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Upcoming Ontario Ministry of Labour blitzes

Ontario’s Ministry of Labour has announced several upcoming blitzes during which it will ensure that employers in specified industries are compliant with particular areas of concern under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”).  Both provincial and regional blitzes have been announced.

A recent posting on this blog dealt with the issue of unpaid internships, in follow-up to the announcement by Toronto Life magazine and The Walrus magazine that they were ending their unpaid internships following recent government inspections.  Those inspections were part of the announced blitz with a focus on interns, which began in April and will continue until June in the areas of marketing/public relations, software development, retail, media, film and entertainment industries.

Also on the horizon is a provincial blitz to focus on vulnerable and temporary foreign workers which has been announced for the period from September to November 2014 in the following industries: restaurants, building services, personal care services, business support services and agriculture. 

Finally, that will be followed in early 2015 with a provinncial blitz on temporary help agencies, in order to ensure that they are compliant with the laws relating to temporary help workers.

On a regional level, Simcoe, Peel, Dufferin & York veterinary clinics and security service firms will undergo a general ESA blitz in June and July of 2014.  At the same time, Toronto and Durham region car dealerships and supermarkets will also undergo a general ESA blitz.  Ottawa, Kingston, Peterborough, Hamilton, Kitchener/Waterloo, London and Windsor seasonal businesses and tourism-related businesses will see their own general ESA blitz from June through August and finally, professional offices in Northern Ontario will see a similar blitz in June and July.

It is always good to have your house in order; however, for companies which may be targeted by one of the blitzes noted above, it is of particular importance that your business be compliant with the ESA.

For more information, the Ministry’s announcement can be found at the following link:  https://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/resources/blitzschedule.php.

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Upcoming Ontario Ministry of Labour blitzes

Beware the Unpaid Intern – He/She May be Eligible for Pay

The issue of unpaid internships is becoming a growing concern for both employers and Ministry of Labour Inspectors. Recently, the publisher of magazines Toronto Life and The Walrus announced that they were pulling the plug on their unpaid internships following a Ministry of Labour inspection (http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/unpaid-internships-at-toronto-life-the-walrus-shut-down-by-ontario-1.2589115). Rogers has subsequently followed suit, with a company spokesperson announcing that the company wants all internships to be associated with an educational institution or to be paid (http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/04/03/unpaid_interns_dropped_from_rogersowned_magazines.html).

Provincial employment standards legislation in Canada generally requires that all “employees” receive minimum wage and that the employer meets other minimum standards. The legislation does, however, recognize that there is a benefit to allowing unpaid internships, while at the same time ensuring that certain requirements are met in order to prevent an employer from characterizing vulnerable workers as “interns” to avoid the obligation to provide the minimum standards.

The employment standards requirements for retaining unpaid interns vary significantly across Canada. This blog will examine the requirements in Ontario and Québec.

Ontario Requirements

Internships in the School Context

An individual can work and not be subject to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the “ESA”) in either of the following circumstances:

  • he/she is a secondary school student who performs work under a work experience program authorized by the school board that operates the school in which the student is enrolled; or
  • he/she performs work pursuant to a program approved by a college of applied arts and technology or a university.

If either of these exemptions applies, the individual can be retained without the organization meeting the requirements of the ESA.

Internships Outside of the School Context

If the internship program is not affiliated with a college of applied arts and technology or a university, an individual receiving training in skills similar to those used by the organization’s employees is an “employee” and is entitled to the minimum requirements of the ESA (including minimum wage), unless all of the following conditions are met:

  • The training is similar to that which is given in a vocational school;
  • The training is for the benefit of the individual;
  • The organization providing the training derives little, if any, benefit from the activity of the individual while he or she is being trained;
  • The individual does not displace employees of the organization providing the training;
  • The individual is not accorded a right to become an employee of the organization providing the training; and
  • The individual is advised that he or she will receive no remuneration for the time that he or she spends in training.

Only if all of these requirements are met is the person exempt from the ESA. If even one of these conditions is not satisfied, the individual would be entitled to the minimum standards of the ESA.

Québec Requirements

Internships in the School Context

Section 3(5) of Québec’s Act respecting Labour Standards (the “ALS”) provides that the ALS does not apply to a student who works during the school year in an establishment selected by an educational institution pursuant to a job induction program approved by the Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport (the Ministry of Education). The fact that the ALS does not apply to such students implies that an employer may not be required to pay them.

