What You Can Do About A Hostile Work Environment

| October 14th, 2016 | No Comments »

Hostile Work EnvironmentA hostile work environment is distressing for employees and costly for employers. Fortunately, the law provides many ways to combat and prevent hostile work environments.

An employee who is subject to a hostile work environment because of his or her race, sex, age, disability, family status, or any other trait listed in Ontario’s Human Rights Code, may be able to file a claim at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The Tribunal hears claims related to hostile work environments that are rooted in employee’s protected traits.

An employee who is punished because they reported a hostile work environment to their employer can file a complaint to the Ministry of Labour under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act. Health and safety law also says that employers must protect employees from workplace harassment which can lead to a hostile work environment. Employees must also have a way to report allegations of harassment, and employers must investigate each employee’s allegation of harassment.

If a hostile work environment makes it intolerable for the employee to report to work, the employee may be able to quit their job and claim constructive dismissal. A constructive dismissal occurs where an employee has been treated so poorly that they are forced out of their job as if they had been fired. The employee quits, but then claims the payments that they would have been entitled to from the employer if the employee had been fired. A constructive dismissal can take place where an employer takes part in creating the hostile work environment, or where an employer does not prevent a hostile work environment.

Employees should not be too quick to quit and claim constructive dismissal, though. Constructive dismissal is very difficult to prove. Where an employee claims to have quit because of the employer’s actions, or lack of action, related to a hostile work environment, the employee must prove that it was intolerable for them to continue working, and would have been intolerable for any reasonable person in their position.

If your employer is simply upholding a reasonable workplace rule or policy, this will usually not be considered a hostile work environment. For example, if you are suspended because you were continuously late to work in violation of your employer’s lateness policy, your suspension would probably not be unlawful.

If you feel that you have been subject to a hostile work environment, you should speak with an employment lawyer before taking any action.

 

Author: Simone Ostrowski, Whitten & Lublin

Employees’ beware- Off-duty conduct can impact your work

| November 4th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

An employee’s conduct at work and out of work can eventually lead to potential discipline or termination by their employer.  The role of the media is now, more than ever impacting the employment environment and working relationship. We are living in an era where the pictures that you post online or the life you led years ago, can come back to haunt you.  The media scrutiny surrounding Jian Gomeshi, Donald Sterling and Ray Rice are all fine examples.  Their personal lives have affected their working relationship and eventually led to termination or discipline.

In his most recent article, Daniel Lublin, Toronto Employment lawyer explains how no one is exempt from termination based on their out of work conduct. Indeed, only a small percentage of people with positions of trust can be terminated or disciplined without severance.  The others must be paid severance. The allegations made against well-known people and those of trust make headlines simply because their actions affect their employers’ brand. Those who do not affect their employers’ brand but whose behavior out of work is shameful can be disciplined or terminated with cause and is usually upheld in Court.

To read more on this subject and for a more comprehensive overview, read Daniel Lublin’s full article Lines blurred between employees’ work and private life and his column in the Globe and Mail.

High school secretary moonlights as adult film star; What’s a principal to do?

| March 25th, 2011 | No Comments »

Adult film entertainer, Samantha Ardente, must have known the jig was up when a student at the high school she works at asked her for her autograph. During the day she worked as an administrative assistant at a Quebec City area high school. Outside of her day job, she was moonlighting as an adult film star.

The Globe & Mail and Metro News are two of many news outlets reporting the story. Who can blame them? The case in teaming with controversy as it raises many policy issues surrounding the affects of engaging in secondary employment and consequently, cause for dismissal (or the lack thereof).

Small victory for transgendered and transsexual individuals

| February 16th, 2011 | No Comments »

By: Ellen A. S. Low

A private members bill recently passed through the House of Commons, Bill C-389, is intended to protect transgendered and transsexual citizens from discrimination on the basis of “gender identity” or “gender expression.”

The Canadian Human Rights Code already protects individuals on basis of sex and sexual orientation; however the bill would amend the Code to specifically prohibit discrimination against transgendered and transsexual persons.  The Bill also proposes to amend the Criminal Code to make crimes against transgender or transsexual people, a hate crime.

Supporters are concerned that the Bill might be a short-lived success, as it likely won’t survive the Senate.  However, with respect to the human rights element, Bill C-389 might be unnecessary.  A number of previous Canadian Human Rights decisions have clearly stated that “…discrimination on the basis of transsexualism constitutes sex discrimination.”  Interpreted in this way the ground of “sex” should be sufficient to protect transgendered and transsexual citizens from discrimination under the Code.  Then again, adding it expressly certainty couldn’t hurt.

Hot Times – Summer in the City

| June 3rd, 2010 | No Comments »

By: Ellen A. S. Low

As temperatures continue to rise, both employers and employees may be wondering about their respective obligations when it comes to working in the heat.

Pursuant to the Occupational Health and Safety Act employers have a duty to take reasonable precautions to protect workers.  This includes an obligation to develop policies and procedures to protect workers in hot environments.

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (“WSIB”), Heat Stress Awareness Guide encourages employers to have a “Hot Weather Plan” to prevent preventing heat-related injuries and illnesses in the workplace.  The Hot Weather Plan should include regularly monitoring heat and humidity in the workplace using a thermal hygrometer, and adjusting work schedules to allow for water and rest breaks based on the humidex reading at specific work sites.

The Heat Stress Awareness Guide puts the onus on employers to develop and implement a Hot Weather Plan, but stresses that employees must also be familiar with the symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion.  Both employers and employees should know the risks of working in a hot environment, and what can be done to reduce the potential risk of heat-related illnesses.

