Sunday, 22 March 2015

Ontario Small Claims Court Awards Human Rights and Punitive Damages after New Mom Constructively Dismissed

There is a saying in law that “bad facts make bad law.” Of course, the opposite is also true; good facts make good law. In a clear demonstration of the latter, the case of Bray v Canadian College of Massage and Hydrotherapy, 2015 CanLII 3452 (ON SCSM) demonstrates what happens when experienced counsel appears before an experienced trial judge with some pretty decent facts.

While Bray looked at a number of issues of importance to Ontario employment law, the four most interesting features are:

  1. The judge’s finding that an indefinite layoff is a constructive dismissal;
  2. The judge’s finding that he had no power to award damages for an act of reprisal following a complaint to the Ontario Ministry of Labour;
  3. The judge’s award of human rights damages in an Ontario Small Claims decision; and
  4. The judge’s award of punitive damages for a breach of the duty of honest created by the Supreme Court of Canada in Bhasin v. Hrynew, [2014] S.C.C. 71.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Addicted to Love – Is an Affinity for Internet Pornography a Disability?

In 1986, English rocker Robert Palmer suggested that you might as well face it, you’re addicted to love. What if, however, rather than being addicted to love, one is “addicted” to watching others make love, on the internet, using an employer-provided laptop? Has “addiction” to internet pornography been accepted by a Canadian human rights tribunal as a "disability"?

As an aside, the image above is taken from an advertising campaign for what is touted as the world’s largest online pornography site. More information on the advertising campaign can be found on AdWeek’s website here: AdWeek May 20, 2014, which is obviously safe for work.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Supreme Court of Canada Confirms that There are Two Paths to Constructive Dismissal

Under what set of circumstances can a non-unionized employee claim to have been constructively dismissed?

In a recent decision from the Supreme Court of Canada, Potter v. New Brunswick Legal Aid Services Commission, 2015 SCC 10, Canada's top court confirmed that there are two possible ways by which an employee can be constructively dismissed.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

“Bridging” Employee to Retirement is an Inappropriate Method by which to Calculate Reasonable Notice says ONCA

How are trial judges to calculate the amount of reasonable notice to which a suddenly unemployed employee is entitled? In yet another decision to reinforce the position that the analysis set out in Bardal v Globe and Mail remains the preeminent method by which to calculate the same, Arnone v. Best Theratronics Ltd., 2015 ONCA 63 (CanLII), the Court of Appeal for Ontario disapproved one judge’s approach of calculating the amount of time it would take to ‘bridge’ the employee to an unreduced pension.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Terminations without Cause are not Automatically Unjust: Federal Court of Appeal

In a landmark decision, the Federal Court of Appeal has said that terminations without cause are not automatically “unjust” as defined by the terms of the Canada Labour Code. In “breaking the tie” between competing lines of jurisprudence, the Federal Court of Appeal in Wilson v. Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, 2015 FCA 17 (CanLII) has unequivocally said that the purpose of the “unjust dismissal” provisions of the Canada Labour Code is not to elevate non-unionized employees to the same status as those who are unionized. Put another way, there is no longer any security of employment under the Canada Labour Code. For those employees working in such industries, this is huge.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Hitting the “Target” with Mass Terminations

A lot has already been said about Target’s abrupt decision to close all of its Canadian stores; but one story has dominated headlines more than others: Target’s ‘decision’ to provide its employees with 16 weeks of ‘severance.’ As some employees are discovering, that ‘severance’ is really nothing more than working notice. What is more, the ‘decision’ was pretty much already made for Target as the amount is dictated by Ontario law.

Working through the mechanics of the situation, one can see that Target’s ‘decision’ is hardly as generous as it was first touted.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Making Sense of the Division of Powers in Employment Standards Legislation

The regulation of employment standards in Canada is complicated and confusing. Both the federal and provincial governments have the legal ability to regulate employment, but only within their own, separate spheres of influence. The power is divided; not shared. This division of powers can result in confusion and debate as to exactly which set of laws govern the workplace.

The debate is not wholly academic. For example, in Ontario “Family Day”, being the third Monday in February, is prescribed as a public holiday for the purpose of the definition of “public holiday” in section 1 of the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000. Family Day is a ‘statutory holiday,’ but only for employees whose employment is subject to that statutory law. Not all employees who work in Ontario are subject to the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000; some workers are subject to the provisions of the Canada Labour Code.

Deciding which statute applies to the employment relationship can be a frustrating exercise. More than once employers and employees have found themselves before Canada’s highest court seeking direction as to which law is to apply. The 2009 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Consolidated Fastfrate Inc. v. Western Canada Council of Teamsters, [2009] 3 SCR 407, 2009 SCC 53 (CanLII) is a paradigmatic example of such a case.

The purpose of this page is to attempt to provide an overview as to the division of powers and which law may apply. The page should be read with caution, as resolving which law applies can be much more complicated than it first appears. A reading of the Consolidated Fastfrate decision should disabuse anyone of the notion that this is a straightforward issue. Employers and employees uncertain as to which employment standards legislation applies to their situation would be prudent to seek a formal opinion on the subject before acting.