However, each of the conditions mentioned in this provision must be present in order for the exception to apply. To be excluded from the application of the ALS, the individual must meet all of the following four conditions, namely:

  • be a student;
  • who works during the school year;
  • in an establishment chosen by an educational institution;
  • pursuant to a job induction program approved by the Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport.

Internships Outside of the School Context

In Québec, whenever an “internship” takes place outside of the school/student context such that the above exception is not applicable, the Regulation adopted under the Act respecting Labour Standards (“RLS”) provides that the minimum wage requirement does not exist for “trainees” or “students” such as:

  • a student employed in a non-profit organization having social or community purposes, such as a vacation camp or a recreational organization;
  • a trainee under a program of vocational training recognized by law (this law must provide for the nature and duration of the vocational training, i.e. internship in a law firm after Bar school); or
  • a trainee under a program of vocational integration under section 61 of the Act to secure the handicapped in the exercise of their rights.

The mere fact that trainees fall within any of the three above exceptions does not mean that they should not be paid at all during the internship, but rather means that the employer is not bound by the minimum wage rate requirement. However, where an employer chooses not to pay such trainees at all, the trainees do not have recourse pursuant to the ALS.

Whether in Ontario, Québec or elsewhere in Canada, we recommend that if an employer is contemplating retaining unpaid interns, legal advice be sought to ensure that the program meets the applicable provincial criteria. In addition, there should always be written documentation (such as an offer letter) making clear that the position is unpaid because the person is a student, trainee or an intern, to avoid later disputes that the individual did not understand the nature of the opportunity or the fact that he/she would not be paid.

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Beware the Unpaid Intern – He/She May be Eligible for Pay

(Not) April Fools Day – Changes to the Canada Labour Federal Code effective April 1, 2014

For those federally regulated employers that are governed by the Canada Labour Federal Code (the “Federal Code”), there are some substantive changes coming of which you should take note.

The Jobs and Growth Act, 2012 made certain amendments to the Federal Code. The amendments stem primarily from the public consultations that followed the Report of the Federal Labour Standards Review Commission that was released in 2006. The Government has indicated that the amendments are designed generally to make compliance with the Federal Code easier for employers and employees, and to reduce the employers’ costs of administering the legislation.

It has now been announced that the changes will come into force on April 1, 2014.

Limitation Period for Recovery of Wages

Currently there is no established time limit beyond which wages under Part III (labour standards) cannot be recovered. As a result, inspectors can issue written payment orders to employers or directors, ordering them to pay to the employee any wages or other amounts owing to which an employee is entitled going back as far as the evidence establishes that an amount is owing, potentially years prior.

The amendment will set a six-month time limit for the filing of a complaint alleging unpaid wages. As such, if an inspector concludes that an employer has paid to an employee all wages and other amounts under Part III for the six-month period preceding the complaint, the inspector will issue a notice of unfounded complaint. If an amount is found to be owing within this period, the inspector may make an order for wages and other amounts owing for a period starting 12 months (or 24 months for vacation pay) before the date on which the complaint is made, the date on which employment was terminated, or the date on which the inspection started (where a payment order results from a proactive inspection).

For employers, this means that an inspector will not be able to reach back indefinitely in reviewing an employee’s complaint for wages, and brings the Federal Code in line with most provincial statutes in setting a reasonable limit on the inspector’s power to issue orders.

Establishment of a 30-Day Time Period to Pay Vacation Pay on Termination of Employment

The Federal Code currently requires employers to pay outstanding vacation pay “forthwith” to employees when they cease to be employed. As vacation pay is considered wages under the Federal Code, this creates an anomaly, because the Federal Code generally requires employers to pay any wages “within 30 days” from the time when the entitlement to the wages arose. The amendment will ensure that employers pay employees any vacation pay owed within 30 days (rather than “forthwith”) after the day on which the employment ends.

Administrative Review Mechanism for Payment Orders and Notices of Unfounded Complaint

The amendments provide for an administrative review mechanism. Within 15 days of a payment order, the rejection of an unjust dismissal complaint or a notice of unfounded complaint, a person affected by an inspector’s decision can request a review of the decision, with written reasons. An employer or corporate director requesting a review would have to pay the Minister the amount indicated in the payment order as a condition of the review. A payment order or a notice of unfounded complaint could be confirmed, amended or rescinded on review. The decision on review could be further appealed to a referee, but only on a question of law or jurisdiction. The Minister could also refer a complex case directly to a referee, rather than going through the new review mechanism.

