News & Publications

Human Rights

International Women’s Day

Written by on March 08, 2017.

Are you experiencing an abnormally high level of absenteeism among female employees today?  If so, here’s a great article featuring advice from some of our most respected employment law colleagues: http://www.canadianbusiness.com/leadership/womens-strike-what-employers-need-to-know/

Unionized Ontario Employers Face Double Jeopardy in Human Rights Cases

Written by on February 09, 2017.

Unionized employers regularly deal with employees alleging breaches of their human rights. These allegations can be the subject of the grievance process or an application to the province’s forum for hearings into human rights cases. In Ontario, the forum is the Human Rights Tribunal; in Manitoba, it is the Human Rights Commission. You’ll see that I underlined the word “or” in the last paragraph. It seems reasonable that an employer should only be required to answer these allegations i...

Unproven Complaints Against Employers Could Soon be Released to the Public

Written by on February 07, 2017.

The Toronto Star has recently started a legal challenge that, if successful, may result in human rights, occupational health and safety, and other complaints made against employers being made public, despite the fact that those allegations are unproven. Most hearings today are not handled by the courts but are instead administered by a collection of boards and tribunals established by the province of Ontario. These agencies were created in order to reduce the number of cases heard by the cour...

Accessibility Obligations for Employers with Under 50 Employees

Written by on January 26, 2017.

Effective January 1, 2017 there are new accessibility standards for employers with under 50 employees. Larger non-public employers with more than 50 employees were required to implement new employment standards and communications obligations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (“AODA”) last January. The time has come for those same obligations to now be met by non-public Ontario organizations with at least one but less than 50 employees. As of January 1, 2017, ...

Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal forges its own path on family status

Written by on November 01, 2016.

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal says it has “clarified” its test for discrimination on the basis of family status.  Noting it is not bound by the decisions of other tribunals or courts outside Ontario, the Tribunal has now gone back to basics, but whether the test is any more clear remains to be seen.  Certainly its application will continue to have employers scratching their heads (and maybe pulling out their hair!). (more…)

The Duty To Accommodate Does Not Require an Employer to Turn Customers Away

Written by on March 21, 2016.

A Store Manager for a leather company injured her wrist. Ultimately, the store terminated her position, prompting the within human rights application to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. As part of this application, the employee argued that the accommodation process required: the employer continue to schedule a second employee during her otherwise sole shift, in case she was required to complete essential duties of her position that her wrist injury did not allow her to perform. Prior to...

Alberta Court of Appeal Upholds Termination of Employee for Cocaine Use That Resulted in Workplace Accident

Written by on February 29, 2016.

As most employers know, the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”) prohibits discrimination on the basis of, among other things, “disability”. While the Code’s definition of disability does not specifically include drug or alcohol addiction, the Ontario Court of Appeal confirmed over 16 years ago that drug or alcohol dependency would, or could, amount to a disability under the Code. As a result, where an employment decision is made regarding an individual who has, or is perceived as ha...

Proposed Changes to the OHSA: The more things change, the more they stay the same?

Written by on December 02, 2015.

Laws intended to change social behaviour are sometimes referred to as “social engineering” legislation.  The obvious example is the Human Rights Code, which prohibits discrimination on protected grounds and requires employers to accommodate many of the personal challenges employees face. Some employers feel governments have gone too far – that they are being legislated and regulated well beyond any reasonable level.  The latest example, they say, is the Ontario government’s proposed Se...

Unionized Employee Dismissed from Hydro One for Off-Duty Conduct Reinstated to His Former Position

Written by on November 03, 2015.

Last summer a significant amount of media attention was focused on employees being terminated for actions that occurred outside of working hours. One of the most notorious cases involved a unionized Hydro One employee who was dismissed for making vulgar and sexist comments to a television news reporter while he was intoxicated at a soccer game. The employee was not at a Hydro One event, nor did his comments indicate any affiliation with his employer. Rather, the employee’s comments received...

Do employers have to allow their employees to work from home to breastfeed? Flatt v. Treasury Board (Department of Industry)

Written by on October 22, 2015.

A female employee with the Industry Canada’s Spectrum Management Operations Branch filed a grievance alleging that she was discriminated against on the basis of sex and family status when her employer failed to accommodate her request to work five days a week from home so she could continue to breastfeed her one year old son. The grievance was before the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board[1]. The union relied on past practices by the employer in allowing telework, pointing...