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Employee engagement in the modern workplace

The modern workplace requires innovation, agility and creativity when it comes to employee engagement, learning and development, how to accept and embrace the high turnover, gig economy, and how to stop generalizing generations. Few would disagree that an organization will only grow and thrive when it can figure out how to engage all individuals, not just certain demographics or generations.

 

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OHSA in wonderland: Through the looking glass

If an employee alleges a violation of section 50 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”) then the employer must prove there has been no violation. This is called a reverse onus clause which means an employer must prove it did not violate OHSA. After a brief summary of the remedies that are available to employees under section 50 of OHSA, this blog discusses three recent cases.

 

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Bill 17: Proposed changes to Alberta’s Employment Standards Code

On May 24, 2017, the Government of Alberta tendered and passed first reading of Bill 17: Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act.

 

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Important decision regarding mitigation of damages following termination

The Ontario Court of Appeal, in Brake v. PJ-M2R Restaurant Inc., recently clarified the law of mitigation.

 

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Employer unsuccessful in voiding unfavourable termination clause

A recent decision from the Ontario Court of Appeal dealt with the unusual situation of a defendant employer arguing that its own contractual termination provision was unenforceable and thus the plaintiff employee was entitled to common law reasonable notice. Employees frequently challenge the enforceability of a termination provision to seek common law notice, however, it is rare that an employer would do the same.

 

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Probationary clauses: A double-edged sword for employers

Many employers find it necessary to assess new employees’ performance on the job before making a final determination about whether an individual is suitable for a position. In the absence of an express term in an employment contract, employees in Canada are entitled to reasonable notice of termination at common law when they are dismissed without just cause. Many employers put terms in their employment contracts, such as probationary clauses, which limit this entitlement. However, employers may not always be clear on the implications of such clauses.

 

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Fast food firing leads to aggravated damages

A recent BC Supreme Court decision finding a fast food employee was wrongfully dismissed and entitled to aggravated damages has been making newspaper headlines across the country. Ms. Ram had worked as a cook in various Burger King locations for 24 years, and was terminated for just cause after taking home a fish sandwich, fries and a drink at the end of her shift without paying for them. Ms. Ram’s claim was heard over a seven day trial, resulting in a lengthy decision.

 

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Wood vs. Oudin: Clarity in termination provisions

In Wood v Fred Deeley Imports Ltd., the Ontario Court of Appeal seemed to make a definitive statement about the interpretation of termination provisions in employment agreements: a court will invalidate them when they contain actual or technical deficiencies. However, the same Court’s decision last year in Oudin v Centre Francophone de Toronto seemed to reach a different conclusion: the court will apply contractual certainty to give effect to the parties’ intentions. Can the two be reconciled? Closer inspection reveals that each decision is specific to the employment agreements in each.

 

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Disability and termination under the Human Rights Code

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.

 

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Wrongful dismissal update: More kinds of damages being ordered

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.

 

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Dealing with marijuana in the workplace

I am increasingly being asked to speak about this subject at HR conferences, as employers are concerned about the practical implications of medical marijuana and how employees using it should be treated. The issue of marijuana in the workplace has generated a lot of attention, but what have our courts, arbitrators and tribunals said about it? A review of decisions addressing dismissal for workplace usage or possession of marijuana shows an inconsistent treatment which is consistent with the early stages that we are in.

 

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Three popular articles this week on HRinfodesk

The three popular articles this week on HRinfodesk deal with: Employee background checks; employee resignations; and current and upcoming minimum wage.

 

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Res judicata revisited at HRTO and OLRB

The legal doctrine of res judicata can cause an Application at the Human Rights Tribunal to be dismissed. This was the case in Chen v. Harris Rebar.

 

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Termination provisions in employment contracts

As an employee, by law, you are entitled to reasonable notice of termination of your employment. Employers however, often attempt to limit your legal entitlements by explicitly defining your rights upon termination in the employment contract. In the recent case of Singh v Qualified Metal Fabricators Ltd. an Ontario Court adopted an employee–friendly interpretation of these termination provisions, resolving the potential ambiguities in favour of the employee. While employers are allowed to contractually limit employees’ common–law reasonable notice requirements, they are required to do so with complete precision.

 

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A classic lesson regarding termination meetings

A recent case out of British Columbia provides a timely reminder of a best practice for Alberta employers when it comes to termination of an employee. In Saliken v Alpine Aerotech Limited Partnership, 2016 BCSC 832, a relatively short service employee was dismissed, allegedly for just cause.

 

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