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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Report of the Expert Panel on Modern Federal Labour Standards released

December 20, 2019

As we discussed in a previous Focus Alert, in addition to the Bill C-86 changes to the labour standards provisions of the Canada Labour Code (the “Code”), an independent Expert Panel was appointed in February 2019 to study, consult and provide advice on the following five complex issues: A federal minimum wage; Labour standards protections for non-standard workers; Disconnecting from work-related e-communications outside of work hours (the “right to disconnect”); Access and portability of benefits; and A collective voice for non-unionized workers. During the course of the Expert Panel’s work, other areas were identified that merited further consideration and recommendations….

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WSIB’s new Rate Framework to come into effect January 1, 2020 – significant changes to employer classification and rate setting

December 19, 2019

Effective January 1, 2020, the Workplace Safety Insurance Board (“WSIB”) will be replacing its current Schedule 1 employer classification system and premium and experience rating programs with a new “Rate Framework”. Additionally, the WSIB will implement a five-year premium rate freeze for all non-profit organizations operating in Ontario. This means that employers will no longer pay a fixed annual premium with the chance of a rebate or surcharge under their experience rating programs. Instead, under the WSIB’s new Rate Framework, employers will pay prospective and fluctuating premium rates based on a new classification system and their individual claim history. The…

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Ontario caps compensation increases for public servants and the broader public sector

November 13, 2019

Bill 124, the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, 2019 (the “Act”), received Royal Assent on November 7, 2019, and was proclaimed in force on November 8, 2019. Readers of Focus will recall that the legislation operates to limit compensation increases for both unionized and non-unionized employees in the Ontario public service and the broader public sector (see Ontario introduces legislation to limit compensation increases in the public sector). As can be expected, the legislation has come under heavy fire with unions representing impacted employees gearing up for constitutional challenges.   Application of Bill 124 Bill 124…

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Limitations on specifically bargained benefits can exist outside of the express terms of the collective agreement

October 30, 2019

A recent arbitration decision confirms that there can be external limitations on collectively bargained benefits coverage. In Ottawa Professional Firefighters’ Association and The City of Ottawa (September 2019), Arbitrator Brian Keller determined that the collective agreement in question did not provide an all-encompassing, comprehensive benefit plan. Instead, he agreed with the employer’s position that standard limitations and conditions set out in external documents, such as the master contract with the insurance carrier, may be valid if employees are not deprived of the benefit negotiated in the collective agreement. It is noteworthy that the employer in this arbitration was expertly and…

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Voting time: Employers’ obligations on Election Day

October 16, 2019

The federal election has been called for October 21, 2019. Employers should be aware that, under the Canada Elections Act, they must provide employees paid time off to vote.   Three consecutive hours to vote All employees who are Canadian citizens and 18 years of age or older are entitled to have three consecutive hours off on Election Day to vote. Voting hours in the Eastern time zone are from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. If an employee’s hours of work do not allow for three consecutive hours off within this period, the employer must give them sufficient time off…

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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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