header_iceberg.jpg

Posts tagged: employment law barrie

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.

Investigating Workplace Harassment Complaints: Get Ready for Changes to the OHSA

By , July 26, 2016 7:20 am

“Bob is harassing me.”

Your spidey senses should be tingling. Because some kind of investigation should be taking place soon. If not, consider what happened when an employee at CBC complained about Jian Ghomeshi and was ignored or when an employee at the TO2015 Pan American games complained about David Peterson and her complaint was allegedly not taken seriously.

Immediately after you are told about Bob the alleged harasser you should determine whether the person is alleging workplace harassment.

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”) harassment on any of the 16 prohibited grounds (like sex and race) is defined as engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.

Effective September 8, 2016, workplace harassment under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (the “OHSA”) will be defined as (a) engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome, or (b) workplace sexual harassment.

An employee who has been harassed within the meaning of the Code can obtain damages from her employer from the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal or from the Ontario Courts. An employee who complains he has been harassed under the OHSA cannot claim damages.

Sexual Harassment: A Special Kind of Harassment

For reasons that I do not understand, the Ontario government has decreed that effective September 8, 2016 an employee who has been sexually harassed at work can file a complaint under the Code or under OHSA. Accordingly, an employee who has been sexually harassed will thereafter be able to commence legal proceedings in at least 3 legal fora; namely;

1. An application under the Code

The Code prohibits sexual harassment in employment and a person can file an application under the Code seeking damages. In a 2015 decision an adjudicator under the Code awarded a former employee who had been sexually harassed $ 150 000 in general damages.

2. A complaint under the OHSA

An employee can file a complaint and the employer must investigate the complaint and inform the person of the results of the investigation. The only obligation is to investigate and report back to the person.

3. An action in Ontario’s Superior Court

An employee can sue for damages for a breach of the Code and/or for damages for the tort of sexual assault. In a 2015 decision a judge awarded a former employee over $ 300 000 damages in connection with sexual harassment/assault in the workplace.

Lessons to Be learned

1. Make sure you have a written policy to investigate workplace harassment complaints in place by September 8, 2016. For information about our fixed fee service, click here.

2. Sexual harassment complaints can be more legally complicated than other kinds of harassment complaints.

3. Investigate all workplace harassment complaints quickly and tailor the investigation to the circumstances of the case. This includes: deciding whether to use an internal or external investigator; whether to permit employees to bring legal representation to meetings; whether the investigator can make recommendations; whether to write a report; whether to release a formal report (if one is prepared) to the parties, etc. Not all investigations need to be treated the same.

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 at 416 317-9894 or at doug@macleodlawfirm.ca

“The material and information provided on this blog and this website are for general information only and should not, in any respect, 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 linked or referred to or contained herein. No person should act or refrain from acting in reliance on any information found on this website or blog, without first retaining counsel and obtaining appropriate professional advice from a lawyer duly licensed to practice law in the relevant jurisdiction. These materials do not constitute legal advice and do not create a lawyer-client relationship between you and any of the authors or the MacLeod Law Firm.”

AODA Update: New Regulation Taking Effect July 1, 2016

By , June 27, 2016 11:56 pm

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (“AODA”) is constantly changing. So when there has been yet another change to AODA it takes all of my energy not to cover my ears and yell “LAH, LAH, LAH” at the top of my lungs.

Employment Standards Regulation: January 1, 2017

The most important amendment to AODA that applies to employers with 1 to 49 employees takes effect on January 1, 2017. For a description of our compliance service in connection with the Employment Standards Regulation, click here.

