Last week we told you about the recent decision in Irving Pulp & Paper where the Supreme Court of Canada severely limited an employer’s right to perform random alcohol and drug testing in the workplace. The implications of the Irving decision will undoubtedly be far-reaching, including on two prominent cases currently being heard by arbitrators in Alberta and British Columbia that deal with random drug testing–Suncor Energy and Teck (Coal). read more…
By Keri Bennett
When a long-service costume designer was dismissed following a workplace harassment investigation, a British Colombia arbitrator found the company’s no-hire ban for all future productions to be excessive, since there was a lack of progressive discipline.
Despite finding that the fired employee had engaged in longstanding and widespread harassment of junior employees, the arbitrator in Warner Bros. Television (B.C.) Inc. ruled that even the least remorseful of employees is entitled to an opportunity to change his or her behavior.
Canadian courts have been reluctant to allow random drug and alcohol testing in most workplaces. The issue was recently back before the Alberta Court of Appeal. Oil Company Suncor appealed an injunction against its new proposed drug and alcohol testing policy. read more…
When the employment relationship becomes impossible to perform because of a factor outside the control of a Canadian employer or employee, the employee’s employment can be terminated by virtue of frustration of contract. When an employee won’t be able to return to work because of injury or illness, the same applies. But not so for federally regulated employers such as banks, airlines, inter-provincial trucking companies, etc.
According to the recent decision of Kingsway Transport v. Teamsters, Local Union 91, the frustration argument is no longer available for those employers when the employee’s inability to return to work is because of a work-related injury or illness. read more…
Can a Canadian employee who is fired for cause sue for outstanding bonuses? What about if those bonuses relate to the period of the employee’s wrongdoing? This was the issue in Mady Development Corp. v. Rossetto, when a terminated executive sought to claim his bonuses for a period when he was found to be misappropriating company resources.
Leonard Rossetto was employed as an executive with a group of corporations (Mady). In fall 2007, he diverted labor, materials, and funds from Mady to renovate his house. He was fired on December 12, 2008, when Mady discovered his wrongdoing. Mady then sued him to recover the misappropriated corporate funds and resources. Rossetto counterclaimed for his bonuses for 2007 and 2008. Pursuant to his employment contract, he was entitled to an annual bonus equal to 30 percent of Mady’s profits after overhead. The parties ultimately submitted their dispute to arbitration. read more…
Workplace harassment, at the onset, involves two players — the harasser and the harassee. A third party is added once a complaint is filed — the employer. And a fourth player, the union, is added if that complaint is a grievance. To what extent does the alleged harasser continue to be a party in Canada? In Association du personnel de soutien du College v. College d’enseignement general et professionel, the Quebec Court of Appeal recently said that the harasser takes a backseat to the main parties — the employer and the union.
A laboratory technician at a Montreal-area college filed a harassment complaint against a teacher. When the college’s internal investigation did not support the harassment allegations, the union filed a grievance on the harassee’s behalf. The college, as the employer, was called to defend the grievance. But the alleged harasser sought to intervene and obtain full party status.
How can you protect yourself from arbitrators’ ever-increasing damages awards, based on ever-expanding grounds?
In the April 25 Northern Exposure entry “Canadian Court Trims $500K Dismissal Damages, Upholds Arbitrator’s Broad Authority,” we reported on the latest notable example of a Canadian labor arbitrator’s expansive award being upheld by the courts. That decision surprisingly granted a lower-level Greater Toronto Airport Authority employee $500,000+ for past and future wages, plus damages for mental distress, pain and suffering, and punitive damages. In upholding most of the award, the court clarified the broad remedial authority of labor arbitrators. But it confirmed most of the arbitrator’s powers, at least under that agreement.
A month ago, we reported on the Ontario Court of Appeal’s surprising decision in R. v. Cole. In that decision the Court of Appeal said that a high school teacher was protected against searches on his work computer by the police absent a search warrant. The Court of Appeal based its decision on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Recently, an arbitrator in Quebec also considered an employee’s Charter rights, this time the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. It said that Laval University violated an employee’s Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms when it reviewed an email sent by the employee — on the university’s systems — to the union.
At issue was a brief exchange of emails on January 16, 2007: read more…
A Canadian court recently upheld most of a more than $500,000 arbitration award involving a unionized employee of the Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA). But it ordered the arbitrator to reconsider the mental distress and punitive damages awards. In doing so, the court clarified the broad remedial authority of arbitrators to award a range of damages. Arbitrators are clearly not limited to reinstatement and lost wages.
A year ago we alerted our readers to this precedent-setting arbitration award (Employee Awarded $500,000 for Bad Faith Termination and Shocking Arbitration Decision in Ontario). A wrongfully dismissed vehicle fleet coordinator was awarded eight years of wages for both past and future employment income losses, damages for mental distress, pain and suffering, and another $50,000 of punitive damages.
Along with the extraordinary benefits accompanying today’s rapidly advancing technology comes an increasing vulnerability for Canadian employers who strive to hire the “best of the best” information technology groups.
On the one hand, “wizard like” computer skills are an invaluable asset — they can lead a company’s growth while sharpening its competitive edge. On the other hand, these advanced skills also can be a source of weakness as management struggles to predict the numerous and complex ways in which a technology employee might abuse his or her position and even cause harm to the business.