While these changes do not represent a major overhaul of the Federal Code, they do move in the right direction, in providing additional clarity and efficiency for employers subject to the Federal Code. The most significant change, the introduction of a limitation period for orders to pay wages, is an important and long overdue addition to the Federal Code, and is a welcome change for employers.

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(Not) April Fools Day – Changes to the Canada Labour Federal Code effective April 1, 2014

New standards allow compassionate care leave for employees

Alberta’s Employment Standards Code, has been amended to provide new minimum standards to allow employees to take compassionate care leave. On February 1, 2014, these amendments will take effect.

Employees will be eligible to take up to 8 weeks of leave in order to provide care or support to a seriously ill family member if the employee is the primary caregiver. In order to qualify the family member must be:

  • a spouse or common law partner of the employee,
  • a child of the employee or a child of the employee’s spouse or common law partner,
  • a parent of the employee or a spouse or common law partner of the parent, and
  • any other person who is a member of a class of persons designated in the regulations for the purpose of this definition.

Currently there are no other persons designated in the regulations for the purpose of the above definition.

The employee’s employment is protected during this leave and no employer may terminate the employment of, or lay off, an employee who has started compassionate care leave.

In order for employees to take compassionate care leave they must meet the following requirements:

  • The employee must be employed for at least 52 consecutive weeks with the employer;
  • The employee must produce a physician’s certificate stating that the family member has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks and they require the care or support of one or more family members; and
  • The employee must be the “primary caregiver”, meaning that the employee has the primary responsibility for providing care or support to a seriously ill family member for that family.

Given these new requirements for compassionate care leave, we recommend that employers review their workplace policies to ensure compliance with the Employment Standards Code.

New standards allow compassionate care leave for employees

Compliance Reminder – Accessibilty for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (“AODA”) has been around for a while.  So what’s the big deal now?

For starters, recent Freedom of Information Act requests have demonstrated that about 70% of Ontario private sector employers with 20 or more employees have not yet complied with required self-reporting requirements to demonstrate that they are compliant with the AODA.  Perhaps more importantly, most private sector employers with 20 or more employees don’t even realize that they have certain obligations under the AODA as of January 1, 2014.

While reference should be had to the legislation for particulars as to the imminent requirements, the following should serve as a high level overview of what needs to be done by certain employers.

1.  Public sector employers with 20 or more employees are to file a compliance report with the Ontario government by December 31, 2013, confirming that they are currently compliant with the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service.  The filing can be done online.

2.  By January 1, 2014, those same employers must also develop policies governing how they will meet their requirements under the Integrated Accessibility Standards.   In addition, a multi-year accessiblity plan must  be developed, posted on the organizations’ websites, and provided in an accessible format upon request.

3.  For employers with 50 or more employees in Ontario that are launching a new website or undertaking a significant website refresh after January 1, 2014, the website is required to conform to the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessbility Guidelines 2.0 Level A unless an exception applies or the company can demonstrate that meeting the guidelines is not practical.

Because most Ontario businesses are not compliant with the AODA, the Ontario government has begun issuing notices of non-compliance and has indicated that it intends to pursue businesses which are non-responsive.

For further information, see the Ontario government’s website on AODA requirements: http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/programs/accessibility/

 

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Compliance Reminder – Accessibilty for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

The Non-Working Worker: A Practical Guide for Dealing with Employee Absences – Seminar

We hope that you will join us in Vancouver on Wednesday, November 20th as we discuss:

  • When They’re Not at Work: Managing Employees on Leave – Jeff Bastien
  • When They Don’t Return: Managing Employees who are Unwilling or Unable to Return – Andrea Raso
  • They’re Baaaaack…: Managing Reintegration and Performance Expectations – Dana Hooker

BC HRMA members – this workshop may be eligible for CHRP recertification credits.

Event Details
November 20, 2013
8:00 AM – 10:00 AM PDT

Terminal City Club
Walker Room
837 West Hastings St.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Canada

This session is complimentary. Please email vancouver.events@dentons.com to RSVP before November 15th.

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The Non-Working Worker: A Practical Guide for Dealing with Employee Absences – Seminar

Changes May be Coming to Ontario’s Minimum Wage

On July 17th, the Ontario Ministry of Labour announced that it has appointed a Minimum Wage Advisory Panel, chaired by Anil Verma, Professor of Human Resource Management at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.  It is intended that the panel will examine the province’s current minimum wage policy and provide advice on how Ontario should determine the minimum wage in the future.  The Ontario government’s recent announcement stated that the panel will also recommend a process to set future minimum wages in a way that is both fair to workers and predictable for businesses. 

