Photo of Evaleen Hellinga

Evaleen Hellinga is an employment, labour and contracts lawyer with a keen interest in human rights. She has experience in a wide variety of labour issues including employee accommodations, harassment and discrimination complaints, wage entitlements, progressive discipline and terminations.

Employee Productivity Issues: How to Manage Time Theft

When the vast majority of the Canadian workforce suddenly transitioned to working from home in 2020, managers were concerned about employee productivity. Most employees believed remote work increased productivity, while managers believed the opposite. The debate continues. Candidly, I am on the “increased productivity” side of the debate: working remotely allows me to focus without interruption and bring my full energy to my work by avoiding a soul-sucking commute. However, managers’ concerns about productivity are not always misplaced. Employees who do not put in the hours required by their contract are engaging in time theft, which is typically cause for discipline and, in particularly egregious circumstances, termination for cause. Continue Reading How to Manage Employee Productivity Issues and Time Theft

Managing Workplace Romances

Toronto Mayor John Tory shocked the city last week by announcing his resignation due to an intimate relationship with one of his staff. Whatever your opinions about infidelity or John Tory may be, the scandal is a reminder to employers that workplace relationships may develop outside of professional boundaries. At best, these professional-turned-personal connections lead to a healthy and happy relationship for the employees in question. They put up professional boundaries while at work, you get a wedding invitation in the mail and, bonus, they can now carpool to the office. Not all relationships will not follow such a seamless trajectory, however, and can lead to significant disruption and ethical and legal conundrums for an employer. A Relationships at Work policy sets expectations to help avoid those bumpier roads.Continue Reading When Professional and Personal Lives Mingle: Managing Workplace Romances

Duty to Mitigate in Claims of Wrongful Dismissal

Employees suing former employers for wrongful dismissal damages are obligated to “mitigate” their damages, and a failure to do so may lessen the damages awarded by a Court. In Part 1 of this series, we provided a general overview of the employee’s duty to mitigate. In Part 2, we are delving into specific mitigation issues: whether an employee is required to seek out lower paying positions after an unsuccessful period of searching for a more comparable role; whether job titles of the positions applied for matter; and how employers meet the onus of showing an employee has not met their duty to mitigate. These questions were answered by the Ontario Court of Appeal in Lake v. La Presse, 2022 ONCA 742. Note that the decision discussed here overturned Lake v. La Presse (2018) Inc., 2021 ONSC 3506, which we covered in a previous blog post. Continue Reading Mitigation Part 2: No Requirement to Search for Less Comparable Positions Over Time

Duty to Mitigate in Claims of Wrongful Dismissal

The duty to mitigate is one of the few employee obligations in a wrongful dismissal dispute, and it can reduce a defendant employer’s liability significantly. 

What is the Duty to Mitigate?

The duty to mitigate requires an employee to take reasonable steps to secure comparable employment after they have been wrongfully dismissed. When an employer wrongfully dismisses an employee, unless there is enforceable contract language to the contrary, the employee is entitled to damages for pay in lieu of common law reasonable notice. Continue Reading Mitigation Part 1: What is the Duty to Mitigate in Claims of Wrongful Dismissal?

An Unprecedented Legislative Move

This week, Bill 28 was repealed and the collective bargaining model in Ontario stands. Why was it such a big legal deal?  

The recent strike by education workers in Ontario made headlines for reasons beyond the usual disruption to parents’ and kids’ everyday lives. On October 30, 2022, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in Ontario gave notice to the province that the education workers it represents would strike in 5 days. 

On November 3, the province responded by introducing Bill 28, which enacted the Keeping Students in Class Act, 2022, unilaterally imposing a new collective agreement, outlawing the impending strike, and invoking the “notwithstanding clause” in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to do so. This type of legislation is unprecedented. 
Continue Reading The Education Worker Strike: A Primer on Constitutionally-Protected Labour Laws

Human rights legislation across Canada protects employees from discrimination on the basis of disability and requires employers to accommodate employees with disabilities to the point of undue hardship. Long-term leaves of absence often leave employers wondering how to fulfil their duty to accommodate and at what point are they able to terminate an employee after an extended absence.

How Does an Employer Accommodate an Employee Who Can’t Work Due to Disability? 

When an employee requests a leave from work due to illness or injury with supporting documentation, employers generally start by providing the requested leave. Permitting the leave constitutes an accommodation. Generally, the initial leave is for a period of a few weeks or months depending on the medical professional’s recommendation. Following this initial accommodation, human rights adjudicators require an employer to actively engage with the employee to explore other potential accommodations. To do so, an employer should maintain reasonable contact with the employee to monitor their intention and ability to return to work and seek up-to-date information about the nature of the employee’s medical condition, restrictions and limitations, prognosis for recovery, and ability to perform alternative work. This process is ongoing and may last for several years. Employees must have the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the accommodation process. 
Continue Reading Accommodating Long-Term Absences: Considerations for Employers

age and gender discrimination in the workplaceIt has been only a few weeks since Lisa LaFlamme, CTV National News’ former chief anchor and senior editor,  shared on Twitter that Bell Media terminated her contract after over 30 years with the company. Her termination has since made international news due to allegations of age and gender discrimination. The company’s Vice President has announced a leave of absence and other employees have publicly raised concerns about a toxic work environment. 

Age discrimination is likely to become a more common allegation against employers given the general demographics of our workforce. The proportion of working-age people in Canada who are between the ages of 55 and 64 is at an all-time high of 21.8%.  
Continue Reading Lessons in Managing an Aging Workforce: Terminations