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Dentons’ Employment and Labour Seminar

You are invited to the Dentons’ Labour, Employment and Pensions group half-day seminar on emerging workplace and human resources issues. Join us on May 31st at this complimentary seminar to discuss topics such as:

Please confirm your attendance and select your seminars by Monday, May 27, 2019.

CHRP accreditation

This program may be eligible for recertification points.

CPD accreditation

This program may be eligible for substantive hours required by the Law Society of Ontario.

Agenda

8:30 a.m.Registration and breakfast
8:50 a.m.–9:55 a.m.Opening remarks and guest speaker to give an update on drug and alcohol testing 
10:10 a.m.–12:40 p.m.Breakout sessions
12:40 p.m.Lunch and networking

Questions

Please contact Melis Dimitriou, Client Development Coordinator, Events at melis.dimitriou@dentons.com or +1 416 361 2336.

Dentons Canada LLP is committed to accessibility for persons with disabilities. Please contact us at toronto.events@dentons.com in advance of the event if you have any particular accommodation requirements. We will work with you to make appropriate arrangements.

Register Now

Dentons’ Employment and Labour Seminar

Pay Transparency is Back (Maybe)

As you will recall, the Pay Transparency Act, 2018 was passed by the previous Ontario government and was scheduled to come into effect on January 1, 2019. In fall 2018, the current administration postponed the effective date indefinitely, leading many to speculate that the legislation would not come into force.

However, we may yet see pay transparency legislation in Ontario. In February 2019, the Ministry of Labour opened public consultations concerning the reporting requirements of the Pay Transparency Act. These consultations closed on April 5, 2019.

As a reminder, the Pay Transparency Act includes the following key concepts:

Employers will not be allowed to ask for compensation history from a job applicant or through an agent.

Employers will be required to include the expected compensation or range for a position in all publicly advertised job postings.

Reprisals by employers will be prohibited against employees who disclose, inquire about or discuss compensation.

Employers with 100 or more employees would be required (this would be phased in over time) to submit and post a pay transparency report annually, which includes information about the employer’s workforce and differences in compensation between male and female employees.

The consultation paper asks for submissions on the following issues:

Because hourly wage gaps alone would not capture all aspects of compensation differences between males and females, what additional wage gap calculation should be required in order to create a more accurate picture – for example, bonuses, overtime pay, commissions?

What reporting period do employers prefer to use to calculate average and median hourly gender wage gaps – for example, calendar year, a prescribed period such as a pay period or specific week, fiscal year, etc.?

Do employers with 100 or more employees currently have all the information they would need to calculate the organization’s median and hourly gender wage gaps for a specified period?

How much do employers with 100 or more employees estimate the cost of pay transparency reporting will be with respect to IT and software costs, personnel costs and other costs?

How many hours do employers with 100 or more employees anticipate that pay transparency reporting will take in total?

We will update our readers once the government issues the results of the consultation process.

Pay Transparency is Back (Maybe)

Accessibility Laws in Canada – Status @ January 1, 2019

As of January 1, 2019, the federal government and the provinces of Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia are at various stages of introducing accessibility laws. Canada is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and as such has agreed to take appropriate measures to achieve accessibility and to develop and monitor minimum accessibility standards. Here is a snapshot of the current situation across the country.

Ontario

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is fully operational and, regardless of the size of your organization, as long as you have one or more employees in Ontario, your organization should have fulfilled the general accessibility requirements, complied with the accessible customer service standard, the employment standard, the design of public space standard and information and communication requirements (with the exception of websites).  This blog post does not address the education and public transportation sectors.

Ongoing obligations include training of staff on the Human Rights Code disability provisions and the AODA whenever new staff are hired or your policies change. Employers with 20 or more employees in Ontario must also report compliance on the Service Ontario website every 3 years and employers with 50 or more employees must review and update their multi-year accessibility plan at least every 5 years.  Monetary penalties have already been issued against certain organizations for a failure to report their on-line compliance.

Websites and content published after January 1, 2012 will need to meet the WCAG 2.0 Level AA guidelines (with a few carveouts) by January 1, 2021, except where it is not technically feasible, your organization does not control the information, the content is unconvertible or the required technology is not readily available.  These guidelines have been developed by the World Wide Web Consortium and include “success criteria” that cover matters such as meaningful sequences, separation of foreground information from background, functionality by keyboard, avoidance of flashing visuals, providing non-text content in text format and other criteria to address which make navigation and use of websites more accessible for those with a variety of developmental, physical, intellectual, mental, sensory, visual and hearing disabilities.

