An update from our neighbors to the north (with thanks to Chris Burkett, partner in our Toronto office):

In January, the Ontario Court of Appeal (in Canada) overturned the lower court’s decision in Heller v. Uber Technologies Inc., 2019 ONCA 1. The Court of Appeal held that an arbitration clause requiring arbitration in the Netherlands of disputes between drivers and Uber to be invalid and unenforceable. Based on the presumption that Uber drivers are employees of Uber, the Court of Appeal found that the arbitration clause was a prohibited contracting out of Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA). Continue Reading Canadian Court Invalidates Arbitration Clause Requiring Arbitration In Foreign Jurisdiction

If you have employee headcount in Canada, be sure to catch up on the top 10 developments from 2018 . . . 

  1. Legalization of recreational marijuana. Across Canada, the legalization of recreational cannabis has had a significant impact on employers, requiring them to implement changes to their workplace policies and procedures. The legalization of recreational marijuana has placed a spotlight on issues resulting from current technological limitations of testing for “current impairment”, and has required employers to adapt to the idea of a controlled substance that is legal for both recreational and medicinal use.
  2. Ontario introduces, and largely reverses, major workplace legislation reforms. Ontario’s Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017,introduced a wide range of changes to workplace legislation, including increases to minimum wage, paid vacation, and protected leave time, as well as new “equal pay for equal work” requirements. A majority of these changes came into force in 2018. However, on November 21, 2018, the new provincial government reversed most of these changes under Bill 47, the Making Ontario Open For Business Act, 2018.
  3. Alberta implements major reforms to workplace legislation. The Alberta legislature passed comprehensive amendments to its workplace legislation, most of which took effect on January 1, 2018. These changes were enacted through Bill 17, the Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act; and Bill 30, An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans, including enhanced leave and vacation entitlements, the implementation of a new administrative penalty system under the Employment Standards Code, the expansion of “card-based certification” for new unions, and other changes to legislation regarding occupational health and safety and workers’ compensation.
  4. Major changes to Quebec’s workplace legislation. In 2018, the National Assembly of Quebec made significant changes to the province’s workplace legislation under Bill 176, An Act to amend the Act respecting labour standards and other legislative provisions mainly to facilitate family–work balance. Changes include expanded leave entitlements, the inclusion of “sexual harassment” as a form of psychological harassment, the prohibition of any distinction based solely on hiring date in relation to pension plans or other employment benefits, and changes to directors and officers liability.
  5. British Columbia initiates workplace legislation reform. In June of 2018, BC’s Employment Standards Act Reform Project Committee issued recommendations for amendments to British Columbia’s Employment Standards Act, including enacting the right to refuse overtime in circumstances where overtime would conflict with certain family commitments, changes to overtime averaging requirements, and enhanced leave entitlements. On October 25, 2018, the BC government released the report of the Labour Relations Code Review Panel, recommending several amendments to the Labour Relations Code, including shortening the time between the filing of an application for certification and the certification vote, expanding remedial certifications, and expanding the statutory freeze period. It is very likely that these recommendations will give rise to substantial changes to BC’s workplace legislation in 2019.
  6. Ontario’s Pay Transparency Act, passed and put on hold. On May 7, 2018, Ontario’s former provincial government enacted Bill 3, An Act respecting transparency of pay in employment. The Pay Transparency Act was set to take effect on January 1, 2019, requiring Ontario employers to publish a salary rate or range in all publicly advertised job postings, prohibiting employers from asking candidates about their past compensation, and eventually requiring employers to post pay transparency reports online. However, Ontario’s new provincial government passed legislation on December 6, 2018, effectively placing the Pay Transparency Act on hold. It is likely that the Pay Transparency Act will be significantly amended or repealed by the new Ontario government in 2019.
  7. Ontario’s Police Record Checks Reform Act. As of November 1, 2018, Ontario legislation established three standard types of police records checks in Ontario, and set a procedural framework for executing the checks. This legislation is helpful in reducing the likelihood that unnecessary information will be disclosed to employers during the police record check process, and will reduce the confusion that has resulted from having different police record check processes administered in different regions across Ontario.
  8. Asset purchasers free to offer employment on new terms. On August 2, the Supreme Court of Canada refused leave to appeal the decision in Krishnamoorthy v Olympus Canada Inc, 2017 ONCA 873. In that case, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that, when a business’ assets are sold (as opposed to its shares), and the purchaser offers new employment to that business’s employees under different terms and conditions, the resulting employment contracts are generally enforceable, assuming they comply with employment standards legislation. In other words, new offers of employment in the context of an asset sale are fundamentally distinct from new offers of employment in the context of a share purchase, where the enforceability of amendments are often unenforceable for lack of “fresh consideration”.
  9. Two Ontario Court of Appeal cases give rise to further uncertainty regarding the enforceability of termination clauses. In Amberber v. IBM Canada Ltd., 2018 ONCA 571 and Nemeth v. Hatch Ltd., 2018 ONCA 7, the Ontario Court of Appeal sought to clarify and limit the contractual language threshold for ousting the common law entitlement to reasonable termination notice. These cases will strengthen the employer’s enforceability argument in many cases. However, it continues to be difficult to resolve apparent inconsistencies in the case law, and to predict what will occur in the litigation of each particular case.
  10. Increased legal scrutiny for benefits plans that make age-based distinctions at age 65. In Talos v. Grand Erie District School Board, 2018 HRTO 680, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario concluded that the applicant had been discriminated against on the basis of age as a result of the statutory exception that permitted the elimination of his benefits when he reached the age of 65. The HRTO therefore determined that Mr. Talos’ rights under s. 15(1) of the Charter had been infringed. Furthermore, the HRTO held that, although the financial viability of benefits plans was a pressing and substantial objective, the government’s decision to legislate the statutory exception was not justified because it was not necessary to preserve the financial viability of benefits plans. This case strongly suggests that the statutory exception will be the subject of further litigation, and that benefits plans that make age-based distinctions for employees after reaching the age of 65 will now be subject to serious legal scrutiny.

