Focus Alerts

Our Focus Alerts provide up-to-the minute information about significant cases and other developments in labour and employment law.

The articles listed below are intended to provide readers with general information. They should not be regarded or relied upon as legal advice or opinion.

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New federal labour standards take root; federal employers take heed!

August 20, 2019

Many of the employment standards changes that the federal government worked through Parliament over the past year are coming into effect on September 1, 2019. Federal employers must now be ready to adopt new practices to avoid penalties. The standards coming into effect on September 1, 2019, are:   Right to request flexible work arrangements After six (6) consecutive months of employment, employees will be entitled to request changes to their hours of work, work schedule, or work location. The request must be written, and the employer must respond in writing as soon as possible. The request can only be…

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Canada Without Barriers to Accessibility by 2040

July 22, 2019

On November 27, 2018, the House of Commons passed Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, also known as the Accessible Canada Act (the “Act”). The Act received Royal Assent on June 21, 2019 and will come into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.   Purpose The Act is intended to provide a proactive and systemic approach to the identification, removal and prevention of barriers to accessibility for persons with disabilities in relation to the following areas: employment; the built environment; communication, including use of American, Quebec, and Indigenous sign…

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Ontario introduces legislation to limit compensation increases in the public sector

June 14, 2019

On June 5, 2019, the Ontario government introduced Bill 124 – An Act to implement moderation measures in respect of compensation in Ontario’s public sector. The legislation follows a two-month consultation period that commenced April 4, 2019 (see Ontario government launches public sector compensation consultations – wages to be “modest, reasonable and sustainable”). Short-titled as the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, 2019, the explanatory note prefacing the legislation states that its purpose is “to ensure that increases in public sector compensation reflect the fiscal situation of the Province, are consistent with the principles of responsible fiscal…

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The existence of concurrent criminal charges does not stop the statutory limitation period from running

May 9, 2019

A recent decision of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice will prove to be very useful for employers as it reduces the potential for lingering liability in respect of wrongful dismissal claims. In Sosnowski v MacEwen Petroleum Inc. (April 2019), the court dismissed a wrongful dismissal action because it was commenced more than two years after the date of termination. The decision confirms that there must be “exceptional factual circumstances” in order to extend the deadline for commencing a wrongful dismissal action. Emond Harnden’s Porter Heffernan and Joël Rocque successfully argued this point on a motion for summary judgment on…

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Arbitrator Determines Termination of Nurse for Addiction-Related Narcotics Theft Discriminatory but Reinstatement not an Appropriate Remedy

April 17, 2019

In the recent case of Humber River Hospital v. Ontario Nurses’ Association, (December 2018) an arbitrator considered the complex issue of addiction-related narcotics theft by a nurse. The issue was whether the Hospital had failed in its duty to accommodate when it terminated an emergency room nurse with a drug addiction who had stolen narcotics from the Hospital and used them while at work. The union grieved her termination on the basis that the termination was discriminatory, since her conduct stemmed from an addiction disability, and argued that the Hospital had failed in its duty to accommodate. The union also…

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Bill 66 receives Royal Assent – More changes to ESA now in effect

April 11, 2019

Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2019, received Royal Assent on April 3, 2019. As discussed in a previous Focus Alert (see Ontario’s workplace laws continue to be the target of change as the government introduces Bill 66), Bill 66 is omnibus legislation that amends, in part, the Employment Standards Act, the Labour Relations Act and the Pension Benefits Act.   Employment Standards Act (“ESA”) The following ESA amendments came into effect on April 3, 2019: ESA Poster Employers are no longer required to post the ESA poster in the workplace. Employers are still required to provide the most recent version…

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Ontario government launches public sector compensation consultations – wages to be “modest, reasonable and sustainable”

April 9, 2019

On April 4th, the Ontario government announced that it would be consulting with public sector employers and collective bargaining agents “on how to manage compensation growth in a way that results in wage settlements that are modest, reasonable and sustainable.” The government further stated that the feedback received would directly inform the next steps taken to manage growth in public sector compensation costs. The announcement came roughly one week following the release of the 2018 Public Sector Salary Disclosure, more commonly known as the “sunshine list”. As most people are aware, the sunshine list sets out the names and salaries of public…

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“Context is everything” – arbitrator interprets “serious illness” in Ontario Nurses’ Association Collective Agreement

March 27, 2019

Many employers in the health care sector will be familiar with collective agreement provisions that operate to convert vacation leave pay to sick leave pay where an employee’s vacation is interrupted by “serious illness”. These types of provisions have been hotly-contested between employers and unions for well over twenty years. The recent decision in Peterborough Regional Health Centre and Ontario Nurses’ Association (December, 2018) represents a positive step forward in how such provisions will be interpreted. It should be noted that Emond Harnden’s own Raquel Chisholm represented the Health Centre in these proceedings. The controversial language that was the subject…

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Federal Government appoints expert panel to advise on further changes to the Canada Labour Code

March 26, 2019

Bill C-86, which received Royal Assent on December 13, 2018, will introduce a number of significant changes to the Canada Labour Code (the “Code”). The Bill C-86 changes to the Code are not yet in force and will come into force on a date to be ordered by the Governor in Council after the government holds regulatory consultations this spring and summer. These changes relate to hours of work and breaks, vacations, equal treatment based on employment status, termination notice and leaves of absence (for more detail see Federal Government Proposes Significant Amendments to the Canada Labour Code in Bill C-86)….

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Ontario Court of Appeal: No tort of harassment in Ontario

March 21, 2019

In a landmark decision, the Ontario Court of Appeal set aside a lower court decision and held that there is no freestanding tort of harassment in Ontario. In Merrifield v. Canada (Attorney General) (March, 2019) the appellate court was provided its first opportunity to consider the existence of the tort of harassment in Ontario. The resulting decision is very positive for employers and corrects a handful of lower court decisions that recognized harassment as a stand-alone cause of action. By way of background, in 2005 Mr. Merrifield was employed by the RCMP as a Constable. He was promoted to Corporal in…

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