Manitoba

The first standard under The Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA) applies as of November 1, 2018 to private sector employers with one or more employees in Manitoba. The Customer Service Standard Regulation applies to such organizations if they provide goods or services directly to the public or to another organization in Manitoba. Fortunately, the Customer Service Standard Regulation is very similar to the accessible customer service standard under the AODA and minimal changes will be required to bring your standard into compliance if you already have an Ontario customer service policy and training program. Employers with 20 or more employees in Manitoba must also document training of staff on the AMA and the Manitoba Human Rights Code. Monitoring of compliance on the Customer Service Standard is expected to start in 2019 or 2020.

Standards on employment and information and communications have been drafted.  Upcoming standards will cover the built environment and public transportation and infrastructure. Apparently the education standard will be the final standard to be developed.

Nova Scotia

The Accessibility Act  was passed in 2017. Standards currently under development cover education and the built environment. The plan is to develop other standards at the rate of one per year starting in 2021 to cover: delivery of goods and services, information and communication, public transportation and infrastructure and employment.

Federal Government

The federal government introduced Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, or the “Accessible Canada Act” (ACA) on June 20, 2018. The Bill passed third reading in the House of Commons as of November 27, 2018. There have been many amendments and much discussion. The standing committee reported back with 74 amendments. The Bill was in first reading in the Senate on November 29, 2018.

Note that the ACA does not make Canada accessible and does not require the provinces to take any legislative steps. Instead, the ACA will required organizations governed by federal law to implement accessibility. Such employers include those in telecommunications, broadcasting, interprovincial transportation, railways, shipping and banking. Such employers will need to develop an accessibility plan, which needs to be updated every 3 years, a feedback process, and to publish progress reports.

The enforcement mechanisms go further than those of the AODA. Enforcement includes inspections, production orders, compliance orders, monetary penalties and compliance agreements.  There is also a complaint process to the Accessibility Commissioner, who can order compensation for lost wages, up to $20,000 for pain and suffering and up to $20,000 in case of a wilful or reckless practice.  The CRTC will be responsible for compliance and enforcement in the broadcasting and telecom sectors, while the Canadian Transportation Agency will be responsible for the transportation sector.

Stay Tuned

We will issue further updates as further standards are developed under the provincial accessibility laws and when the federal Accessible Canada Act is passed.

Accessibility Laws in Canada – Status @ January 1, 2019

Employment and labour law trends to watch for in 2019

Date: January 17, 2019
Time: 9-10 a.m. PT,  10-11 a.m. MT, 12-1 p.m. ET

Join us for a complimentary 1 hour webinar where we’ll highlight and identify the changes in Employment and Labour law that you need to know about and the trends that can be expected to impact your workplace in 2019.

Topics will include:

  • A roundup on the big changes to workplace legislation across the country
  • US Immigration and cross-border travel in light of the legalization of cannabis in Canada

Please confirm your attendance by Tuesday, January 15, 2019.

CPD/CLE Accreditation

LSBC: This session will be registered for 1 hour of CPD credit with the Law Society of British Columbia.
LSO: This program is eligible for up to 1 substantive hour with the Law Society of Ontario.

Barreau du Québec: This program will allow participants to earn 1 CLE hour with the Barreau du Québec.

This session is only available via webinar

Speakers

Questions

Please contact Carla Vasquez, Events Manager, at carla.vasquez@dentons.com or +1 416 361 2377.

Dentons Canada LLP is committed to accessibility for persons with disabilities. Please contact us at toronto.events@dentons.com in advance of the event if you have any particular accommodation requirements. We will work with you to make appropriate arrangements.

Employment and labour law trends to watch for in 2019

Reasonable Notice Damages for Wrongful Dismissal Cannot be Determined via Summary Judgment

The decision from of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta in Coffey v. Nine Energy Canada Inc., 2018 ABQB 898 [Coffey], provides clarity amidst the conflicting jurisprudential landscape regarding whether the assessment of damages for a termination without cause is appropriate for summary judgment.

In Coffey, the Plaintiff had commenced a claim for wrongful dismissal and applied for summary judgment against his former employer, alleging entitlement to damages for a reasonable notice period and a percentage of revenue. The Defendant counterclaimed, alleging the Plaintiff made disparaging remarks and improperly used confidential information. The Master found that summary judgment was inappropriate for the assessment of damages for pay in lieu of reasonable notice for wrongful dismissal. Summary judgment was also not suitable for the Plaintiff’s claims for punitive or aggravated damages, or for the counterclaim. The Plaintiff appealed.