One example I’ve seen was a ‘heat plan’ at an automotive manufacturing plant where for each 45 minutes of work in the sun, employees were required to take a 15 minute ‘cooling break’ in a shaded area where water and popsicles were provided.

Violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act can result in penalties. Employers should ensure they are compliant to avoid potentially hefty fines. Contact our office for more information on how to develop and implement a “Hot Weather Plan” or for further information on other workplace safety obligations.

Whitten & Lublin LLP is a team of legal experts who provide practical advice and advocacy for workplace issues.

No Guns in the Workplace

| January 29th, 2010 | No Comments »

By: Brian Norris

The recent and very public locker room gun-pulling incident between NBA players Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton has highlighted the importance for employers to create and enforce policy on workplace safety.

As many sports fans know, Arenas and Crittenton have now been suspended by the league for the remainder of the 2009-2010 season for brandishing guns in the Washington Wizard’s locker room. Some may interpret the NBA’s actions as “making an example” of the payers. Others, such as myself, see it as the league legitimizing and enforcing it’s policy outlined in the collective bargaining agreement; An agreement produced by the collective efforts of the NBA owners and the Players’ Union.

As previously mentioned by Daniel Lublin, if an employer wants to lean to it’s policies in support of a lawsuit, it is important for them to circulate and enforce clearly worded company policy.

With the introduction of Bill 168 in Canada, the issue of workplace safety regarding violence has been a hot topic as of late. The incident between Arenas and Crittenton and the manner in which the NBA dealt with it is a good example for all employers to take notice of.

Brian Norris is the Office Manger of Whitten & Lublin LLP, an employment law office providing counsel to both employers and employees.

Common Employment Law Questions

| December 8th, 2008 | No Comments »

Question:

If working in a salaried position and being in sales (during a time of low sales) can your employer "pull salary" away from you and place you solely on commission effective immediately, even if there is an employment contract signed stating the annual salary?

Answer:

Your employer cannot unilaterally change your compensation structure in a severe way. There are many cases that state going from salary to commission is a real and substantial change to your compensation such that you can consider this action as amounting to your dismissal. In other words, you can reject the change and look for other work or you may be able to simply leave and claim you were dismissed. You could then sue for damages for your economic losses while you are out of work.

As this area of the law is quite complex and your election is important, I would recommend meeting with an employment lawyer who can explain your rights to you in greater detail and build a strategy that best fits your particular situation.

For more information on constructive dismissal situations, like the one above, please see my free employment law advice page on constructive dismissal, here.

Daniel A. Lublin is a Toronto Employment Lawyer specializing in the law of wrongful and constructive dismissal. He can be reached at dan@toronto-employmentlawyer.com.

UK Haidresser losses job after shaving profits from employer

| November 21st, 2008 | Comments Off on UK Haidresser losses job after shaving profits from employer

Mark McMorrine will likely be styling hair in prison for the next 18 months.

The Lasswade, Scotland hairdresser was recently convicted of theft and fraud stemming from a scheme in which he stole equipment from the salon which employed him and sold it via his eBay account. It is reported that McMorrine netted more $125,000 from the sale of the items which ranged from flattening irons to posh shampoos.

Theft from one’s employer has long been regarded as cause for dismissal. In McMorrine’s case, he lost both his job and his freedom. Please visit Canadian Employment Law Today for more on this story.

Daniel A. Lublin is a Toronto Employment Lawyer specializing in the law of wrongful dismissal. He can be reached at dan@toronto-employmentlawyer.com.

RBC Dominion Securities Inc. v. Merrill Lynch

| November 17th, 2008 | Comments Off on RBC Dominion Securities Inc. v. Merrill Lynch

In its recent decision in RBC Dominion Securities Inc. v. Merrill Lynch, the Supreme Court of Canada has reinforced an employee’s duty to provide reasonable notice of resignation as well as, reestablished an employee’s duty of good faith towards his or her employer.

The decisions stems from a case where branch manager Don Delamont arranged the mass departure of virtually the entire branch staff, and as a result, a large volume of the branch’s client base.

The Court awarded damages to RBC on 2 separate but similar fronts;

1. Damages payable by Delamontfor nearly $1.5M for breach of his fiduciary duty of good faith to his employer. The damages being calculated by estimating the branch’s losses for the 5 year period after the exodus; and

2. Damages payable by the non-management employees who failed to provide reasonable notice of their resignation. These damages were calculated based on the losses to RBC over a 2.5 week period, which amount to about $40,000 total.

What to take from this case? Management employees have a fiduciary duty to retain clients and employees. Also, because the Court established that non-management employees do not have the same fiduciary duty, employers may consider including more favorable resignation provisions into its employee contracts.

For employees, the decisions confirms the common law duty to provide fair resignation notice. This is much like an employer’s duty to provide fair termination notice to an employee.

Daniel A. Lublin is a Toronto Employment Lawyer focusing in the law of wrongful dismissal. He can be reached at dan@toronto-employmentlawyer.com

Daniel A. Lublin, Toronto Employment Lawyer, wins suit without calling a single witness

| October 1st, 2008 | No Comments »

In a recent Ontario Superior Court decision, Adjemian v. Brook Crompton North America, 2008 CanLII 27469 (ON S.C.), Daniel A. Lublin successfully argued for and won a Motion for Summary Judgment, effectively winning the case without calling a single witness.

As reported in the Canadian Cases on Employment Law (67 C.C.E.L. (3d) 118), Justice Perell awarded a judgment in favour of Ms. Adjemian for damages stemming from her wrongful dismissal amounting to $61,944.65 plus pre and post judgment interest and legal fees.

Daniel A. Lublin is an employment lawyer focusing on the law of dismissal. He can be reached at dan@toronto-employmentlawyer.com.