Sexual Harassment and Assault at Work: Options for Legal Redress
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Introduction – Part II

During Part I of this blog, we outlined three initial legal options for survivors of sexual assault and/or harassment in the workplace context. These included filing a workplace complaint, filing a grievance if you are in a unionized setting, or submitting an application to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO). Here, we continue to outline the remaining three options for legal redress in this context. 

Asserting a Constructive Dismissal

Per Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, your employer is responsible for ensuring a safe, harassment-free work environment. If you resign from your employment you typically will not be entitled to any compensation from your employer. If you are terminated, you will typically be entitled to notice of termination – colloquially known as a “severance package”. However, the law has carved out an exception in circumstances where the employer’s conduct has been so bad that you essentially have no choice but to quit. This is called a “constructive dismissal.’” Depending on the facts of each case, asserting a successful constructive dismissal claim could result in a damages (compensation) award comparable to what you would have been entitled to had you been terminated. If your constructive dismissal arose out of the context of being sexually harassed or assaulted at work, you may also be entitled to additional forms of compensation including human rights or general damages. 
Continue Reading Sexual Harassment and Assault at Work: Options for Legal Redress – Part 2

Sexual Harassment and Assault at Work: Options for Legal Redress
Photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash

Introduction – Part I

In the wake of the #MeToo era, a burgeoning consciousness has grown around the existence of and need to address sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace. Individuals of all genders and orientations have found the courage to come forward, and legislation in Ontario has made it mandatory for employers to sufficiently investigate these allegations in a timely and comprehensive manner. Trauma-informed Workplace Investigations inherently require a sound understanding of power dynamics and nuanced forms of sexual harassment. New hybrid work models pose unique obstacles for enforcing cyber-bullying and anti-discrimination/harassment policies, and have brought to the forefront the importance of building a workforce predicated on respect, plurality, accountability, legal compliance, and employee well-being. As part of this, employees who experience sexual assault and/or harassment in the workplace may have different legal options at their disposal. 

In Part 1, we begin here with a  review of three possible options. 
Continue Reading Sexual Harassment and Assault at Work: Options for Legal Redress – Part I

Updated Ontario COVID-19 Restrictions
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The Government of Ontario has again released an update on its COVID-19 public health measures and advice. As many of our readers know, given the recent changes in the public health situation, new measures have been implemented and are in effect from January 5 until January 27, 2022. Read on to find out how these new rules, in addition to the temporary closure of schools and mandatory remote learning until January 17, 2022, will impact employers.
Continue Reading Back at Home: An Update on COVID-19 Restrictions

Workplace Law Trends for 2022
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Welcome to 2020 Two! It’s hard to believe we’ve been living through a pandemic for nearly 2 years. Workplaces are beyond worn out, stress leaves and harassment complaints continue to increase, parents are juggling remote learning and limited activities for kids once again, and many workplaces struggle to find people to fill the roles. 

Yes, it’s all a bit of a mess, but out of crisis emerge new ways to approach issues and novel solutions to traditional problems. Here are our predictions for workplace law trends and changes in 2022.

#1 – Push for Hybrid and Remote Working

Studies over the last year are showing a deep disconnect between senior bosses and employees about preferred workplaces. Increasingly, employees want – and now expect – at least some remote work option, whereas senior levels of management are more likely to continue to see in-person work better for productivity, mentoring and focus.
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ONCA upholds employer for-cause termination for sexual harassment
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Overview

In Hucsko v. A.O. Smith Enterprises Limited, 2021 ONCA 728, the Ontario Court of Appeal (ONCA) overturned the lower Court’s decision that found an employee had been wrongfully dismissed in relation to sexual harassment allegations and was awarded 20 months’ notice. In its reversal, the ONCA held that the employee had failed to fulfill remedial steps required by his employer; that he did in fact sexually harass his coworker; and that his for-cause termination was justified.  

Background

A senior, 20-year employee made several comments to his younger, female coworker on several occasions, including the following:
Continue Reading ONCA upholds employer for-cause termination for sexual harassment

Office holiday party and Covid-19 considerations
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Likely you’ve noticed that the holiday season is upon us! Often around this time of year, we’ve written a blog post about holiday office parties. Usually, these have revolved around topics like social host liability, drinking and sexual harassment. This year, many workplaces are eager to get the gang back together in person and have the additional consideration of COVID-19! What to do?!

Where to Party?

An easy option, which will allow employers to avoid having to reinvent the wheel, will be to have the holiday party at a restaurant. Restaurants know the local public health rules and you won’t have to ruin the night for your HR person by requiring them to be the mask police all night. Proof of vaccination is required to dine indoors in most jurisdictions and the restaurant will have a set-up for contract tracing and vaccination checks. 
Continue Reading Time to Party IRL?

Arbitration Decisions on Mandatory Vaccination Policies
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This month has seen arbitral treatment of two mandatory vaccination policies in the context of unionized workplaces. In a grievance brought by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Canada, Local 333 against employer Paragon Protection Ltd., the arbitrator found that the employer’s vaccination policy was reasonable. In a grievance brought by the Power Workers’ Union (the “PWU”) against employer Electrical Safety Authority, the arbitrator found that it was not.

Paragon Protection’s Vaccination Policy

Paragon Protection Ltd. provides security services and employs 4,400 unionized security guards to hundreds of client sites across Ontario. Many of these client sites had vaccination requirements. Paragon gave its employees approximately two months notice that they would be requiring them to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Employees would report their vaccination status by way of a declaration. The policy allowed exemptions for human rights reasons on the basis of creed/religion and health. 
Continue Reading Arbitration Decisions on Mandatory Vaccination Policies