Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Doctors' Notes - Better Late than Never

Doctors are very busy people.  What doctors are primarily busy with are sick people.  Unfortunately, in addition to treating to the sick doctors are asked to complete a lot of paperwork confirming that those people are sick.  What happens, however, when a doctor is late in providing the necessary information to an employee’s employer or disability insurer?  Can the employer reasonably assume that because no medical note has been provided the employee has abandoned his position?

In a decision released June 26, 2012, Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union v. Yellow Pages Group Company, 2012 ONCA 448, the Court of Appeal for Ontario made two important rulings: (1) the contextual approach in McKinley remains the appropriate approach for unjust termination cases; and (2) concerns a labour arbitrator expresses about an employee’s lack of candour in the arbitration process are not relevant to the wrongful dismissal analysis as any dishonesty on the claimant’s part at that stage played no part in the employer’s decision to terminate his employment.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Protecting Employee Reputations

Reputations are fragile things.  They take forever to build, but very little time to destroy.  In the recent case of Tipple v. Canada (Attorney General), 2012 FCA 158, reasons for decision released May 29, 2012, the Federal Court of Appeal was asked to answer the question of whether an employer has a free-standing duty to protect an employee’s reputation at the time of termination.

The answer was a “no, but...”

Friday, 22 June 2012

Fixing the Duty to Mitigate

(c) istock/AndreyPopov

Is an employee, who is terminated without cause, required to mitigate his or her loss when entitled to a fixed term of notice or pay in lieu, and the contract of employment is silent with respect to mitigation?

In reasons for decision released June 21, 2012, Bowes v. Goss Power Products Ltd., 2012 ONCA 425, the Court of Appeal for Ontario answered that question in the negative.

I quit! You sue?

There are several ways to become “suddenly unemployed;” one of the ways not frequently canvassed in the employment law realm is that of voluntarily resignation. Although many are familiar with the concept of “wrongful dismissal,” the concept of “wrongful resignation” is much less frequently considered.

The first thing to observe with respect to resignation is that nowhere within the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 will one find the legal requirement for an employee to provide two weeks’ notice of resignation. In fact, the word “resignation” barley appears within that law. This fact may lead some to believe that there is no duty to provide any notice of resignation; like many assumptions about the law, that belief may be incorrect.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Deducting WSIB from Wrongful Dismissal

One of the joys of being a “lawyer for the suddenly unemployed” is that one gets to work in the field of overlapping insurance policies and acronyms: LTD, CPP, WSIB, EI, and occasionally SABS.  While issues concerning the deductibility of various payments from other entitlements is often enough to make one reconsider his career choice, a recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court does supply some clarity with respect to the issue of an employer’s right to set of WSIB (Workplace Safety & Insurance Board) benefits as against wrongful dismissal damages.

In a decision welcomed by employers’ counsel (see others’ commentary here and here) the Honourable Justice Roland Haines, in his reasons for decision in Jensen v. Schaeffler, 2011 ONSC 1342 held that an employee’s receipt of WSIB income replacement benefits was to be deducted from her common-law, but not statutory, wrongful dismissal damages.

Employee Should Have Taken Test Drive

Car dealerships have no shortage of gimmicks to get potential buyers to take a ‘test drive.’  The sales theory goes that if someone tries a car, he is more likely to buy it.  “There is no harm in testing it out,” the dealer will claim.  A recent Ontario Superior Court ruling concerning a car dealership parts and service manager’s constructive dismissal case appears to confirm that as much might be true.
In reasons released June 15, 2012, Ghanny v 498326 Ontario Limited, 2012 ONSC 3276, the Honourable Justice Edward Belobaba held that an employee that refused a similar job at the same rate of pay had failed to mitigate his damages with the result being that his wrongful/constructive dismissal claim was dismissed and he was ordered to pay costs of $15,000 to his employer.

Monday, 18 June 2012

No Costs for You!

One consequence of the increase to the jurisdiction of the Ontario Small Claims Court, from $10,000 to $25,000, is that some litigants – especially those commencing wrongful dismissal actions – are now being told that they are in the ‘wrong place, at the wrong time.’

In a decision released March 16, 2012, Shakur v. Mitchell Plastics, 2012 ONSC 1780, (the facts of which I earlier canvassed in my post titled "No finding of just cause notwithstanding workplace assault") the Honourable Justice David A. Broad held that a plaintiff who won $12,514.00 in a Superior Court action should be denied his costs because he received an amount within the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court, notwithstanding the fact that when he commenced his case the limit of the Small Claims Court was only $10,000.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Character Comes with Age

Recently a question was posed to me (amongst others) on Twitter as to whether Justice Roberts’ decision in Hussain v. Suzuki, summarized in an earlier blog post here, signalled a recognition by the Ontario court that older workers required a greater notice period.

Although I have twice written on the subject, once concerning the decision in Hussein and the other on Justice Lederer’s decision in Rubin v. Home Depot Canada Inc., 2012 ONSC 3053 (summarized here), as I contemplate these decisions further I have come to the conclusion that neither decision signals a true departure from any established norm, notwithstanding Justice Roberts’s decision to award Mr. Hussain 26 months’ notice.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

You've Come a Long Way

“You’ve come a long way, baby!”  And, what would you know, it’s taken you a long time to get here as well.  'No problem,' says the Ontario Divisional Court in a recent pay equity case.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

No Summary Judgment Where Mitigation an Issue

In a somewhat surprising decision, (given the propensity with which summary judgment is being sought and granted in Ontario as of late, especially in wrongful dismissal actions,) the Honourable Justice David A. Broad declined a plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on the basis that the plaintiff had failed to provide sufficient evidence of her mitigation efforts, and therefore, on the analysis set out by the Court of Appeal for Ontario in Combined Air Mechanical Services Inc. v Flesch, 2011 ONCA 764 the Court simply did not have a “full appreciation” upon which it could take a decision.

E-mail Entitles Employee

A lesson to Human Resources personnel: beware what you e-mail.  In a decision released May 18, 2012, Bennett v. Sears Canada Inc., 2012 ONCA 344, the Court of Appeal for Ontario affirmed a decision in which a long-service employee was awarded full post-retirement health and welfare benefits, notwithstanding the fact that she did not meet the strict wording of the employment policy.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Dismissed Employees Still Entitled to Bonus

Is an employee dismissed just before the employer declares a “discretionary bonus” still entitled to that bonus?  “Yes” says a recent decision from the Quebec Superior Court.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Getting Time to Think

A common question asked by people in high-stress situations is “Can I have a moment to think?”  A recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court would appear to affirm that one can.

In the case of Rubin v. Home Depot Canada Inc., 2012 ONSC 3053 the Honourable Justice Thomas R. Lederer held that notwithstanding that an employee had signed a “release” in favour his employer with respect to his entitlements on dismissal, given the way in which the release was put to the employee and signed, the release would not bind the employee.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Catching a Break

Is an employer required to pay its employees while they are “on break?”  'Not always,' says a recent decision from the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Park Your Case Elsewhere

Is an employee who falls in the parking lot of the mall in which she works entitled to Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) benefits?  “No” says the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal (WSIAT).

Saturday, 2 June 2012

No Changes Without Consideration

Can an employer simply change the terms of an employee's working conditions or contract whenever and however it chooses?

In a decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the Honourable Justice Mary Sanderson confirmed that Ontario courts will not enforce changes to an employee’s employment contract unless employers provide the employee with either: (a) notice of the changes; or (b) "consideration".