The panel intends to consult with business and labour groups, workers, anti-poverty advocates, young workers, and academics.

Interestingly, the current Ontario general minimum wage is $10.25 per hour, which is a 50% increase since 2003.  As well, Ontario already has one of the highest minimum wages in Canada.  That said, Ontario is one of only three provinces which does not have a formal mechanism for calculating or adjusting the minimum wage.  It can be expected, therefore, that the panel is likely to endorse some sort of mechanism as part of its report.

Interested parties are invited to make submissions to the panel prior to October 18, 2013.  Submissions may be made to the Minimum Wage Advisory Panel by mail to 400 University Avenue, 12th Floor, Toronto, Ontario, M7A 1T7, by fax to (416) 326-7650, or by email to minimumwage@ontario.ca.  In addition, interested parties can make online submissions through the Ministry’s website:  http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/submissions.php.

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Changes May be Coming to Ontario’s Minimum Wage

New Ontario Job-Protected Leaves

On March 5, 2013, the Ontario government introduced new legislation which, if passed, would create three new job-protected leaves.

The Employment Standards Amendment Act (Leaves to Help Families), 2013, proposes new leaves that build on the existing Family Medical Leave under the ESA.  They are as follows:

Family Caregiver Leave - up to 8 weeks of unpaid leave for employees to provide care and support to a family member with a serious medical condition.

Critically Ill Child Care Leave – up to 37 weeks of upaid leave to provide care to a critically ill child.

Crime-Related Child Death and Disappearance Leave - up to 52 weeks of unpaid leave for parents of a missing child and up to 104 weeks of unpaid leave for parents of a child that has died as a result of a crime.

If passed, the leaves would allow parents and other family caregivers to provide care and support for loved ones without fear of losing their jobs.  These leaves are in addition to the current Family Medical Leave, which is available when a family member has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death occurring within 26 weeks.  A doctor’s note would be required for the Family Caregiver Leave and the Critically Ill Child Care Leave.

Complementing the new federal Helping Families in Need Act, employees covered by the Critically Ill Child Care Leave and the Crime-Related Child Death and Disappearance Leave would be eligible to apply for federal Employment Insurance benefits.

The Ontario’s government’s news release and “backgrounder” may be accessed here.

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New Ontario Job-Protected Leaves

Natural Disasters in the Workplace – What Do I Do?

Did you know that the Ontario Ministry of Labour has a Q&A on how to deal with natural disasters in the workplace?

The Q&A, which can be found at the link listed below, covers issues such as whether or not an employee can be forced to take vacation days in the event of a natural disaster which prohibits him or her from working, or whether an employee must be paid if he or she is told to not come to work during the disaster.

Apart from basic issues covered in the Q&A, there are a number of other things to be aware of in the event of a natural disaster.  The Emergency Management Statute Law Amendment Act, 2006 (Ontario) permits the Premier and Cabinet to introduce legislation intended to govern emergencies such as natural disasters.  In addition, the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (Ontario)  provides for unpaid emergency leave for declared emergencies such as natural disasters, which is different than the standard emergency leave to deal with an ill or injured family member.

While an employer may not wish its employees to come to work in the event of a natural disaster, there may also be situations where certain employees are in fact required to work precisely because of the natural disaster, even if the workplace is under quarantine.  The ESA specifically permits certain employees to work in those situations, if their skills are required due to an emergency.  Likewise, although employees may rely on the Occupational Health & Safety Act (Ontario) (“OHSA”) to refuse to work if they are concerned that the condition of their workplace may jeopardize their health or safety, exemptions to OHSA require certain essential employees to work notwithstanding those conditions.

In addition to the above, there are a number of other pieces of provincial and federal legislation which work together to answer some of the key questions about how to deal with a natural disaster in the workplace.  Whether that disaster relates to health issues (eg. SARS, H1N1), loss of the workplace premises or something else, this combined legislation will help employers determine the appropriate response to disasters, and it is recommended that employers be proactive about understanding their obligations so that they are prepared in the event that disaster strikes.

To access the Ministry of Labour’s Q&A, click here.  For more information about all of the workplace issues involved in the event of a natural disaster, a more thorough discussion can be found here.

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Natural Disasters in the Workplace – What Do I Do?

