Manager Ordered Prison Time for Employee Fatalities

This post is a guest blog by Simone Ostrowski, a lawyer at our firm with experience in workplace health and safety matters (@simoneostrowski, sostrowski@koldorfstam.ca). 

photo cretit: Matthew Wiebe via UnsplashOn January 11, 2016, Vadim Kazenelson, a former project manager with Metron Construction, received a three and a half year prison sentence as a result of employee fatalities and injury that occurred under his watch. While Kazelnelson’s sentence is the first of its kind in Canada, it will likely be the first of many prison sentences for managers who do not take reasonable action to prevent injury to employees.

Kazenelson’s sentence stemmed from his failure as project manager to take any action that may have prevented the deaths of four employees and serious injury to another employee that resulted when a swing stage scaffold snapped in half on December 24, 2009. The employees had been standing on the swing stage thirteen stories above ground to repair balconies on a high rise apartment building in Toronto. Only two workers on the swing stage were actually were secured by lifelines, as required by law. While Kazelnelson had known about the lack of sufficient lifelines, he did nothing about it after being told not to worry by Fayzullo Fazilov, the site supervisor. Fasilov also died when the swing stage snapped.

Continue Reading

Tweeting Your Way to Termination

fire hydrantA blog post just in time for some downtime over the holiday – when can personal tweets become grounds for termination?  Some of you may remember when in August of 2013 Canadian news outlets were a-buzz with the termination of two Toronto Firefighters for sexist comments made on Twitter. For a media report on the details of the tweets and reactions, click here.

While the tweets were made off-duty, and not in reference to anything work related, management got involved partly because the Firefighters in question identified themselves as such on their Twitter profiles. The conduct was deemed to be in violation of employer policies, including their Social Media Policy, damaging to the reputation of Toronto Fire and ultimately worthy of termination.

Both individuals grieved their terminations, asking for their jobs back. These two cases are a good example of when tweets can amount to grounds for termination and when reinstatement may be ordered. Continue Reading

Holiday Party Tips for the Young Boss

lampshadeWe all have an office party horror story.  The partner who got too sloppy and friendly with the summer student, the awkward aversion of eye contact the next day, or the overly honest comments from the disgruntled employee.

While holiday parties can be an important employee morale booster, for the employer they can present a minefield of potential liability and complaints. For start-ups and entrepreneurs, the informal culture can particularly be an invitation to indulge and live it up in the name of hipster, relaxed office counter-culture.

Employer host liability, however, applies to all workplaces.  Even if it’s a Saturday night and you’re at a fancy bar, the employee’s right to harassment free work environment extends to off-site employer sponsored events. If your company’s New Year’s resolutions have something to do with avoiding human rights complaints, harassment allegations or claims for social host negligence here are our top tips to get you started on the right path. Continue Reading

Does technology replace or enhance dispute resolution?

settlement by computerWill technology replace or merely enhance our abilities to achieve settlements?  Last week I spoke at an Osgoode Professional Development session on Settlement in the Digital Era: Essentials for Non-Techies.  My co-panelist was Colm Brannigan, a mediator very familiar with Online Dispute Resolution (ODR).  Colm and I have had some good discussions beforehand about how technology can assist the settlement process, whether an informal negotiation between parties or a formal court-ordered mediation.

Ultimately, despite the tech fan and early adopter in both of us, we realised that nothing can replace the human aspect of resolving most disputes beyond a traffic ticket.  For many people, they simply need to physically face their opposing party and ‘have their day in court’.  The emotions in our voice and on our face, the passion of our positions and the human needs that have to be addressed in dispute resolution cannot be completely replaced by technology.

But….  Continue Reading

Privacy Commissioner’s BYOD Guidelines

OPC BYOD GuidelinesI’ve written several posts about BYOD in the past, and continue to believe that for many workplaces, BYOD will be difficult if not impossible to resist. However, it won’t be news to anyone that BYOD raises a full array of privacy and security issues related to the potential blurring and blending of employee personal information and business/customer information on devices.

Recently, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, along with the Alberta and British Columbia Information and Privacy Commissioners, have published guidelines to assist organizations considering or implementing BYOD policies.

While the publication does not introduce anything overly novel, it does provide a good roadmap in one document, a roadmap with quite a bit of weight if you are trying to prove your organization did its due diligence around implementing a prudent BYOD program.

Continue Reading

Alert! Blue-Flu Hits Canada

Blue_jayBlue Jays-itis, Blue Jay Fever, the Blue Flu…whatever you call it some sort of strange illness has taken over Canadian workplaces with employees calling in sick, skipping out early or hunched secretively over their computers all in the name of baseball.

I have discussed the issue of sports and impacts on workplace productivity before. With all the excitement, and games taking place during work hours, it seems timely to re-visit the topic.

Continue Reading

Voting Laws for Canadian Employees

While Canadian readers are no doubt aware that we have a federal election coming up, for those who might not be following Canadian politics, a federal election has been called and voting will take place on Monday October 19, 2015.

Fun Facts for American readers

  • Canada is a different country than the United States of America, and we can elect our very own leaders;Harper in front of Parliament
  • Steven Harper is Canada’s current Prime Minister, the Canadian less charismatic equivalent of the current US President.  He has held his office since 2006 and is now running for his fourth term.  Refer to the attached picture of Mr. Harper standing in front of our Legislature;
  • Yes, the guy running for the Liberal Party is the son of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, not that we have any sort of monarchical tendencies in Canada;
  • Unlike in the US, in Canada there is no limit on the consecutive number of terms a leader can hold the top job.  A political career can go on and on and on, sometimes passed down through generations.

 

Continue Reading

Privacy Law v Freedom of Expression

Privacy law in Canada continues to grapple with that delicate balance between individual privacy and freedom of expression.  The recent case Chandra v. CBC provides an interesting commentary on the quickly changing world of privacy law.

In 2012 the Ontario Court of Appeal recognized the independent privacy tort of “intrusion upon seclusion”. Prior to this the case law was unsettled with respect to whether or not one could sue for invasion of privacy as a free standing cause of action.

In the Chandra v CBC case, Chandra, a former professor at Memorial University, brought at claim against the CBC for defamation and breach of privacy. The claim arose out of a three part CBC documentary called "The Secret Life of Dr. Chandra" in which the CBC investigated and accused him for scientific fraud.  CBC defended the suit on the basis of fair comment and responsible journalism. 

Continue Reading

HR Posting Requirements

ESA PosterOh statutory posting requirements.  I’ve visited this bland but important topic before, such as past posts on Mandatory Workplace Postings in Ontario when there were new requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The required OHSA poster that I discussed in that post remains current and can be accessed on the Ministry of Labour’s website.

An update has occurred in the world of the Employment Standards poster. As of May 20, 2015 there are new poster requirements under the Employment Standards Act, a new version of the poster of which you can download here.

Continue Reading

When Can an Employer Give Working Notice?

In the wake of Target closing its Canadian doors this month, we have had some of our employer clients asking about the pros and cons of working notice.  The 17,600 employees of Target have received at least 16 weeks of notice each, but many will be expected to work all or part of those 16 weeks rather than receive a lump-sum payment.  As reported in the news, many think they are not getting any “severance” at all. 

To help clear up some of the misperceptions around working notice, here are three key points to consider:

Continue Reading

LexBlog