Sunday, 17 April 2016

Disease of Alcoholism Does Not Prevent Discipline

Can an employee suffering from the disease of alcoholism be punished for her behaviour if her disease contributed to the behaviour under review? What if the employee is a police officer?

The issue of alcohol dependency among first responders is an interesting subject. Police officers are people, susceptible to any number of diseases and disabilities. Alcohol dependency has consistently been held to be a “disability” under human rights legislation. Human rights legislation prescribes that employers have a duty to accommodate disabilities, including alcohol dependency, to the point of undue hardship. So therefore, if a police officer has a problem with alcoholism her employer, the police, must accommodate that disability, correct?

In the case of Mansley v. Canada (Attorney General), 2016 FC 389 (CanLII) (released April 7, 2016) the Federal Court was asked to judicially review a decision of the Canadian Human Rights Commission to decline to investigate an allegation of adverse differential treatment by the RCMP on the basis of alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder.

In deciding to upheld the Commission’s decision the Honourable Mr. Justice B. Richard Bell held that the Commission’s decision, based on the findings of any investigation report, met the standard of reasonableness and fell within the range of possible, acceptable outcomes which are defensible in respect of the facts and law. Mr. Justice Bell was also satisfied that the investigator conducted a thorough and neutral analysis based on the various sources of information available to her and there was no bias, apprehension of bias or breach of procedural fairness.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Woman’s Miscarriage a “Disability” says Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario

Is a woman's miscarriage a “disability” under Ontario’s Human Rights Code? Based on the media headlines following a decision by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, Mou v. MHPM Project Leaders, 2016 HRTO 327 (CanLII), most people would now likely answer “yes.” But did the Human Rights Tribunal really just say that suffering a miscarriage can qualify as a “disability” under the Code?

Friday, 8 April 2016

Fixed Term Employment Agreements Just got More Expensive and Dangerous for Employers in Ontario

Is an employee who is employed under a fixed term employment contract, which does not provide for early termination without cause, entitled to payment of the unexpired portion of the contract on early termination of the contract? Is that employee required to mitigate his damages following termination? Those were the question answered by the Court of Appeal for Ontario on April 8, 2016, in the case of Howard v. Benson Group Inc. (The Benson Group Inc.), 2016 ONCA 256 (CanLII).

Writing for a unanimous bench, the Honourable Justice Bradley Miller held that fixed term employment agreements that do not contain a legally enforceable termination provision cannot be terminated by employers simply upon the provision of reasonable notice; the employee is entitled to payment of the unexpired portion of the contract on early termination of the contract. Perhaps of greater consequence was the court’s decision that employees employed pursuant to fixed term employment contracts are not required to mitigate their damages following termination. This is going to cost employers some serious money.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Employers Cannot Contract Out of Liability for Workplace Accidents

Can an employee contractually waive his right to sue his employer if he gets injured as a result of a workplace accident? That is to say, will a waiver signed by an employee actually prevent an employee from suing his employer in negligence?

In a decision released January 26, 2016, by the Court of Appeal for Ontario, Fleming v. Massey, (2016), 128 O.R. (3d) 401, 2016 ONCA 70, the answer was “No, an employee cannot contract out of the right to sue his employer in negligence.”

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Congratulations to the Team from Algonquin College!

On Friday, March 11, and Saturday, March 12, 2016, Durham College hosted its annual Paralegal Mock Cup competition. Students from eight Law Society accredited colleges participated in this two-day competition. The task: Prepare and present a Small Claims Court trial from opening statement to closing argument.

After two days, three trials, and some stiff competition, the students from Algonquin College came out on top. This is the second time Algonquin has won it all in the three years of competition. (Algonquin won in the inaugural competition in 2014, but was eliminated in the semi-finals in 2015.)

As a coincidence, the issue for this year’s trial was whether the plaintiff was fired, whether she was constructively dismissed, or whether she quit. Showing the depth of their talent, Algonquin was able to succeed arguing both sides of the case.

I am proud to say that I had the privilege to once again coach the team, this year primarily on my own. However, the same is not to toot my own horn; the victory truly belongs to the students.

Again, on behalf of myself and all the lawyers at Kelly Santini LLP, we wish to extend our sincere congratulations to these future legal professionals.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

The Curious Case of Damages without Liability

I will start this post by saying that the content of this post will be different from what I usually write. Typically, my posts start with a question, which is then answered by the content. However, this time it is content that leaves me with a question.

On February 5, 2016, the Honourable Justice Timothy D. Ray released his reasons for decision in the case of Muntean v Enablence Canada Inc., 2016 ONSC 923 (CanLII). The “catchwords” for the decision are “lay-off notice — constructive dismissal — treat the lay-off — temporary lay-off — voicemail”. “Cool,” I thought, “a recent, local decision in my practice area. I’ll read this.” So I did.

With much respect to Justice Ray, after reading the decision and discussing it with others I simply cannot make sense of it. I like to fancy myself someone who knows a thing or two about Ontario employment law, but in this case I am simply at a loss.

If someone can explain to me why damages were awarded in this case and for what, I would be most appreciative.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Want to Wrongfully Dismiss an Employee? There’s an App for That!

Can I interest you in an app that will almost invariably get you sued? I doubt it.

It has been my experience as a litigator that few people want to be involved in a lawsuit. It has also been my experience that most people do not want to break the law. Most employers are not interested in either wrongfully dismissing one of their employees or dealing with the fallout once they do. So why would anyone be interested in an app that almost invariably ensures both a wrongful dismissal and a letter from someone like me?

The unfortunate and frustratingly ironic reason that so many employers use an app almost guaranteed to get them sued is that the app is ostensibly designed to do the opposite.

So what app am I talking about? The “Severance Pay Calculator” put out by, of all people, the Ontario Ministry of Labour.