The Court dismissed the appeal, judging that the assessment of damages for pay in lieu of reasonable notice for wrongful dismissal is outside of a Master’s jurisdiction and beyond the scope of summary judgment. Because the assessment of reasonable notice requires weighing evidence, the appropriate summary procedure is via summary trial, not summary judgment.

The Court acknowledged that the question of the appropriate test for summary judgment in ascertaining whether a claim has “merit” was presently before the Court of Appeal for determination. However, the Court found that it was not necessary to decide that issue in order to find that it is not appropriate to determine reasonable notice damages by way of summary judgment. The Court noted that both the Court of Queen’s Bench Act, s.9, and the Constitution Act, 1867, s.96, preclude Masters from weighing evidence to determine damages. The summary judgment rule must be interpreted within the context of a Master’s jurisdiction and is not intended to determine the parties’ rights; rather, the rule requires an examination of the evidence to find whether there is an issue to be tried. Thus, when evidence must be weighed and contentious issues of fact determined, summary judgment is inappropriate. Instead, the correct procedure is summary trial, regardless of whether the summary judgment application is before a Master or a Justice.

The Court commented that the assessment of damages for reasonable notice is not a mechanical exercise. It involves the weighing of evidence to ascertain the reasonable notice period. The analysis must be conducted on a case-by-case basis as the factual scenarios, and in particular, the distinguishing facts, have a significant impact on the analysis. It is not a matter of simply locating where the pertinent factual scenario falls on a chart of prior decisions and accepting that as determining the matter. To the contrary, the jurisprudence merely establishes general parameters, narrowing down the likely findings within which parties can assess their potential exposure.

Determining the damages claimed for lost revenues involves contested facts and is intertwined with the entitlement of reasonable notice damages. As such, the Court gave deference to the Master’s decision that summary judgment was not appropriate in the circumstances. The Court also found that the Defendant’s counterclaim involved a material conflict in evidence, likely requiring viva voce evidence and a trial. The Plaintiff confirmed on questioning that he made statements about the Defendant to clients, supporting the counterclaim, and thereby providing a genuine issue of merit requiring a trial.

In conclusion, the Court supported the Master’s finding that an assessment of damages for pay in lieu of reasonable notice for wrongful dismissal is not appropriate for summary judgment. It requires a determination of contentious issues of fact, the weighing of evidence to decide the Plaintiff’s rights and entitlements, and is outside the scope of the summary judgment rule and Masters’ jurisdiction. Instead, the summary trial process before a Justice is the appropriate process to decide matters such as the one before the Court in Coffey.

Reasonable Notice Damages for Wrongful Dismissal Cannot be Determined via Summary Judgment

More Legislative Changes Coming with Bill 66

Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2018 was recently introduced in the Ontario Legislature (“Bill 66”).  Bill 66—as the name suggests—aims to make Ontario more competitive by reducing regulatory burden and giving businesses more flexibility.

Bill 66 proposes to make the following changes to existing legislation:

  • Excess Hours of Work and Overtime Averaging Applications: Bill 66 proposes to amend the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”) to no longer require approval from the Director of Employment Standards of an application for excess hours of work and overtime averaging.

Employers would still be required to enter into written agreements with employees to have employees work excess hours and to average overtime hours worked.  Additionally, employers can only average an employee’s hours of work for the purposes of calculating overtime pay over a maximum of four (4) weeks.

  • ESA Poster: Bill 66 proposes to remove the requirement for employers to provide both the ESA poster to employees and post it in the workplace. Employers will only have to provide the most recent version of the ESA poster to the employees.
  • “Non-Construction Employers”: Public bodies, including municipalities, school boards, hospitals, colleges and universities, will be deemed “non-construction employers” through an amendment to the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (“LRA”).

This proposed amendment to the LRA will help to prevent certain broader public sector entities from becoming bound to collective agreements for the construction industry, when these entities are not actually in the construction business.

  • Merging Pension Plans: The Pension Benefits Act will be amended to make it easier for private-sector employers to merge single-employer pension plans with jointly sponsored pension plans.
  • Exemption from Guardrail Requirements for the Auto Sector: For assembly lines, there will be a new, targeted exemption from guardrail requirements for a conveyor and raised platform.
  • Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) regulation: This proposed amendment to WHMIS regulations would allow new labels to be placed on old containers, preventing the need to dispose of chemicals with old labels. By removing the need to re-purchase newly labeled chemicals unnecessarily, this would result in saving Ontario universities an estimated $60.2 million to $107.9 million.