HR Professionals: The Key to Smooth Corporate Acquisitions

Although human resources professionals are not always recognized for their efforts during a corporate acquisition, the work which they do behind the scenes can often make the difference between an acquisition succeeding or failing.  The following is a brief summary of key issues for HR professionals to stay on top of, long before an acquisition is ever contemplated, during the due diligence phase and right through to closing.

There are two types of transactions which can result in the purchase and sale of a business – a share purchase and an asset purchase.  In a share purchase, the corporate identity of the target company does not change and as a result, the employees remain employed by the same purchaser after closing.  Unless new employment agreements are negotiated with the purchaser, the employment terms and conditions of those employees will not change on closing.  In an asset purchase however, only certain assets of the target company are purchased and the employees are therefore generally terminated by the target company unless they agree to accept new employment with the purchaser.

Keeping Your House in Order:

All too often, proposed acquisitions fall through after the purchaser becomes aware of potential employee liabilities which it will have to assume in the event of an acquisition.  As an HR professional, you can assist with minimizing those liabilities long before an acquisition is being contemplated, by ensuring that: (i) well-drafted employment agreements are properly entered into; (ii) the company is protected with any necessary confidentiality, intellectual property and restrictive covenant agreements; (iii) there are no significant wages, vacation pay and overtime pay accruals; (iv) employee claims and complaints are kept to a minimum; and (v) mandatory statutory obligations are complied with (eg. WSIB registration; compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act; compliance with the Pay Equity Act).  When potential employment liabilities are kept to a minimum, it greatly reduces the risk of a purchaser walking away from a deal due to the added costs of correcting the liabilities.

Due Diligence:

HR professionals should be aware of the fact that even in an asset purchase, the Employment Standards Act, 2000 contains successor employer provisions.  In particular, section 9 of the ESA states that if a purchaser hires an employee of a vendor within 13 weeks of closing, the purchaser will be deemed to have taken on the employee with all of his or her prior years of service with the vendor.  Therefore, although the inclination may be to think that the purchaser in an asset deal can “fix” employment problems hand-in-hand with the hiring of employees on closing, sometimes employees will balk at going to a new employer if they are not being hired on similar or better terms to those which governed their employment with the vendor.  In this regard, it is often helpful for the vendor to work with the purchaser during the due diligence phase in order to determine who will be provided with offers of new employment and what the new and continuing terms of employment should be.

HR professionals in Ontario should also be aware of the fact that the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) does not yet have a business transaction exemption.  Although employee personal information is not generally caught under PIPEDA, it can be subject to PIPEDA when employee personal information is being collected, used or disclosed for commercial purposes such as an acquisition.  In order to ensure that there are no personal information breaches in connection with the acquisition of a company, if you work for the vendor it is wise to get the employees to sign a consent to the disclosure of their personal information at the time that they are first hired, as to do so in the midst of a transaction can tip employees off before the transaction becomes publicly known.  Whether or not the employees have signed consents at the time of hire, it is also wise for the vendor and the purchaser to enter into confidentiality agreements with respect to employee personal information which may be disclosed in relation to the transaction.

Closing:

As the closing of the transaction approaches, it is particularly important for HR professionals for both the vendor and the purchaser to try to work together to determine such issues as who will take responsibility for accrued vacation, whether releases will be sought from employees who are part of an asset purchase, whether and what type of new employment agreements will be offered to those employees who are remaining on, and ensuring that employees who are not remaining on are properly terminated at or prior to closing.  As well, there is often a need for certain key employees to remain on for a limited period to assist with transition work, and thought often needs to be given to whether those employees should be provided with a special retention bonus agreement or whether the expectation is that they will simply work out their notice of termination period doing transition work.

As always, it is important for HR professionals to obtain legal advice from an employment law specialist in conjunction with the above steps.  Together, they can make the difference between a difficult acquisition and a successful one.

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HR Professionals: The Key to Smooth Corporate Acquisitions

Company Director Jailed for Ontario Employment Standards Violations

A director of six Ontario companies has been sentenced to 90 days in jail after those companies systematically ignored orders to pay wages issued by the Ontario Ministry of Labour. The Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 does allow individuals to be fined up to $50,000.00 and/or to be imprisoned for up to 12 months if convicted of an offence, although the imposition of jail time for employment standards violations has been exceedingly rare.

