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Posts tagged: Barrie Employment lawyer

Why Asking Your Employee to “Go Clubbing” Could Cost You

By , September 19, 2017 11:36 am

Most employers understand that sexual harassment at work is against the law. Despite this, sexual harassment is still pervasive in Ontario workplaces. Where managers and employers can get into trouble is the area of sexual solicitation.

The Human Rights Code states that employees have the right to be free from advances in the workplace from those able to offer or deny a benefit –  i.e. sexual propositions from a boss with the offer of a promotion are not permissible.  This is true where the person making the proposition knows or should know that it is not welcome.

Examples of this type of behaviour – and the real consequences of it – are evident in Anderson v. Law Help ltd.

The Case

Safari Anderson started working for Law Help Ltd. as a paralegal.  After some time, her boss starting asking her about her plans outside of work.  He started with inquiring about what she was doing on Saturday night.  He later asked her if she wanted to “go clubbing” with him.  He asked whether she would like to “hang out” on the weekend or “go away together” for the weekend. He told her he was thinking about her and that liked her. He told Ms. Anderson he would take care of her, implying that if she spent time with him, she would advance at work.

Mr. Giuseppe then punished Ms. Anderson for not going out with him outside of work.  He stopped paying her. He treated her in a hostile manner. He yelled at her and refused to let her attend a medical appointment. Ms. Anderson ultimately had to resign.

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario reviewed all of the evidence and found that Mr. Giuseppe’s advances breached the Code. It reiterated that persistent propositions can create a negative psychological and emotional work environment. While the language used by her boss, Giuseppe Alessandro, was not overtly sexualized, it was not allowed under the Code.

The Tribunal ordered Law Help Ltd. and Mr. Giuseppe to pay Ms. Anderson $22,000 for the injury to her dignity along with lost wages she incurred after quitting.

Lessons

As an employer or manager, asking out a colleague or employee can be expensive, and not because of the cost of the date.  Even where there are not sexual or gender-based comments, repeated advances of this nature are not allowed in Ontario’s workplaces.  They can affect people’s dignity and sense of value in their jobs. Manager and employers must be extremely careful when engaging co-workers or subordinates in any form of romantic or sexual relationship.

For more information about sexual harassment in the workplace, please see here and here.

If you have concerns about your employee’s behaviour and would like to speak to a lawyer at MacLeod Law Firm, you can reach us at inquiry@macleodlawfirm.ca  or 647-204-8107.

“The material and information in this blog and this website are for general information only. They should not be relied on as legal advice or opinion. The authors make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of any information referred to in this blog or its links. No person should act or refrain from acting in reliance on any information found on this website or blog. Readers should obtain appropriate professional advice from a lawyer duly licensed in the relevant jurisdiction. These materials do not create a lawyer-client relationship between you and any of the authors or the MacLeod Law Firm.”

The Confusing and Unsettled Law Relating to Employee Medical Notes

By , September 12, 2017 10:00 am

A proposed change to Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (“the Act”) contained in Bill 148 states that an employer shall not require an employee to provide a medical note from a qualified health practitioner (as defined in the Act) as evidence of a sickness if the employee claims a paid sick day under the Act. However, an employer may require an employee who takes a paid sick leave under the Act to provide evidence, that is reasonable in the circumstances, that the employee is entitled to the leave.

If this proposal is passed into law, the Act would override management’s common law right to require a medical note as proof of an illness for up to two days a year.

For more information on Bill 148, click here.

For more information on our October seminar which will discuss Bill 148, click here.

 

Medical Note

 

Can an employer request a better medical note?

I receive calls from employer clients who express frustration over the contents of a medical note submitted by an employee; often a one-line note.

The note states the employee is unable to work for a specified period of time. The note can be submitted in suspicious circumstances. For example, the employee may claim he is sick during a time he has been denied a leave or on the day after a long weekend.

There are two issues that arise in this scenario. One is whether the person is taking an unauthorized leave. The other is whether the leave is paid (assuming the person is entitled to paid sick leave).

The $64 000 Question: Can an employer demand that an employee attend an independent medical examination

When a suspicious medical note is received the employer often wants to know whether it has the right to force the employee to see a doctor of the employer’s choosing to confirm the illness.

Independent Medical Examinations when a Disabled Employee Requests Accommodation

The $64,000 question can and does arise when a disabled employee requests accommodation.

In this scenario, employers have the duty to accommodate an employee’s disability unless it would cause undue hardship. For this duty to be triggered the employee generally discloses a disability and requests accommodation.

An employer is required to accommodate both physical disabilities and mental disabilities.

