Sexual Harassment and Assault at Work: Options for Legal Redress
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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

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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As we wrap up 2021, and 21 months of navigating the Covid-19 pandemic, we want to set you up for success in the new year!
Join us as we give you our tips on how to avoid making the top 5 employment law mistakes in 2022!

Date: Wednesday, December 15, 2021
Time: 10:30-11:00 am EST
Register: Click here!

Continue Reading Free webinar: The Top 5 Employment Law Mistakes to Avoid in 2022

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?

Background

In a recent decision, EN v Gallagher’s Bar and Lounge, 2021 HRTO 240 (CanLII), the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (the “HRTO”) found that an employer discriminated against three of his employees based on their gender identities, gender expressions, and sex by subjecting them to trans-and homophobic language, intentional outing, and by misgendering them through his refusal to use their preferred pronouns. 

The three Applicants, referred to as EN, JR, and FH, were kitchen employees at a restaurant managed by its owner, Jamie Gallagher; each identified as either gender queer or non-binary, using the chosen pronouns ”they/them.” They openly requested to be addressed with these pronouns. 
Continue Reading HRTO: Employer Liability for Proper Pronoun Use

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. 
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trauma-informed workplace investigationsJoin us for Part 2 of this webinar series. Dealing with Harassment, Bullying and Sexual Violence in the Workplace, as we do a deep dive into Trauma-Informed Workplace Investigations (TII).  SpringLaw’s Flo Vineberg and Emily Siu will discuss the role of a Trauma-Informed Workplace Investigator and best practices for employers.

Date: Wednesday, November 17, 2021
Time: 10:30-11:00 am EST
Register: Click here!

Continue Reading Free webinar: Trauma-Informed Workplace Investigations

Bill 132 - Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Date
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In response to the provincial government’s March 2015 report entitled  “It’s Never Okay: An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment,” the Ontario legislature passed Bill 132 – Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan in March 2016, which entered into force in September of that year. This Bill amended Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), establishing specific requirements with respect to sexualized harassment and violence prevention in Ontario’s workplaces. In turn, employers have since had additional responsibilities to understand, address and eliminate workplace sexual harassment and violence beyond previous measures. This requires sound and updated workplace policies, sufficient workplace training, and additional competencies to ensure compliance with the OHSA via, amongst other things, informed and diligent workplace investigations.
Continue Reading Understanding your employer obligations under Bill 132 – Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan

National Day for Truth and ReconciliationToday marks Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.  This day provides Canadians with an opportunity to honour, reflect upon and educate themselves about the lost children and Survivors of residential schools, and their families and communities.  

At SpringLaw, each of our team members will be dedicating part of today to observing the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation by learning about Truth and Reconciliation, the diverse and rich First Nations, Metis and Inuit cultures across Canada, and reflecting upon their stories and histories.

SpringLaw will also be making a donation to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation for each team member who completes the University of Alberta’s free online course “Indigenous Canada”. We encourage all of our clients, colleagues, family and friends to do the same. 
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Job Consequences for Employees Refusing Mandatory Vaccination
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We are getting lots of questions from employers and employees about vaccination. We addressed many of these questions a few weeks ago in our post Unvaccinated Employees and Mandatory Vaccination. Now that a little bit of time has passed, we are getting more questions about the possible job consequences for employees who are unvaccinated. 

Why is the Employee not Vaccinated?

Before considering what job consequences might be appropriate, it’s crucial for employers to understand the employee’s reasons for being unvaccinated. In rare circumstances, an employee may be entitled to a legitimate exemption from a mandatory vaccination policy. Employees who have legitimate exemptions based on medical or religious grounds will be entitled to protection from discrimination by human rights legislation. While it still may not be appropriate to allow an unvaccinated employee with a legitimate reason for an exemption from attending in person at the office, they will be entitled to accommodation. The range of accommodations is wide, from placing an employee on an unpaid leave of absence to allowing them to continue their work remotely. For more information on legitimate reasons for exemptions and accommodation, see our past post
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