However, the facts involved in this situation were particularly egregious. Sixty-one complaints had been filed by employees of the six companies for unpaid wages, all of which were substantiated. Over a period of approximately two years, 113 separate orders to pay had been issued against the six companies and the director to pay some $125,000.00 in unpaid wages. The six companies and the director failed to comply with any of these orders to pay. In addition to imposing the jail time, the Ontario Court of Justice imposed fines of $280,000.00 plus the required 25% Victim Fine Surcharge, for a total fine of $350,000.00. Although company directors that are convicted of employment standards offences are still most likely to be fined if convicted of offences under the Act, Ministry of Labour prosecutors will certainly use this decision as a strong deterrent against employers – and directors – that systematically flout their obligations.

See the Ontario Ministry of Labour press release – http://news.ontario.ca/mol/en/2012/11/director-jailed-and-companies-fined-after-failing-to-pay-employees.html

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Company Director Jailed for Ontario Employment Standards Violations

Happy New Year! – Ministry of Labour Inspections for 2012-2013

The Ontario Ministry of Labour has announced that it will focus its proactive  inspections for 2012-2013 on workplaces where there is a history of employment standards violations, where young and/or vulnerable workers are employed, and/or where large or increasing portions of the Ontario workplace are employed.

Among the specific sectors identified for targeted proactive workplace inspections in the coming year, are the following:

  • auto mechanics
  • building services, including security, parking, cleaning and food services
  • car dealerships
  • fast food restaurant franchises
  • gas stations
  • hotel/hospitality
  • private schools
  • temporary help agencies

As always, it is a good practice to be prepared for any surprise workplace inspections which may come the way of your business.  For further information on how best to prepare, please contact FMC Law’s employment and labour group.

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Happy New Year! – Ministry of Labour Inspections for 2012-2013

Terminated Employee Entitled to Profit Sharing Bonus Declared After Termination but During Employment Standards Notice Period

Employers often assert that a terminated employee is not entitled to a bonus for the termination year. A decision of an Ontario court may put a small qualification on that assertion. Employers should review their bonus policies in light of this decision.

The employer terminated the employee’s employment on May 25, 2010 on a without-cause basis. On June 18, 2010 – within the employee’s four-week Employment Standards Act notice period – the employer announced its profit sharing bonus for the recently-ended fiscal year and paid it out. The employer did not pay that bonus to the employee. The employee had been paid the bonus for her three previous years of employment. The bonus was a “very significant financial part of her overall compensation.”

Mr. Justice Ricchetti of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice held that section 61(1)(a) of the Employment Standards Act “permits the employer to terminate without notice but only if the employee receives what the employee would otherwise been entitled to receive from the employer under the terms and conditions of employment during the statutory notice.”

The judge held that under the employer’s bonus plan and practices, the decision as to whether to award profit sharing at all may have been discretionary, but once the bonus had been declared, the employer had no discretion to exclude a particular employee from entitlement. As such, all employees who were employed on June 18, 2010 were entitled to the profit sharing bonus. Because that date was within the employee’s four-week Employment Standards Act notice period, she was deemed to be “employed” at that time, and was thus entitled to the profit sharing bonus payment. An employer memo, issued a few months earlier, to the effect that only “active” employees were entitled to the bonus, did not override the statutory obligation to pay the bonus to the employee.

Sandhu v. Solutions 2 go Inc., 2012 ONSC 2073 (CanLII)

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Terminated Employee Entitled to Profit Sharing Bonus Declared After Termination but During Employment Standards Notice Period

“Holder of a Religious Office” Exemption under Ontario ESA Interpreted

The Ontario Employment Standards Act excludes from its protection holders of a “religious office”. The Ontario Labour Relations Board has issued a decision interpreting this rarely-litigated provision.

The organization, the Kashruth Council, is a not-for-profit organization the main objective of which is to ensure the availability of Kosher food products through Kashruth (Jewish dietary laws) certification and supervision of food service production and manufacturing businesses.

To do this, the Kashruth Council engages Kosher food inspectors, referred to as “Mashgiachim”, to supervise hundreds of industrial food establishments. Rand was one such inspector.

A series of events resulted in the Kashruth Council issuing a letter to Rand advising that his “employment . . . is terminated effective immediately for just cause”. Rand filed a claim for amounts owing to him as an “employee” under the Employment Standards Act.

The OLRB found that the Mashgiach was a “religious position” which has “no duties which do not serve a religious purpose”. However, Rand did not hold a “religious office”.