For example, an employee may request significant accommodation based on minimal information such as a medical note that states: “John Smith is medically able to return to work on Monday and can work 2 hours a day for the next two weeks and 4 hours a day for the following two weeks.”

Can an employer demand that an employee attend an independent medical examination as part of the procedural aspect of the duty to accommodate? The answer is, of course, “It depends”

A Case Study: Bottiglia v. Ottawa Catholic School Board, 2015 HRTO 1178 (CanLII)

The Facts

In April 2010 Mr. Bottiglia went on sick leave. At that time, he had accumulated approximately 465 paid sick days.

In June 2011 Mr. Bottiglia’s physician, Dr. Richard Levine, told the employer that he needed a medical leave until further notice and that when a return to work was foreseeable, the employer would be informed in a timely fashion.

In February 2012, Mr. Bottiglia told the employer “while it always has been my hope that my health situation would improve with time and allow my return to work, much to my chagrin and disappointment, my latest medical assessment indicates that a full recovery will take a prolonged period of time.”

In a March 2012 letter Dr. Levine stated that Mr. Bottiglia had been struggling with a mental disability. Dr. Levine further stated that Mr. Bottiglia’s condition had been relatively treatment resistant, that Mr. Bottiglia had required an extended period of time off work, that it was his clinical judgement that a return to the current workplace would place Mr. Bottiglia at serious risk of relapse, and that Mr. Bottiglia would lose the gains that he had made so far during his time with Dr. Levine.  Dr. Levine indicated that his opinions were based on the regular one-hour meetings he had been having with Mr. Bottiglia over the prior ten months.

Five months later in August 2012, after all of Mr. Bottiglia’s sick days had been used, Dr. Levine stated that he believed that Mr. Bottiglia would be able to return to modified work duties sometime in the next two months.

About three weeks later, Dr. Levine provided a “Five Point Plan for Resumption of Career” that provided for a return to work.

In these circumstances, the employer took the position that a second medical opinion was warranted and requested that Mr. Bottiglia undergo an independent medical examination.

This request was contemplated under the employer’s Guide to Workplace Accommodation for Employees which provided in part that “The Principal or Supervisor or other employer representative has the right to request additional information from the employee when there is insufficient information provided by the employee relating to a request for accommodation”. In addition,”Where … the Terms and Conditions of Employment permit, the employer may request (through the Human Resources Department) a ‘request for a second medical opinion’ where the employer has been unable to obtain from the employee’s own health practitioner information concerning the employee’s own limitations and/or restrictions on his/her essential duties of his/her position, the employee’s medical prognosis related to the accommodation request and any recommendations with respect to the accommodation or where, in the opinion of the employer, circumstances warrant a second opinion.”

Mr. Bottiglia refused when the parties could not agree on the information that would be provided to the doctor conducting the independent medical examination and commenced a human rights complaint.

The Decision

An adjudicator appointed under the Ontario Human Rights Code concluded the employer had the right to demand an independent medical examination in the circumstances.

This decision was upheld by the Divisional Court, and Ontario’s Court of Appeal.

For more information on our October seminar which discusses an employee’s duty to accommodate an employee’s disability, click here.

Lessons to Be Learned

  1. Bill 148 which is currently before the Ontario legislature would, if passed into law, prohibit an employer from requiring medical notes to confirm illness in limited circumstances.
  2. An employer should consider adding a term to its employment contract giving it the explicit right to require an employee to submit to an independent medical examination in certain circumstances.
  3. An employer has the right to demand that an employee requesting accommodation submit to an independent medical examination in limited circumstances. The issue in these cases is often resolving the competing interests of an employer’s right to information in order to manage an accommodation process and employees wanting to restrict access to their medical information on the basis of personal privacy.

For over 25 years, Doug MacLeod of the MacLeod Law Firm has been advising employers on all aspects of the employment relationship. If you have any questions, you can contact him directly at 416 317-9894 or at doug@macleodlawfirm.ca

The material and information in this blog and this website are for general information only. They should not be relied on as legal advice or opinion. The authors make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of any information referred to in this blog or its links. No person should act or refrain from acting in reliance on any information found on this website or blog. Readers should obtain appropriate professional advice from a lawyer duly licensed in the relevant jurisdiction. These materials do not create a lawyer-client relationship between you and any of the authors or the MacLeod Law Firm.

 

How to Spot a Resignation

By , July 31, 2017 10:16 am

Contrary to popular belief, it is not always easy to know when someone has resigned. Even if an employee uses words such as “I quit,” a court may still find that the employee has not truly resigned. An employer in Alberta learned this lesson the hard way. 

