Notice, Damages and Settlements
Under the Ontario’s Human Rights Code (the Code), an employee cannot be terminated due to a disability. If the Human Rights Tribunal finds that the termination was based in part or in whole on a disability, this may be considered a breach of the Code. The matter was addressed in one of the first Tribunal decisions of 2017, Ben Saad v. 1544982 Ontario Inc.
Given the majority of legal disputes that settle before going to trial, the role of a modern civil litigator has shifted from not only being a courtroom specialist, but also being an expert in negotiation. The main goal in almost all negotiations for an employee is to extract a large payout, while the goal for the employer is to settle the claim while paying out as little as possible. Though lawyers use different techniques for extracting these results for their clients, I wanted to share three simple tips that are often overlooked when employers are negotiating a settlement.
The three popular articles this week on HRinfodesk deal with: Employers seeking to change an employee’s terms and conditions of employment; OHRC guidelines on medical information and disability-related accommodation; CRA Income Tax Folio S4-F2-C2, Business Use of Home Expenses.
In Ontario, as a new parent, you are entitled to take unpaid time off work for up to 37 weeks to take care of your newborn child (i.e., parental leave). This right applies to both parents, and the employer is legally required to provide you with your old job at the end of the leave. The employer is also not permitted to retaliate, or punish you in any way, for taking the time off to spend with your family. Unfortunately employers often consciously violate these rights and returning employees frequently find that either they no longer have a job, or that the job responsibilities or pay have changed.
There are few areas of employment law more in flux (and vexing to lawyers) than that surrounding the enforcement of termination clauses. Part of the frustration is when the Courts provide seemingly contradictory messages on whether termination clauses will be upheld. In January 2017 alone, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice released two decisions that appear, on their face, to be somewhat at odds.
In a recent Ontario Superior Court decision it was held that an employer’s decision to request a criminal background check after employment had commenced was lawful under the applicable 12–month fixed term contract and the employee was not entitled to damages when her employment was terminated after she refused to consent to the background check.
Once upon a time, employees did not sign employment contracts with termination clauses and employment lawyers fought over the appropriate “reasonable” notice period. In 2017, however, employees now claim in addition to wrongful dismissal damages, human rights damages, moral or Wallace damages, punitive damages, and damages for the intentional infliction of mental stress.
As an employment lawyer, my consistent advice to employers is, whether you have one employee or one hundred employees, every employer needs to have written employment contracts. There are a number of ways that employment contracts can avoid or reduce liability, but the single most valuable term to include is a termination clause. In a written employment contract, employers have the opportunity to limit what can otherwise be a significant liability to their employees for termination pay, also referred to as severance or reasonable notice of termination.
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice recently awarded an employee $50,000 in punitive damages in a wrongful dismissal claim because it was “rationally required” to punish the employer for its behaviour toward the employee and to meet “the objectives of retribution, deterrence, and denunciation”.
The three popular articles this week on HRinfodesk deal with: Whether an employee may deduct the cost of a basic cellular service plan; just cause to fire an employee for forging signatures on sick notes; and employer violation of health and safety legislation after failing to take precautions after employee complaint.
Although the Tribunal found there to be a contravention of settlement, it deemed that the delay in receiving the monies was relatively minor, and therefore an award of compensation was not warranted.
The three popular articles this week on HRinfodesk deal with: Employee background checks; employee resignations; and current and upcoming minimum wage.
In 2016, the Court of Appeal of Quebec has clarified that reduced employer prestige cannot, in itself, serve as grounds for constructive dismissal in the specific context of business acquisitions.
En 2016, la Cour d’appel du Québec a conclu que, dans le contexte de l’aliénation d’une entreprise, le fait pour un employé de passer à un employeur moins prestigieux ne peut, en soi, constituer un congédiement déguisé.