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2017

BC to reinstate Human Rights Commission

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia

The new Provincial government announced its intention to reinstate the Human Rights Commission, fifteen years after it was eliminated in favour of a direct-access model. In addition to creating an agency that will proactively address human rights issues, it may also see the reintroduction of a more robust complaint screening method whereby complaints are investigated prior to adjudication. 

BC Human Rights Tribunal reviews social media request for legal advice to determine if communication privileged

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia

In Hov v. School District No. 43 and another, 2017 BCHRT 162, the complainant sought disclosure of a conversation conducted via Facebook Messenger by an individually named respondent, in which the respondent sought, and seemingly obtained, legal advice from an Ontario lawyer.

The respondents claimed solicitor-client privilege over the communications but the Tribunal ordered the conversations to be disclosed directly to the Tribunal so they could assess if the documents should be protected by privilege. The Tribunal's rationale was that there was an insufficient description of the communications and they were unable to determine if they should be protected. 

Interestingly, the lawyer affirmed by affidavit that he was was providing legal advice within the communications. Query whether providing details of the communications between a lawyer and their client would undermine the underlying claim to privilege. 

Business Council of BC report foresees more precarious work, greater income inequality in the future

Topics: - Workforce Trends
Jurisdiction: - All - British Columbia
Sector: - All

The Business Council of British Columbia ("BCBC") has released a report on, "Preparing Canada's Workforce for the Next 150: Part One - Government Driven Solutions" (posted July 5, 2017).

The BCBC states in the report that, based on its reading of the policy and academic literature, these are three reasonable projections of what the labour market is expected to look like in the decades ahead:

  1. employment will be less secure, as we shift from stable, predictable employment to more precarious work.
  2. greater polarization between skilled and non-skilled workers, which in turn tends to aggravate overall income inequality. 
  3. declining quality of jobs, meaning more people are working part-time instead of full-time (often not by choice), more are self-employed, and more are engaged in relatively low-paid work.

The report goes on to review the "levers" that government can use to address these trends, which include investing in the right kinds of education and skills development and continuing to support investment in STEM-related occupations (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science), and the industries that rely on STEM and related technical skills.

The full report can be viewed at the link below.

Andres Barker now writing posts for www.greggowe.com

I am very happy to announce that Andres Barker is now writing posts for www.greggowe.com.

Andres is an in-house labour and employment lawyer with the Health Employers Association of British Columbia. Prior to that he was in private practice with Kent Employment Law.

Andres' most recent post is about the BC Court of Appeal's decision in Lau v. Royal Bank of Canada, 2017 BCCA 253 and is entitled, "BC Court of Appeal affirms medical evidence not required to prove aggravated damages".

Stay tuned for our upcoming re-launch of the website!

BC Court of Appeal affirms medical evidence not required to prove aggravated damages

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia

In Lau v. Royal Bank of Canada, 2017 BCCA 253, the British Columbia Court of Appeal overturned a $30,000 aggravated damages award attached to a wrongful dismissal judgment. During the initial trial the plaintiff gave evidence of the effects the termination had on his mental well-being but presented no medical evidence to substantiate his claims of mental distress. The court found the plaintiff was not harassed, scolded or or otherwise mistreated, and his testimony did not provide a sound basis for finding he suffered injury beyond the hurt feelings and distress that accompany any termination.

This decision affirms several important points surrounding mental distress claims in wrongful dismissal actions: actual bad faith conduct is a critical element of an award of aggravated damages; mental distress claims do not need to be accompanyed by proof of a psychiatric illness; and a plaintiff's own testimony absent medical corrobation is a valid consideration for the court. 

Probation clause could not be relied on where employment offer rescinded

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia
Sector: - Media

In Buchanan v. Introjunction Ltd., 2017 BCSC 1002, the BC Supreme Court ruled that a defendant could not rely on a probation clause to justify early termination where the offer of employment was rescinded after the contract was entered into, but before the official first day of employment. The court found that the probation clause had not yet taken effect as employment had not started. Additionally, there was no means for the employer to have assessed the employee’s performance and terminated them for lack of suitability. The court awarded the plaintiff damages of six weeks’ salary. 

Gender identity / expression to be added as ground of protection under Canadian Human Rights Act

Jurisdiction: - Canada/Federal
Sector: - All

The federal government voted on on June 15, 2017 to add gender identity or expression as a prohibited ground of protection under the Canadian Human Rights Act, which applies to federally regulated organizations in Canada.

One it receives Royal Assent, Bill C-16 - also known as the Transgender Rights Bill - will also add gender expression or identity to the Canadian Criminal Code provisions dealing with hate propaganda, incitement to genocide, and aggravating factors in sentencing.