Carroll v Purcee Industrial Controls Ltd. (“PIC”) 

Mr. Carroll worked for the defendant first in Calgary, Alberta. He then moved with his family to Madagascar, where he continued to work for PIC. In 2012, business was in decline and the relationship between Mr. Carroll began to deteriorate. In August 2012, Mr. Carroll tendered his written resignation and requested a fair severance package. PIC rejected his resignation and urged Mr. Carroll to take his planned holiday. Mr. Carroll continued to work for PIC after he returned from his holiday. 

The relationship between Mr. Carroll and PIC became increasingly strained. In May 2013, Mr. Carroll again suggested they should terminate his employment “on professional terms”, and outlined his proposed terms of severance. One of the owners told Mr. Carroll that he would be ready to discuss the matter in a few days. Mr. Carroll responded that he planned to move back to Canada with his family in July. 

Mr. Carroll’s employment ended on June 7, 2013, when PIC purported to accept his resignation. 

The Decision 

At trial, Mr. Carroll argued his employment was terminated without cause and he was entitled to pay in lieu of notice. PIC claimed Mr. Carroll voluntarily resigned from his employment, in which case he was not entitled to any damages. 

A resignation must be clear and unequivocal, which involves both a subjective and objective component. Subjectively, did the employee intend to resign? Objectively, viewing all the circumstances, would a reasonable employer have understood that the employee had resigned? The court looks at the employee’s words, acts and the surrounding circumstances. 

Despite the fact that all indications of severing the employment relationship were initiated by Mr. Carroll, the court found that he did not intend to resign from his employment. The court found that Mr. Carroll’s words, when viewed contextually, were “an emotional reaction.” Mr. Carroll’s resignations came from a place of frustration, even though they were not said in the heat of the moment. Furthermore, the fact that that the owner indicated he would be ready to discuss the matter in a few days was consistent with someone who was contemplating the proposal outlined by Mr. Carroll (i.e. he could not have considered Mr. Carroll to have resigned). 

More importantly, the court found it difficult to accept the resignation was clear and unequivocal when it was tied to a proposal for terms of severance. In the circumstances, the burden was on the employer to confirm with Mr. Carroll that he truly intended to resign. The court concluded that Mr Carroll was dismissed, and therefore entitled to seven months’ pay in lieu of notice. 

Lessons to be Learned 

The onus is on the employer to confirm an employee’s true intentions behind a purported resignation. Otherwise, the employer risks having to respond to a wrongful dismissal claim in the future. Therefore, even in situations where employees utter words typically associated with a resignation (such as “I quit”), it is important not to take such words at face value. In these circumstances, or any time an employee brings up the matter of a severance package, it is important to consult a lawyer. 

The material and information in this blog and this website are for general information only. They should not be relied on as legal advice or opinion. The authors make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of any information referred to in this blog or its links. No person should act or refrain from acting in reliance on any information found on this website or blog. Readers should obtain appropriate professional advice from a lawyer duly licensed in the relevant jurisdiction. These materials do not create a lawyer-client relationship between you and any of the authors or the MacLeod Law Firm.

Can my organization implement a drug testing policy at the workplace?

By , July 24, 2017 10:24 am

If you’ve been following the news over the last few months, you know that the Ontario Superior Court of Justice refused to allow the union’s injunction against the TTC’s random drug and alcohol testing policy. More recently, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the termination of an employee who was terminated for violating his employer’s drug testing policy. These developments have led to us answering many questions from employers (and news publications) about whether they can also test their employees for drugs and alcohol.

Despite the TTC’s success at court, employers should proceed with caution when instituting drug and alcohol testing at the workplace. Firstly, the issue before the court was not whether such a policy was discriminatory. Secondly, the court refused the union’s injunction because of both the safety-sensitive industry and the wide area in which the TTC operates. Furthermore, the caselaw preceding the TTC decision shows that there is a high evidentiary burden an employer must satisfy to justify random drug testing its employees.

Because addictions to drugs or alcohol are considered “disabilities” under the Ontario Human Rights Code, drug and alcohol testing has human rights implications for people with addictions. For example, a human rights issue may arise where a positive test leads to automatic negative consequences for a person based on an addiction.

However, courts and tribunals recognise that it is a legitimate goal for employers to have a safe workplace, particularly in safety-sensitive industries. Therefore, there is caselaw that has recognised that a drug testing policy is justifiable if an employer can show that the policy is a bona fide (i.e. legitimate) requirement of the job. However, even if the policy is a legitimate requirement, employers should strive to minimise any potential discriminatory impact, and be prepared to accommodate employees with addictions who are negatively impacted by the policy.

