtime, etc.) and is governed by the Act respecting collective agreement decrees (“Act”). With the scope of its provisions being “public order”, the Decree can apply to any contract where an individual is in a relationship determined to be that of “employee” within the meaning of the Act.
Continue Reading Highest Court Rules Quebec Franchisee Was Employee, Not Independent Contractor, Under Provincial Statute

The Supreme Court of Canada will decide if an employee is entitled to payments owed in the event of a corporate acquisition despite the fact that the employee resigned over a year before the triggering event. On January 31, 2019, the SCC granted leave to appeal in Matthews v. Ocean Nutrition Canada Limited. The employee asserts that he is entitled to over $1 million in profits following the acquisition of his former employer – even though he had resigned 13 months before the transaction. If the SCC decides in the employee’s favour, employers may face more challenges (and increased litigation) when seeking to enforce limiting clauses in employment agreements.
Continue Reading Supreme Court to Decide if Bad Faith Employer Conduct Nullifies Limit on Incentive Compensation

In recent years, Canadian courts have increasingly heard large civil claims against Canadian companies for alleged human rights violations in their foreign operations. As we have discussed previously, judges faced with these claims must determine whether the court’s jurisdictional reach extends to the company’s activities in its global supply chain, thus permitting foreign claimants to pursue their action in Canada.
Continue Reading Rana Plaza Class Action Blocked in Ontario & Nevsun Decision Challenged at Canada’s Highest Court

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) refused the union’s leave application in Suncor Energy Inc v Unifor Local 707A, 2017 ABCA 313 (Suncor ) thereby leaving the Alberta Court of Appeal’s (ABCA) ruling intact. The ABCA had held that evidence of substance-related safety risks across an employer’s workforce (including both union and non-union workers) may be taken into account when assessing the permissibility of random testing of unionized workers.

Suncor  is a favourable result for employers because it is in step with taking a holistic approach to workplace safety. But it is by no means a green light for drug and alcohol testing in the workplace. With the legalization of recreational use of cannabis fast approaching, we outline the current state of the law and key best practices for workplace impairment testing.
Continue Reading Legalization Draws Near, Where are We Now on Employee Testing?

As stories of workplace harassment and discrimination permeate the news and social media accounts, the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) has expanded the scope of provincial human rights legislation to impose liability on co-workers – even when those co-workers have different employers.
Continue Reading Supreme Court of Canada Expands Workplace Discrimination Protection to Cover Non-Employees

The Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) recently ruled that a unilateral contract renewal clause was valid, despite its potential to bind one party perpetually: Uniprix inc. v. Gestion Gosselin et Bérubé inc. The clause afforded sole discretion to the respondents to renew or terminate their contract with Uniprix. The wording of the clause, the nature of the contract and the relationship between the parties were determinative in the majority’s ruling, which upheld the decisions of the Court of Appeal and the Superior Court of Quebec. The SCC’s decision and our key takeaways are outlined below.
Continue Reading SCC Decision Reminds Employers to Draft Termination Clauses with Care

Loblaws, Joe Fresh, Nevsun Resources, Hudbay Minerals, and Tahoe Resources. What do these Canadian companies have in common? They have been targeted in significant lawsuits in Canadian courts for alleged labour and/or human rights violations in their overseas operations or supply chains.

Canadian multinational corporations must take note that our courts are revealing a new willingness to expand their jurisdictional reach in light of modern commercial realities and perceived corporate impunity (see: Chevron Corp. v. Yaiguage, 2015 SCC 42), and they are keeping an open mind as to whether a duty of care exists between Canadian companies and the foreign workers who produce their products (see: Choc v. Hudbay Minerals Inc., 2013 ONSC 1414). This emerging trend in Canada is taking place against the backdrop of hardening and expanding international business and human rights standards and norms.

A key test case for this shift in Canada is the ongoing class action lawsuit against Loblaws and Joe Fresh (the “Loblaws Defendants“), which was launched by Bangladeshi garment workers in response to the well-known 2013 Rana Plaza collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which killed 1,130 workers.


Continue Reading The Rana Plaza Class Action – Is Canada the Next Frontier for Global Human Rights Litigation?

Business is becoming increasingly global as companies establish operations in various countries throughout the world. As profitable as this strategy may be, expansion is not without its difficulties. Where an employer is a subsidiary or branch of a larger foreign corporation, for instance, there may be issues regarding conflicting laws and regulations. For example, where a parent company is expected to abide by one set of laws in the United States, but adherence to those laws may be viewed as discriminatory in Canada, what is the appropriate course of action for a Canadian subsidiary or branch?

On July 23, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) released its decision in Quebec (Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse) v. Bombardier Inc. The case was the SCC’s first opportunity to consider alleged discrimination based on foreign laws.
Continue Reading Acting Locally, Thinking Globally: The Impact of Foreign Laws on Canadian Employers