Punitive damages awards increasing in Canadian employment cases

March 31, 2013 0 COMMENTS

By David McDonald

In wrongful dismissal cases in Canada, punitive damages awards are available only in exceptional situations. That’s what the Supreme Court of Canada said in 2008 in Honda Canada v. Keays. The employer’s conduct in the course of termination must be proven to be harsh, vindictive, reprehensible, and malicious. Despite this high threshold, a number of recent trial decisions show how Canadian courts are becoming more open to providing employees with punitive damages awards. read more…

Workplace computer porn: court rules employees’ privacy rights limit police

November 04, 2012 0 COMMENTS

by Jennifer Shepherd

On October 19, 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) issued its ruling in R. v. Cole. The court held that a person’s right to be protected against unreasonable searches was breached when the police looked at computer files the employer had given them without first obtaining a search warrant.

Facts

A Sudbury high school provided one of its teachers, Richard Cole, with a laptop to be used for the purpose of teaching. While reviewing students’ computer files, Cole discovered nude photos of an under-age student and copied them onto the hard drive of his work laptop. read more…

Canada’s Top Court to Decide If Human Rights Tribunal Can Award Legal Costs

October 11, 2010 0 COMMENTS

By Ida Martin

This December, the Supreme Court of Canada is set to hear a case involving the issue of whether the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has the authority to grant legal costs to a successful complainant. In an area of law where legal costs often dwarf the actual amount of any award, the Supreme Court of Canada decision could have major ramifications for human rights litigation across Canada.

Audio Conference: Operating in Canada: New Dos and Don’ts for Employers

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Blowing Holes in Collective Agreements

October 04, 2010 0 COMMENTS

by Emilie Paquin-Holmested and Dominique Monet

The Supreme Court of Canada, in Québec (Procureur général) c. Syndicat de la fonction publique, recently struck down a clause in a collective agreement. The clause in question prevented certain employees from challenging discipline through grievance arbitration. The Court declared the clause void because it contravened a statutory minimum standard.

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Court of Appeal Agrees with $25,000 Award for Loss of Apprenticeship

June 07, 2010 0 COMMENTS

By Derek Knoechel

As we reported in an article last year, courts across the country are generally following the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Keays v. Honda Canada: Punitive damages should be awarded only in exceptional cases, and moral damages should be limited to actual losses resulting from the employer’s conduct. That has left Canadian courts assessing employees’ actual losses. But the result can be a double-edged sword. Other damages may flow – as was the case when the British Columbia Court of Appeal ruled in Marchen v. Dams Ford Lincoln Sales Ltd. that an apprentice who was wrongfully dismissed was entitled to $25,000 for loss of his apprenticeship.

Apprentice agreement
In November 2002, Dams Ford Lincoln Sales Ltd. (Dams) entered into an apprenticeship agreement with a Mr. Marchen. Under the agreement, Marchen was to work and take courses to become a qualified automobile collision repair journeyman. In exchange, Dams was to provide adequate training, so far as the facilities and the scope of the business would permit. The training program was expected to take approximately four years. Dams wasn’t required to keep Marchen employed for the entire period but only so long as work was available.

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Mandatory Retirement Being Retired across Canada

January 18, 2010 0 COMMENTS

Mandatory retirement has a long and storied history as part of the Canadian labor system. As we enter 2010, it appears that a new chapter is being written, one in which mandatory retirement is the exception rather than the norm.

In Canada, mandatory retirement developed along with the introduction of private and public pension plans. Public programs, such as the Old Age Security, Guaranteed Income Supplement, and the Canada and Quebec Pension Plans, provided that retirement benefits were to be paid beginning at age 65. Private businesses developed or adapted their plans to complement and integrate with government pensions. By the 1970s age 65 had become generally accepted as the “normal” age of retirement by employers and workers alike.

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Wal-Mart Allowed to Close Unionized Store: Supreme Court of Canada

December 14, 2009 0 COMMENTS

By Marc Ouellet and Louise Béchamp

On November 27, 2009, in two cases involving Wal-Mart (Plourde v. Wal-Mart Canada Corp. and Desbiens v. Wal-Mart Canada Corp.), the Supreme Court of Canada rendered its much-awaited decision on an employer’s right to close operations for alleged antiunion reasons.

The Supreme Court decisions rule that Wal-Mart could close one of its stores following the unionization of its employees. Essentially, the court confirmed the principle by which an employer can overturn the presumption against it, established by section 17 of the Quebec Labour Code, by simply showing that the decision to close is “real and definitive.” This is possible even though the reasons behind the closing could be viewed as “socially reprehensible.”

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Federally Regulated Employees Required to Cross Another Union’s Picket Line

November 30, 2009 0 COMMENTS

By Ida Martin

Imagine there is a group of federal government employees that are engaging in a lawful strike. Because of the physical location of your workplace, your employees can’t get to work without crossing the picket line. Your workers are unionized and have decided they won’t cross the picket line of the striking federal employees. As such, they are not at work. Can you require them to cross the picket line? What if there is a clause in your collective agreement that states that the company doesn’t expect members of the union to cross a picket line? Can you still insist?

According to a recent Federal Court of Appeal decision, G.W.U., Local 333 v. B.C. Terminal Elevator Operations’ Assn., you can. Even if your collective agreement states that the union isn’t expected to cross a picket line.

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Federally Regulated Employees Required to Cross Another Union’s Picket Line

November 30, 2009 0 COMMENTS

By Ida Martin

Imagine there is a group of federal government employees that are engaging in a lawful strike. Because of the physical location of your workplace, your employees can’t get to work without crossing the picket line. Your workers are unionized and have decided they won’t cross the picket line of the striking federal employees. As such, they are not at work. Can you require them to cross the picket line? What if there is a clause in your collective agreement that states that the company doesn’t expect members of the union to cross a picket line? Can you still insist?

According to a recent Federal Court of Appeal decision, G.W.U., Local 333 v. B.C. Terminal Elevator Operations’ Assn., you can. Even if your collective agreement states that the union isn’t expected to cross a picket line.

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Canadian Supreme Court’s Principles Lead to Large Damage Award Against Employer

November 23, 2009 0 COMMENTS

By Katie Clayton and Farrah Sunderani

In our October 12, 2009, entry we looked at the extent to which Canadian courts are following the principles established by the Supreme Court of Canada in Honda v. Keays to awarding bad faith and punitive damages. Last month, an Alberta court was once again put to the test.

On October 13, 2009, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench released its reasons in Soost v. Merrill Lynch Canada Inc. where it followed the Supreme Court’s principles, although this time against the employer.

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