The OLRB held that, “The essential feature of the holder of a political or religious office is independence. A person is elected or appointed to the office and then acts in that capacity with minimal oversight”. Also, the functions or work that the person performs must be significant or important to fulfill religious obligation or ritual. According to the OLRB, Rand was not independent. The council exercised employment control over him. Also, the manner in which the Kashruth Council carried out the termination suggested that Rand was subject to the Kashruth Council’s control, which pointed to an employment relationship. The Council even referred to him, in the termination letter, as an “employee”.

One wonders whether the OLRB’s “independence” test is correct. It would seem that the test should be whether the person holds an “office” that is “religious”; independence does not seem to be a hallmark of either of those two factors.  The exemption would appear to have been intended to exclude, from the protection provided to “employees”, people who are not seen, and do not see themselves, as employees, but rather as in a spiritual or religious position. It remains to be seen whether future panels of the OLRB will apply the same test.

Kashruth Council of Canada v. Rand, 2011 CanLII 71786 (OLRB)

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“Holder of a Religious Office” Exemption under Ontario ESA Interpreted

Ministry of Labour Ramping-Up Employment Standards Enforcement: More Officers and Proactive Inspections

The Ontario Ministry of Labour has announced that it is taking steps to increase its enforcement of the Employment Standards Act, 2000.

Central to the new enforcement initiative is the hiring of an additional 18 Employment Standards Officers and staff, and the conducting of more proactive workplace inspections.   Practically speaking, this means that ESOs will attend at provincially-regulated Ontario employers’ places of business without a complaint being filed, and without any warning, to conduct inspections of the businesses’ practices, policies, and records for compliance with the ESA.  In such cases, employers are required to co-operate with the inspection and to produce documents requested by the ESO.  In turn, ESOs have the power to issue compliance orders or orders to pay and, in some cases, to lay charges against the employer.

Employment standards investigations are time-consuming and may be costly for businesses, both in terms of the resources that must be devoted to the audit itself and, potentially, in rectifying ESA compliance issues and paying amounts owing under any orders issued. 

Employers should consider conducting an employment standards audit of their business to reduce the risk of a proactive inspection uncovering unanticipated liability and resulting in orders being issued against the employer.  For more information on auditing your workplace to ensure ESA compliance, please view our webcast at:
http://www.fmc-law.com/Publications/Webcast_EmploymentLabour_December2009_AnOfficerCalls.aspx

If you would like assistance with your employment standards audit or, if an ESO arrives for a proactive employment standards audit, please contact one of FMC’s employment and labour lawyers.

To review the Ministry of Labour’s Press Release, please see:
http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/news/2012/nr_proactiveinspections20120917.php

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Ministry of Labour Ramping-Up Employment Standards Enforcement: More Officers and Proactive Inspections

Employer’s Response to ESA Claim Cannot Form Basis for Defamation Action: Ontario Court

Employers faced with an Employment Standards Act complaint may air the employee’s dirty laundry, so to speak, in that proceeding without fearing a defamation lawsuit, an Ontario court decision suggests.

Justice E.M. Morgan of the Ontario Superior Court decided that allegations made by an employer to an Employment Standards Officer in response to an employee’s Employment Standards Act complaint were protected by “absolute privilege”, so that the employee’s defamation suit was dismissed.

The employee had filed a complaint with the Ontario Ministry of Labour claiming that the employer failed to pay public holiday pay and overtime pay.  The Employment Standards Officer ordered that the employer pay compensation, which the employer did.

The employee had then filed a defamation suit in the courts, claiming that allegations of fraud and dishonesty were made by the employer to the Employment Standards Officer during the ESA proceeding which were injurious to the employee’s emotional and psychological health.

Justice Morgan noted that statements made in the course of a proceeding in court or before a board or tribunal (including before an Employment Standards Officer), were absolutely privileged, meaning that those statements cannot be the basis for a defamation lawsuit.

Employers, when faced with a legal claim by an employee before the courts or a tribunal, may state their position – and the employee’s shortcomings – frankly and directly in that proceeding, without attracting liability for defamation.  Statements made outside such proceedings, however, may attract liability.

Satkunan v. Gnanatheepam et al., 2012 ONSC 4654 (CanLII)

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Employer’s Response to ESA Claim Cannot Form Basis for Defamation Action: Ontario Court

Pregnancy/Parental Leave Statistics Released by Statistics Canada

Based on data collected from parents of 10,810 children in 2010 and 2011, Statistics Canada’s study reveals that 90% of Canadian children outside Quebec had working mothers who took some type of leave following the birth of their child.  On average, the leave lasted 44 weeks.  Only 26% of these children had working fathers who took leaves, with the average leave being 2.4 weeks.