Bill 66 was introduced and carried first reading on December 6, 2018.  As Bill 66 progresses through the legislature, the proposed amendments may change and new amendments may be put forth.  We will continue to keep you updated.

The author would like to thank Jonathan Meyer for his assistance with this blog.

More Legislative Changes Coming with Bill 66

The More Things Change… Ford Government Rolls Back Bill 148

On November 21, 2018, Bill 47—the Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018—received royal assent. Bill 47 makes numerous amendments to the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (LRA), and the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2009. As outlined earlier, Bill 47 revisits the previous Liberal government’s labour reforms included in Bill 148 and eliminates many of its most controversial aspects.

The effective dates of the changes as outlined in Bill 47 are as follows:

  • The majority of changes with respect to the ESA come into force on January 1, 2019.
  • The changes with respect to the LRA came into force upon royal assent (November 21, 2019).

A summary of some of the significant changes is provided below.

EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS ACT, 2000

  • The scheduled minimum wage increase effective January 1, 2019 is cancelled. The $14.00/hr minimum wage will be maintained and will be re-indexed beginning in October 2020.
  • Equal pay for equal work will be removed on the basis of employment status and assignment employee status. However, the requirement for equal pay on the basis of sex will be maintained.
  • The 2 paid personal emergency leave days will be removed. Personal emergency leave days will be provided up to 8 unpaid days consisting of up to 3 days for personal illness, 3 days for family responsibility, and 2 days for bereavement. Employers will not be prohibited from asking for a certificate from a qualified health practitioner as evidence to support the request for personal emergency leave days.
  • For employees who regularly work more than 3 hours per day but attend work and thereafter work less than 3 hours, the employer will be required to pay wages equivalent to 3 hours of pay.
  • The new scheduling and on-call provisions will be revoked.
  • The reverse onus on employers regarding independent contractors will be repealed.

LABOUR RELATIONS ACT, 1995

  • The ability for trade unions to apply, when there is no certified bargaining agent for the employees, for an order requiring an employer to provide the trade union a list of all employees is revoked. Any applications under this section are immediately terminated and trade unions must destroy any employee lists they have received.
  • The Ontario Labour Relations Board is no longer required to certify a trade union for certain employer contraventions of the LRA.
  • The ability of the Ontario Labour Relations Board to review the structure of bargaining units and grant certain orders in certain circumstances is repealed.
  • The expansion of automatic, card-based certification for industries outside of construction is revoked.
  • Educational support in the practice of labour relations and collective bargaining is revoked.
  • The new first contract arbitration provisions are reversed.
  • Collective agreements will now be publically available on the Government of Ontario website.
  • The increase in fines for convictions under the LRA is reversed.
  • New methods of delivering notices and communications under the LRA are contemplated and corresponding presumptions with respect to receipt of these communications are included in the LRA.

Bill 47 did not repeal the increased vacation benefits nor the new leaves of absence (i.e. Child Death and Domestic or Sexual Violence Leave) which were introduced by Bill 148. Nonetheless, employers throughout the province will likely welcome these amendments which will help eliminate some of the uncertainty that was introduced along with Bill 148.

For those interested, the Ontario Minister of Labour, Laurie Scott, will be the keynote speaker at Dentons Canada LLP’s upcoming Labour, Employment and Pensions seminar on Friday, November 30. For more information regarding the seminar, please click here.

The More Things Change… Ford Government Rolls Back Bill 148

What happens to the pension when the pensioner disappears into thin air?

The Supreme Court of Canada recently agreed to hear an appeal of a Quebec case that deals with the obligations and rights of a pension plan administrator when a pensioner goes missing.

The facts are unique.  A 77-year-old retired university professor went for a walk one crisp autumn day and never returned.  He had been receiving a pension of approximately $7,000 per month from his former employer, Carleton University.  The type of pension that he had chosen to receive was a “life only” pension, meaning it would be paid only to him during his lifetime, with nothing left to his heirs or estate.

A ten-day police search found no trace of him.  When Carleton University found out that he was missing, it wanted to stop the pension payments.  But the professor’s former partner, heir and property administrator objected, pointing to the Quebec law that presumed him to be alive, until he can be declared dead after being missing for seven years.  So the University continued to make the pension payments.