Ontario Regulation 165/16: July 1, 2016

Before the Employment Standards takes effect, however, another regulation – O. Reg. 165/16 – will take effect on or about July 1, 2016. It will consolidate all of the accessibility standards in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation. Thereafter both small (1 to 49 employees) and large (Over 50 employees) organizations will be required to do the following:

Changes to AODA Requirements

  1. Training– currently, organizations are only required to provide customer service training to employees and volunteers who deal with third parties, and those who participate in developing the organization’s policies. However, the new regulation will require organizations to, as soon as practicable, train: (a) all employees and volunteers; (b) every person who participates in developing the organization’s policies; and (c) every other person who provides goods, services or facilities on behalf of the organization.
  2. Documenting policies, practices and procedures – currently, organizations with 20 or more employees must “document” their customer service policies, practices and procedures, and make a copy of that document available on request. However, when this regulation takes effect, this requirement will only apply to organizations with 50 or more employees. In other words, organizations with 20 to 49 employees are no longer required to document their customer service policies, practices and procedures.

Besides documenting their customer service policies, practices and procedures, large organizations must also (a) notify persons to whom it provides goods, services or facilities that the document which describes the organization’s policies, practices and procedures is available upon request; and (b) prepare a document that describes the organization’s training policy, summarizes the content of the training and specifies when the training is to be provided. Both documents must be provided to any person upon request.

All organizations with 20 or more employees must confirm their compliance with the above requirements by submitting an accessibility compliance report by no later than December 31, 2017.

Lesson to Be Learned

We recommend that you review and update all of your organization’s AODA policies, practices and procedures to ensure you are in compliance with the upcoming changes.

MacLeod Law Firm Update

I am very pleased to announce that I have hired Nadia Halum as our newest associate lawyer. She articled for us this past year. Please join me in welcoming Nadia to our firm. She can be reached at (647) 985-9894 or nadia@macleodlawfirm.ca

 

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 at 416 317-9894 or at doug@macleodlawfirm.ca

“The material and information provided on this blog and this website are for general information only and should not, in any respect, 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 linked or referred to or contained herein. No person should act or refrain from acting in reliance on any information found on this website or blog, without first retaining counsel and obtaining appropriate professional advice from a lawyer duly licensed to practice law in the relevant jurisdiction. These materials do not constitute legal advice and do not create a lawyer-client relationship between you and any of the authors or the MacLeod Law Firm.”

 

 

 

How much Notice of Termination is a Probationary Employee Entitled to Receive?

By , April 26, 2016 9:00 am

I draft employment contracts for most of my employer clients. When doing so I always ask whether the employer wants to include a probationary period clause in the contract.

A recent case highlights some of the issues that arise when there is a probationary clause in an employment contract.

In this particular case, an employee who had been lured from secure employment signed an employment contract with a six-month probation clause. The question was whether he was entitled to “reasonable” notice of termination?

What is Probation?

According to the judge hearing this case, “Probation is a testing period for the employer to assess a probationary employee’s suitability. It offers the employer an opportunity to determine if the employee will work in harmony with the organization, if hired permanently. Suitability includes considerations of the probationary employee’s character, ability to work with others, and ability to meet the employer’s present and future standards.” … “Probationary employment, on its face and by its nature, is inconsistent with any inducement or promise of long-term employment.”

What are an Employer’s Obligations During Probation?

According to the judge hearing this case,A probationary employer must extend to the probationary employee a fair opportunity to demonstrate suitability for permanent employment. However, in the absence of bad faith, an employer is entitled to dismiss a probationary employee without notice and without giving reasons.”…” “All that is required is that the employer show that it acted fairly in determining whether the probationary employee was suitable and that he/she was given a fair opportunity to demonstrate his/her ability.”

Judge’s Decision

Justice Sanderson concluded: “Since the employer was entitled to terminate the probationary employment in good faith during the probation period, it is not necessary for this Court to determine the period of reasonable notice.” It appears the judge concluded that the employee was entitled to the one week notice of termination he was entitled to receive under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act as opposed to the 4 months termination pay the trial judge had awarded the employee. We do not know whether this decision has been appealed.

