Constructive Dismissal and the IDEL
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At long last, the impact of Ontario’s Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL) on employee constructive dismissal claims has been litigated. Employment lawyers have been speculating for a long while about how courts will treat the various employment pivots employers were required to make during the pandemic. We now have our first answer. 

Last week, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice released its decision in Coutinho v. Ocular Health Centre Ltd. and ruled that the IDEL does not take away an employee’s ability to sue for constructive dismissal. 

What’s Constructive Dismissal?

A constructive dismissal occurs when an employer unilaterally and substantially changes an express or implied term of the employee’s contract. The term also needs to have been essential. Changes regarding pay, duties, hours of work etc., can all potentially be constructive dismissals. 
Continue Reading An Important Ruling for Employers on Constructive Dismissal and the IDEL

vacation pay class actions
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Since 2019, there have been five proposed class actions against insurance companies and banks for failure to pay proper vacation pay to employees, both past and present. The total amount claimed in the aggregate of these five actions is around $1.2 billion. Royal Bank of Canada is a named party in three of the five actions; in one, it is facing a proposed $800-million class-action lawsuit involving thousands of advisors. Bank of Montreal and Allstate Insurance are also named in these class actions. A significant aspect of the allegations against these employers revolves around the calculation of their employees’ vacation pay. The issue is that for many of these employees, the majority of their compensation is and was made up of commissions and bonuses. Their vacation pay, however, was and continues to be based solely on their much lower base salaries.
Continue Reading Vacation pay class actions a heads up for employers

new tort of internet harassment
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In Caplan v. Atas, 2021 ONSC 670 the Ontario Superior Court has recognized a new tort of internet harassment or “harassment in internet communications” to be precise. Notably, there is no tort – meaning you cannot sue someone – for just plain old harassment. 

The facts of the Caplan case giving rise to this new tort involved some extreme, wide-reaching and long-lived behaviour on the part of the defendant, Ms. Atas. The case involved multiple plaintiffs, all of who had been victims of Ms. Atas’ online harassment campaigns. A family member of one plaintiff found “80,000 unique search results attributable to Atas, related to some 3,747 online posts, on 77 different web sites, directed against 150 different victims.” 
Continue Reading New Tort of Internet Harassment

impact of covid-19 on terminations
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The Covid-19 pandemic has changed our economy. In many industries, it has made it more difficult to find work and also more difficult for businesses to afford termination packages when letting employees go. The relevance of these facts to how courts will determine what terminated employees are entitled to has, so far, been unclear. 

Reasonable Notice

When an employment relationship is not governed by a written contract – with valid termination provisions – a terminated employee’s entitlements on termination without cause will be determined by the common law and what is called reasonable notice. 
Continue Reading The Impact of the Pandemic on Termination Packages

Leave to Appeal Waksdale Decision
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The highest Canadian court has just confirmed that an invalid “just cause” termination section in an employment contract will also knock out the entire termination section, including the “without cause” section. 

In our earlier blog discussing employment termination packages –Termination Entitlements: Benefits, Bonuses, and Commissions – we promised to keep you updated on 2020’s employment law decision of the year, Waksdale v. Swegon North America Inc. So here we go. 

Leave to Appeal Denied

To recap, Waksdale was a decision from the Ontario Court of Appeal that immediately put termination provisions in jeopardy. In the case, the Court of Appeal found that the employer, Swegon North America, could not rely on their properly drafted “without cause” termination provision, in a without cause termination of their employee, Benjamin Waksdale. The reason is that the  “with cause” provision in the same termination section of his contract was missing certain criteria and did not comply with Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000. We wrote about the decision last summer here
Continue Reading Waksdale: Now the Final Word on Termination Provisions – Leave to Appeal Waksdale Decision to the Supreme Court of Canada is Denied

accommodating employees keeping kids home
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When is fear of Covid-19 justification for keeping kids home from school and to what extent does an employer have to accommodate the employee’s preference? While we’ve discussed this and similar issues on the blog in the past few weeks, a recent family court decision sheds some light on how courts might treat this issue.

Disagreement About Going to School

In Chase v. Chase, a divorced mother and father disagreed about whether their son should attend school in-person or do online learning. No one in either household had an underlying medical condition which would make them more vulnerable to complications from Covid-19. 
Continue Reading A Judge Decides About Going to School: Guidance for Employers

workplace law advice for employers
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In these challenging times, in the midst of the pandemic, as workplaces re-open, pivot and change, we see the importance and immense value of having strategic employment and workplace law advice. Just a small allocation of thought space and time to being proactive could have changed the outcome of so many situations. We see it now in our firm in many ways. 

Having run a small business for over a decade, I can appreciate that employers are often triaging the urgent demand of finding solutions to client’s needs. Rarely did I have the time or opportunity to “smell the roses” let alone try to proactively anticipate the workplace law needs of my growing organization. However, I now see the critical importance of taking a proactive approach.
Continue Reading Workplace Law: It Pays To Be Proactive

enforceability of specific termination provisions
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This Ontario Court of Appeal decision has been the talk of the town on all the Ontario employment law blogs and while we don’t like to be followers, we also wanted to make sure our readers did not miss this important decision. In Waksdale v. Swegon North America Inc. the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled on the enforceability of specific termination provisions in an employment contract, finding the “without cause” termination provision enforceable because of a flaw in the “with cause” provision. 

Courts frequently come up with new ways of invalidating employer drafted termination provisions that would restrict an employee’s entitlement to notice. The enforceability of termination provisions is what lots of employment cases are about. A properly drafted termination provision in an employment contract can significantly limit an employee’s entitlement to notice of termination. For example, a long service employee terminated “without cause” could be entitled to as little as 8 weeks or as much as 2 years of notice depending on the contract. 
Continue Reading Employers Get Out Your Contracts: An Important Ruling on Termination Provisions

My Employee Was Charged with a Criminal OffenceEmployers faced with an employee who has suddenly landed in jail are typically paralyzed with what the heck to do next. It’s easy to see how criminal and employment legal issues start to commingle in that case, but there are many other situations less dramatic where an employer needs to navigate through the tricky world of criminal law.  

And then add in a global pandemic where the courts are largely on pause. Here are some tips on how to handle a criminal law matter in your workplace.


Continue Reading My Employee Was Charged with a Criminal Offence. What now?

Outraged protesters demonstrate against the loss of George Floyd's lifeOutraged protesters took to the streets across the US to demonstrate against the unnecessary loss of life and the complete lack of empathy shown by police officers for a Black man pleading to hold on to his life. George Floyd’s death could have been prevented if there were stricter policies limiting police use of force in Minneapolis. In Minneapolis police are allowed to use chokeholds and that’s how George Floyd was killed. A  30-year study examining police use of force shows that a ban on chokeholds and strangleholds results in 22% fewer police killings. 

Continue Reading The Deaths of George Floyd & Regis Korchinski-Paquet