In the House of Commons debate on the legislation Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said:

Bill C-16 reflects our commitment to this diversity and provides for equality and freedom from discrimination and violence for all Canadians, regardless of their gender identity. With the bill, we say loudly and clearly that it is time to move beyond mere tolerance of trans people. It is time for their full acceptance and inclusion in Canadian society.

She then went on to say:  read more »

SCC: cocaine addicted employee involved in workplace accident dismissed for breach of policy, not drug use

Jurisdiction: - Alberta - All
Sector: - Mining

In a decision issued today - Stewart v. Elk Valley Coal Corp., 2017 SCC 30 - the Supreme Court of Canada tackled the difficult issue of when and on what basis an employer can dismiss an employee addicted to drugs.  

Facts

As set out by the SCC, these are the facts:

[1]   Ian Stewart worked in a mine operated by the Elk Valley Coal Corporation, driving a loader.  The mine operations were dangerous, and maintaining a safe worksite was a matter of great importance to the employer and employees  read more »

16 reasons why Alberta trade unions are celebrating the Fair And Family-Friendly Workplaces Act

Topics: - Top 10 Lists
Jurisdiction: - Alberta

Alberta tabled the Fair and Family-Friendly Workplaces Act on May 24, 2017. See my post on this proposed legislation here: "Recap of changes proposed by Alberta to modernize workplace legislation".

A lawyer at McLennan Ross LLP in Edmonton, Hugh J.D. McPhail, Q.C., has written an article listing out "16 Reasons Why Alberta Trade Unions Are Celebrating The Fair And Family-Friendly Workplaces Act."

In his words, these are the 16 reasons why unions are celebrating this bill:   read more »

City of Vancouver now a certified Living Wage employer

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia

This is the City of Vancouver's June 8, 2017 news post on its website:

The City, Park Board, and Vancouver Police Department have taken steps to reduce inequality by becoming living wage employers, certified by the Living Wage for Families Campaign External website (LWFC), a Vancouver-based organization that has certified a range of employers.

Our living wage certification includes the City of Vancouver and Park Board staff and vendors.

The Vancouver Police Department submitted a separate application that was also approved at the same time.

The City of Vancouver joins several local governments in BC who have successfully implemented living wage policies:  read more »

Ontario employer jailed, fined for failure to obey order to pay $140,000 in wages

Jurisdiction: - Ontario
Sector: - Education

This is the Ontario Ministry of Labour's June 6, 2017 Court Bulletin:

MISSISSAUGA, ON - An employer who operated a Brampton business known as Academic Montessori and a summer camp in Mississauga and failed to pay his workers - many of them university students - has been convicted after a trial.

The conviction of Peter David Sinisa Sesek, imposed in Mississauga court, was for failure to comply with an order to pay issued by a Ministry of Labour employment standards officer. A sentence of 30 days in jail and a fine of $20,000 was imposed by Justice of the Peace Hilda Weiss on June 6, 2017.

The order to pay, issued March 31, 2015, amounts to about $140,000 and is owed to 43 claimants.

The businesses, which are no longer in operation, were known as Academic Montessori and WISE (Wonderful Interactive Summer Experience) Summer Camp.  read more »

Largest WCB benefits fraud in Saskatchewan history nets man 2.5 year prison sentence

Jurisdiction: - Saskatchewan

The Saskatchewan Workers Compensation Board posted this on its website on May 18, 2017:

A former labourer was sentenced today in Melfort at the Court of Queen's Bench to two and a half years in jail for defrauding the Saskatchewan Workers' Compensation Board (WCB).

The former claimant was found guilty of filing two false claims, in addition to returning to work while in receipt of benefits. The WCB received a restitution order for the full amount of the fraud of $137,377. 76.

A May 23, 2017 story in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix ("Jail time for man convicted of defrauding Sask. Workers' Compensation Board of $137,377", Bre McAdam) identified the man as Larry Hayter and had WCB spokeswoman, Heather Getz, confirming that it is the largest WCB benefits fraud Saskatchewan has ever seen.

Recap of changes proposed by Alberta to modernize workplace legislation

Jurisdiction: - Alberta
Sector: - All

Set out below are some of the key changes that will be made to Alberta's Employment Standards Code and Labour Relations Code if Bill 17 - the Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act, is passed.

The bill was introduced by the Alberta government on May 24, 2017, one day after Ontario released the final report in its "Changing Workplaces Review" which proposes amendments to Ontario's Employment Standards Act, 2000 and Labour Relations Act, 1995.

The proposed changes to Alberta's legislation are, according to the government, the result of previous government reviews as well as broad consultations with Albertans, employers, business organizations, labour organizations, municipalities, academics, and advocacy groups. The government states that more than 7,000 submissions were received. Alberta's Employment Standards Code and Labour Relations Code were both last updated in 1988.

In introducing the changes, the Alberta Minister of Labour, Christina Gray, stated:  read more »