The situation differed quite dramatically in Quebec, with almost 99% of working mothers taking some form of leave; on average, the leave lasted 48 weeks.  Fathers took leave in 76% of cases in Quebec.

83% of mothers outside Quebec took paid leave, and 21% reported some unpaid leave.  The average paid leave in such cases was 40 weeks, while the average unpaid leave was 4.5 weeks.  In Quebec, 97% of mothers took paid leave, with 21% reporting some unpaid leave.

Not surprisingly, a number of factors, including socio-economic, child and maternal health characteristics, and self-employment, were associated with whether mothers and fathers took leave and the length of the leaves.

To read the study in its entirety, please consult the July 2012 online issue of Canadian Social Trends, no. 94 (http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-008-x/2012002/article/11697-eng.pdf).

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Pregnancy/Parental Leave Statistics Released by Statistics Canada

Statistique Canada publie une étude sur les pratiques relatives aux congés des parents après une naissance ou une adoption

Une étude de Statistique Canada s’appuyant sur des données recueillies auprès de parents de 10 810 jeunes enfants en 2010 et en 2011 révèle que, dans le cas des enfants vivant hors Québec, 90 % des mères qui travaillaient ont déclaré avoir pris un congé sous une forme ou une autre après la naissance de leur enfant. La durée moyenne du congé était de 44 semaines. Seuls 26 % de ces enfants avaient des pères ayant déclaré avoir pris un congé, dont la durée moyenne était de 2,4 semaines.

La situation est considérablement différente au Québec, où environ 99 % des mères qui travaillaient avant la naissance de leur enfant ont déclaré avoir pris un congé sous une forme ou une autre, dont la durée moyenne était de 48 semaines, et que 76 % des pères ont déclaré avoir fait de même.

Plus des quatre cinquièmes (83 %) des mères hors Québec ont déclaré avoir pris un congé payé et un cinquième (21 %) avoir pris un congé non payé. La durée moyenne des congés payés était de 40 semaines, comparativement à 4,5 semaines pour les congés non payés. Au Québec, 97 % des mères ont déclaré avoir pris un congé payé et 21 % un congé non payé.

Évidemment, certains facteurs, notamment la situation socioéconomique, les caractéristiques liés à la santé de l’enfant ou de la mère ou le fait d’être une travailleuse ou un travailleur autonome, peuvent avoir une incidence sur la décision de prendre ou non un congé et sur la durée de celui-ci.

Pour lire l’étude dans son intégralité, veuillez consulter le numéro 94 (juillet 2012) du bulletin électronique Tendances sociales canadiennes (http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-008-x/11-008-x2012002-fra.htm).

 

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Statistique Canada publie une étude sur les pratiques relatives aux congés des parents après une naissance ou une adoption

Évitez les mauvaises surprises : notions de base en droit canadien de l’emploi, de l’immigration et du travail

L’article dont il est question dans le présent billet a été rédigé par Andrea Raso Amer et Tony Schweitzer.

Bien que le Canada et les États-Unis entretiennent d’étroites relations et que leur gouvernance et leurs lois présentent de nombreuses similarités, il existe entre les deux pays des différences importantes et distinctes, dont il faut tenir compte dans la conduite d’activités commerciales transfrontalières. La façon d’attirer, de gérer et de fidéliser les employés est notamment assez différente au Canada et toutes les entreprises qui songent à brasser des affaires au nord de la frontière devraient être informées de certains points très importants à prendre en considération.

FMC vous invite à lire un article traitant de différents sujets de façon approfondie, notamment les permis de travail, les membres de la famille qui accompagnent les travailleurs, les heures supplémentaires et les congés.

Pour lire l’article, veuillez cliquer ici (en anglais seulement).

 

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Évitez les mauvaises surprises : notions de base en droit canadien de l’emploi, de l’immigration et du travail

Avoiding Frostbite: A Primer on Canadian Employment, Immigration and Labour Laws

This article was written by Andrea Raso Amer and Tony Schweitzer.

While Canada and the United States share very close bilateral ties, and there are many similarities in our governance and laws, there are also some very distinct and important differences that are relevant to cross-border business. One key difference exists in attracting, managing and retaining employees in Canada. Any company contemplating business north of the border should be made aware of these very significant considerations.

This article contains in-depth discussions on various topics including work permits, accompanying family members, overtime, and leaves of absence.

To read the full article, please click here.

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Avoiding Frostbite: A Primer on Canadian Employment, Immigration and Labour Laws