Five years later the professor’s body was discovered in dense woods not far from his home.  A coroner concluded that his death was accidental, and that he had died shortly after going on that fateful walk.

The University had paid almost half a million dollars in pension benefits, from the date he went missing to the date his body was found.  The University wanted that money back.  It sued the professor’s former partner for reimbursement.

A Quebec Superior Court judge, and the Quebec Court of Appeal, agreed with the University.  They said that the University had been correct to continue the monthly pension payments for the five years that the pensioner was missing, because the pensioner was presumed to be alive then.  However, once the date of death was determined, the University was also correct to claim reimbursement of the pension payments that were made after the pensioner died.  The University had a retroactive entitlement to be reimbursed, in circumstances where no one did anything wrong.

The Supreme Court of Canada will have the last word on this sad and interesting case.

What happens to the pension when the pensioner disappears into thin air?

WSIB’s New Rate Framework For Employers

Following policy consultations that took place from August 14, 2017 to January 15, 2018, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB or the Board) announced its new rate framework for employers. This framework will replace current WSIB policies on classification structure, rate setting, and retroactive experience rating on January 1, 2020. As such, employers should take note that there may be a change to how their business is classified and how premium rates are set as of January 1, 2020.

The new framework introduces six (6) core policies to replace the current thirteen (13) that make up the present system.  Notably, the new Employer Level Premium Rate Setting policy replaces current policies on the Merit Adjustment Premium Program, the Construction Industry Plan, and the New Experimental Experience Rating Plan (NEER). In preparing for the new system, employers should note that the severity of workplace accidents (as affected by the length of time that injured employees spend away from work) will become increasingly important for setting premium rates.

According to the Board, the new framework will be simpler and much easier for employers to understand. Additionally, the Board states that the new framework promises predictability and a more accurate reflection of the level of risk that individual employers and industries bring to the system. Under the new model, the WSIB limits an employer’s potential rate increase to a maximum of three risk bands per year. Employers will also be able to access their projected premium rates for future years. Additionally, the rate setting window used to set premium rates has been extended from three (3) or four (4) years to six (6) years. This change will reduce the impact that a single year has on an employer’s premium rate.

Every business registered with the WSIB should receive a letter about premium rates under the new framework later this year. More information on the upcoming rate framework changes can be found here.

Also co-authored by Jessica Hardy-Henry.

WSIB’s New Rate Framework For Employers

Going, Going, (Mostly) Gone: Ontario Conservative Government Announces Targeted Rollback of Bill 148 Amendments to the Ontario Employment Standards Act and the Ontario Labour Relations Act

Earlier today, Premier Doug Ford followed through on his promise to revisit the previous Liberal government’s labour reforms by introducing legislation that eliminates many of the most controversial aspects of Bill 148. The changes include:

  • Minimum wage increase to $15.00/hr effective January 1, 2019 is cancelled – the existing minimum wage of $14.00/hr will be maintained and will be re-indexed starting in October 2020;
  • 2 paid emergency leave days will be removed – personal emergency leave days will now be 8 days consisting of up to three days for personal illness, two days for bereavement, and three days for family responsibilities;
  • The ban on employers requesting doctor’s notes is removed – employers will be able to ask for reasonable evidence from qualified health practitioners in support of an employee’s request for personal emergency leave days;
  • Equal pay for equal work will be removed, on the basis of employment status and assignment employee status. However, the requirement for equal pay on the basis of sex will be maintained.
  • The new scheduling and on-call provisions will be revoked;
  • The reverse onus provision regarding independent contractors will be revoked;
  • The expansion of the automatic card based certification for industries outside of construction will be revoked;
  • The 20% threshold for unions to apply for employee information is gone;
  • The new first contract arbitration provisions will be reversed; and
  • The doubling of fines under the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 will be reversed.

That said, the new legislation preserves employees’ entitlements to the previously announced enhanced vacation benefits as well as the new leaves of absence (i.e. Child Death and Domestic or Sexual Violence Leave).

These changes are likely to be welcomed by employers across the province. In particular, the return to the pre-Bill 148 position on personal emergency leave and scheduling will eliminate a great amount of uncertainty amongst employers. We will be following the progress of this legislation closely and will be providing regular updates as the Bill progresses.

Going, Going, (Mostly) Gone: Ontario Conservative Government Announces Targeted Rollback of Bill 148 Amendments to the Ontario Employment Standards Act and the Ontario Labour Relations Act