Lessons to Be Learned

  1. This case states that an employer has the onus of proving that a probationary employee was provided with “a fair opportunity to demonstrate suitability for permanent employment.” What does “fair opportunity” mean? Does it mean that the employer is required to monitor a probationary more closely than a non-probationary employee?
  2. In situations where the employer wants the right to terminate an employee without notice during the first three months of employment there is no need for a probationary clause if the employer has a without cause termination clause which gives the employer the right to terminate an employee’s employment by providing the minimum notice of termination required under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act.
  3. In situations where the employer wants a probationary period in excess of three months then the employer can consider including an early termination provision in the probationary clause.

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 at 416 317-9894 or at doug@macleodlawfirm.ca

“The material and information provided on this blog and this website are for general information only and should not, in any respect, 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 linked or referred to or contained herein. No person should act or refrain from acting in reliance on any information found on this website or blog, without first retaining counsel and obtaining appropriate professional advice from a lawyer duly licensed to practice law in the relevant jurisdiction. These materials do not constitute legal advice and do not create a lawyer-client relationship between you and any of the authors or the MacLeod Law Firm.”

Disability Insurance and the Uncooperative Employee

By , April 13, 2016 10:00 am

Do you have an employee who is absent because of a medical issue, but will not provide the necessary paperwork to a third-party disability insurance provider? We often get calls from frustrated employers who are unsure how to proceed when such a situation arises. A 2015 case from the Ontario Superior Court offers employers some direction.

Betts v IBM Canada Ltd., 2015 ONSC 5298

Mr. Betts began working for IBM in 1999. In 2008, he began to suffer from a major recurring depressive and anxiety disorder for which he took medication and received therapy. He had two major depressive episodes, one in 2008/ 2009 and one in 2013/ 2014. In 2008/2009, he went off on short-term disability and completed all the necessary paperwork to do so. In mid-October 2013, Mr. Betts stopped attending work. Despite receiving instructions to complete the necessary forms by November 5, 2013, Mr. Betts failed to do so.

Between December 2013 and June 2014, IBM sent Mr. Betts five letters which outlined his options in the face of his refusal and/or inability to comply with the short-term disability plan requirements. He was advised that he would be considered to have voluntarily resigned if he did not undertake one of the available options. He continued to provide incomplete information.  In the final letter sent on May 15, 2014, IBM advised that he had until June 9, 2014 to submit additional information for his second and final appeal. He once again failed to submit the necessary information. He emailed IBM advising that he would not be returning because “his doctor’s not still applied.” The doctor’s note, as he had been advised, did not comply with the physician requirements of the disability plan.  On June 30, 2015, IBM considered Mr. Bett to have voluntary left his position. Mr. Betts sued for wrongful dismissal, but the Courts agreed with IBM stating “[i]t is difficult to imagine what more the defendant could have done during the plaintiff’s 8 month absence…”

Lessons for Employers

  1. Maintain open and clear communication with the employee. Be sure to advise the employee in writing of his or her obligations and what the consequence will be for failing to comply.
  2. Give the employee multiple warnings and opportunities to adequately comply. Although this can extend the timeframe of an unapproved absence, it helps demonstrate that the employer did everything that it could to assist the employee to comply and a finding of abandonment is more likely.
  3. Keep in mind that as an employer, you still have a duty to accommodate to the point of undue hardship under the Human Rights Code. Just because a third-party insurance provider denies a claim, it does not necessarily mean that there is not a means by which the employee can be accommodate. The case described above did not address any Human Rights Code.

If you have any questions about an employee taking medical leaves of absences and your duties as an employer, please contact us at inquiry@macleodlawfirm.ca or 647-204-8107 and one of our lawyers would be happy to speak to you.

“The material and information provided on this blog and this website are for general information only and should not, in any respect, 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 linked or referred to or contained herein. No person should act or refrain from acting in reliance on any information found on this website or blog, without first retaining counsel and obtaining appropriate professional advice from a lawyer duly licensed to practice law in the relevant jurisdiction. These materials do not constitute legal advice and do not create a lawyer-client relationship between you and any of the authors or the MacLeod Law Firm.”

Panorama Theme by Themocracy