Another requirement for a drug and alcohol testing policy to be found justifiable is that it must measure impairment, as opposed to drug or alcohol use. For example, while alcohol testing is able to measure a person’s impairment quite accurately, because drugs can remain in a person’s system for quite some time after their use, drug testing is less accurate at measuring impairment rather than drug use. For this reason, alcohol testing tends to be more permissible than drug testing. Similarly, testing after an accident or a “near-miss” is more justifiable than random testing.

Lessons to be Learned

As we get closer to marijuana being legal in Canada, questions around workplace safety and the permissibility of drug testing are bound to increase. We will continue to publish additional information as more relevant cases are released. In the meantime, if you are considering implementing a drug and alcohol testing policy at the workplace, you should consult an employment lawyer to find out whether such a policy would survive the scrutiny of a court or tribunal.

The material and information in this blog and this website are for general information only. They should not be relied on as legal advice or opinion. The authors make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of any information referred to in this blog or its links. No person should act or refrain from acting in reliance on any information found on this website or blog. Readers should obtain appropriate professional advice from a lawyer duly licensed in the relevant jurisdiction. These materials do not create a lawyer-client relationship between you and any of the authors or the MacLeod Law Firm.

Employer Alert: Ontario Government Moving Quickly to Introduce Employee Friendly Changes to the Employment Standards Act

By , June 26, 2017 10:02 am

The Ontario government is quickly moving Bill 148 through the provincial legislature.

Some Proposes Changes to the ESA

As discussed in a previous blog, Bill 148 proposes changes to the Employment Standards Act (the “ESA”) including a $ 15 minimum wage by January 1, 2019, an additional week vacation after 5 years service, and two paid personal emergency leave days for absences caused by, among other things, illness and bereavement leave. In addition, if Bill 148 becomes law an employer would no longer have the right to ask an employee to provide a medical note to verify an illness.

Public Hearings to Consider Proposed Changes

On June 1, 2017 Bill 148 was ordered Second Reading and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs (the “Committee”).

Public hearings on Bill 148 are scheduled for June and July.

There are a number of ways you can provide the government with feedback on Bill 148’s impact on the Ontario labour market:

  • Attend one of the public hearings being held in Thunder Bay, North Bay, Ottawa, Kingston and Windsor-Essex during the week of July 10, 2017. A contact name, mailing address, phone number and email address must be provided to the Clerk of the Committee by July 4, 2017 for anyone wishing to attend the hearings during the week of July 10, 2017. The Committee’s Clerk, Eric Rennie, at 416.325.3506 or by e-mail at ERennie@ola.org.
  • Additional public hearings will occur during the week of July 17, 2017 in London, Kitchener-Waterloo, Niagara, Hamilton and Toronto. A contact name, mailing address, phone number and email address must be provided to the Clerk by July 4, 2017 for anyone wishing to attend the hearings during the week of July 17, 2017.
  • Provide written submissions to the Committee no later than July 21, 2017 at 5:30 pm.

When Proposed Changes Expected to Take Effect

I expect these public consultations will be completed by September 11, 2017 when the legislature resumes. Bill 148 could be passed shortly thereafter and if so I expect many of the changes to the ESA will take effect on January 1, 2018.

Bill 148 is Just One of many Changes to Ontario’s Employment Laws

Ontario’s employment laws are constantly changing and Bill 148 is just one example. In recent years, the government has also introduced mandatory employee training, mandatory written policies, mandatory postings, and mandatory workplace harassment investigations.

Compliance rates are low for these new laws and the Ontario government recently announced it intends to hire 175 additional workplace inspectors and the Ministry of Labour intends to inspect 10% of Ontario workplaces each year. Bill 148 proposes increased fines for non-compliance with the ESA.

Feeling Overwhelmed?

Many small and medium size employers have a hard time keeping up with these new employment laws.

In October 2017, the MacLeod Law Firm is holding seminars in Toronto & Barrie which will discuss three important developments in Ontario’s employment laws. One of the topics we will address are the new obligations imposed on employers under Ontario’s employment laws including the likely changes to the ESA as a result of Bill 148 and what to do when a Ministry of Labour inspector comes calling.

For more information on these seminars click here.


 

For over 25 years, Doug MacLeod of the MacLeod Law Firm has been advising employers on all aspects of the employment relationship. If you have any questions, you can contact him directly at 416 317-9894 or at doug@macleodlawfirm.ca

The material and information in this blog and this website are for general information only. They should not be relied on as legal advice or opinion. The authors make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of any information referred to in this blog or its links. No person should act or refrain from acting in reliance on any information found on this website or blog. Readers should obtain appropriate professional advice from a lawyer duly licensed in the relevant jurisdiction. These materials do not create a lawyer-client relationship between you and any of the authors or the MacLeod Law Firm.

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