Northern Exposure now with Fasken Martineau

August 12, 2008 - by: Brian Smeenk 1 COMMENTS

by Brian Smeenk

Just as Americans are considering how much change will occur in the context of the current election season, lots of change is happening north of the 49th parallel in the labor and employment field.

Not the least of which, from the perspective of this publication, is a change in law firm affiliation. Welcome to the first entry from the firm of Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP. Your editor-in-chief remains the same, but he, like this Northern Exposure blog, has found a new home.

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Beware Liability When Workers Talk on Phone While Driving

August 05, 2008 - by: Karen Sargeant 1 COMMENTS

by Karen Sargeant
former of McCarthy Tetrault

We have all heard the statistics (and it’s no surprise!) — driving while talking on a cell phone increases the likelihood of a car accident even if you use a “hands-free” set. At the same time, your employees have cell phones, iPhones, BlackBerries(R) and other personal data assistants (PDAs), which you know they use while commuting to and from work or while out and about on business. What’s worse, they may use these devices for company business, such as participating in conference calls or calling customers while driving.

Employers beware — you face significant risks under Canadian law if you allow this behavior to continue.

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Supreme Court of Canada Helps Employers with Duty to Accommodate Disabilities

July 29, 2008 - by: Northern Exposure 2 COMMENTS

by Rachel Ravary
McCarthy Tetrault

Last week’s decision in Hydro Québec v. Syndicat des employé-e-s de techniques professionnelles et de bureau d’Hydro-Québec 2008 SCC 43 is good news for employers – finally there is a clear limit to your duty to accommodate employees who are chronically absent from work.

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Random Alcohol and Drug Testing in Safety-Sensitive Positions

July 22, 2008 - by: Northern Exposure 1 COMMENTS

By Rachel Ravary and Philippe Lacoursière
McCarthy Tetrault

Earlier this year, we reported on the decision of the Alberta Court of Appeal in Chiasson v. Kellogg Brown & Root (see the January 22, 2008, blog entry titled Ruling helps Alberta employers defend preemployment testing challenges), which upheld an employer’s right to perform mandatory preemployment alcohol and drug screening for safety-sensitive positions.

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Should Canadian Employers Give Employment References?

July 15, 2008 - by: Northern Exposure 2 COMMENTS

By Tina Giesbrecht and Lana Jackson
McCarthy Tetrault

Employers often ask whether they should give employment references to employees and former employees. This decision can be a difficult one with possible negative consequences for either course of action. Whatever decision is made, it’s important to consistently apply one policy regarding reference letters.

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Categories: Employer's Tip / Q&A

Supreme Court Reverses Largest Wrongful Dismissal Punitive Damages Award in Canadian History

July 08, 2008 - by: Northern Exposure 1 COMMENTS

By Kate McNeill, Kelly McDermott, and Donovan Plomp
McCarthy Tetrault

On Friday, June 27, 2008, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) released its decision in Honda Canada Inc. v. Keays, reversing the largest award of punitive damages in a wrongful dismissal action in Canadian history. The decision is very favorable for employers.

Kevin Keays was a long service Honda employee who was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome in 1997. He returned to work after a period on long-term disability benefits. Honda exempted him from its attendance-related progressive discipline policy but required him to provide a medical note for each absence, which was not required of employees suffering “mainstream” illnesses.

Keays’ sporadic absences continued, and Honda hired Dr. B to assess Keays. Keays hired a lawyer, who wanted to clarify the purpose of the meeting with Dr. B. Honda refused to deal with Keays’ lawyer and made Keays subject to its attendance-related discipline policy. When he continued to refuse to meet with Dr. B without Honda clarifying the purpose of the meeting, Honda terminated his employment for insubordination. read more…

Employee Privacy Rights and Computer Data in Canada

July 01, 2008 - by: Northern Exposure 2 COMMENTS

by Barbara A. McIsaac, Helen Gray, and Daniel Pugen
McCarthy Tetrault

An employee’s expectation of privacy in the workplace is a big issue these days, especially with respect to the use of company computers.

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Categories: Employment Law

Employers Lessons from Quebec’s Experience with Psychological Harassment

June 24, 2008 - by: Northern Exposure 2 COMMENTS

By Simon-Pierre Hebert and Rachel Ravary
McCarthy Tetrault

If you have employees in Quebec, then you are likely familiar with the prohibition against “psychological harassment” that was added to the Act Respecting Labour Standards in 2004.

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Categories: Employment Law

Employee Must Pay for Investigation into Her Own Theft

June 17, 2008 - by: Northern Exposure 1 COMMENTS

McCarthy Tetrault

If you have ever thought it wouldn’t be worth the cost to investigate an employee’s criminal misconduct, the recent decision in Canada Safeway Limited v. Brown, [2007] B.C.J. No. 2400 (S.C.) might make you reconsider. Not only was the employee ordered to pay back the money she stole, the judge tacked on six times that amount to cover the costs incurred by the employer in investigating and prosecuting the employee.

As a cashier and customer service representative for Canada Safeway, a major grocery store chain in Western Canada, Sharon Brown had unsupervised access to the company’s cash and accounting records. When Safeway began experiencing cash and inventory shortages, it installed surveillance equipment and assigned its security officer to investigate. Lo and behold, Safeway discovered that Ms. Brown was processing fraudulent refunds and pocketing the cash.

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Categories: Employer's Tip

Business Transactions Won’t Eliminate Union Bargaining Rights in Canada

June 10, 2008 - by: Northern Exposure 0 COMMENTS

by Daniel Pugen
McCarthy Tetrault

Labor laws in Canada provide that the purchaser of a business will generally “take over” any collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) between a union and the vendor. The purchaser becomes the “successor employer” and becomes bound by the vendor’s existing CBAs. In this situation, the union continues to represent unionized employees after the sale or transfer of the business to the new owners or operators.

In addition to the continuation of bargaining rights after a sale or transfer, two companies that are under “common control or direction” can be held to constitute a single or common employer for labor relations purposes. Such a finding can mean that the union’s bargaining unit encompasses employees of both companies.

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