Many thanks to Jordan Kirkness and Massimo Orsini for this article.

Thanks to our Canadian colleagues for this alert: 

Ontario’s revised regulatory framework for cannabis is now in effect. Bill 36, the Cannabis Statute Law Amendment Act, 2018, received Royal Assent and came into force on October 17, 2018, amending 18 provincial statutes including the Cannabis Act, 2017  (now the Cannabis Control Act, 2017 ) and the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017  (SFOA 2017).

Continue Reading It’s High Time: Ontario Finally Passes Its Cannabis And Smoke-Free Legislation

In recent years, joint employer liability has emerged as a persistent threat for companies who use franchise business models. Franchisors are increasingly facing claims brought by employees of franchisees for entitlements flowing from their employment. The outcome in these cases is unpredictable because the law is undergoing change. As such, the joint employer aspects of franchising arrangements can prove to be a minefield for the unwary and are a growing global concern.

Click here to read the full article (originally published in the September 2018 edition of Franchising World), which covers key developments in joint employer liability for franchisors operating in Australia, Canada and Mexico and describes a proactive approach to help mitigate risk.

Following the Senate’s historic vote in favor of Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, the Federal Government announced on June 20, 2018 that recreational marijuana will become legal on October 17, 2018. In anticipation of Bill C-45 becoming law, the provinces have begun preparing a framework for regulating the production, distribution, sale, possession and consumption of cannabis. Ontario’s response is Bill 174. With legalization fast approaching, we outline below key aspects of Bill 174 and steps to help employers prepare for the new reality.

Click here for more specifics on the bill and how employers should prepare.

(Huge thanks to our own Jordan Kirkness and Susan MacMillan for sharing this with us.)

Two recent events in the US vividly illustrate the growing centrality of gender pay equity issues. On one side of the ledger, in early April 2018, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in Rizo v. Fresno County Office of Education, held that an employee’s prior salary—either alone or in a combination of factors—cannot be used to justify paying women less than men in comparable jobs. On the other side of the ledger, the US Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, on April 20, 2018, announced that it is upending standards implemented during President Obama’s administration designed to promote gender pay equity among federal contractors. Under this new policy, employers will be able to decide for themselves how their employees should be categorized and analyzed for purposes of fair pay investigations by the government.

These two US events are merely the latest examples of increased activity around the globe with regard to the issue of pay equity.  Click here to read more.

(Many thanks to George Avraam and Susan MacMillan for sharing this insight with us.)

Despite the longstanding nature of equal pay and pay equity legislation in Canada, on average, women still earn less than men. The Ontario Government and the Federal Government recently took steps aimed at improving women’s equality in the workforce and addressing the gender pay gap in these jurisdictions.

Click  here to download the full report, which includes helpful information on how employers can prepare for Ontario’s upcoming Pay Transparency Act.

In our Global Employer Monthly eAlert, we capture recent employment law developments from across the globe to help you keep up with the ever-changing employment law landscape around the globe.

In this month’s issue, we share updates from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Italy, the Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Click here to view.

Jordan Kirkness and Susan MacMillan in our Toronto office report that the government of Ontario announced yesterday that it will introduce new legislation to require certain employers to track and publish their compensation information.

The proposed legislation is part of the province’s initiative to advance women’s economic status and create more equitable workplaces (the initiative is titled “Then Now Next: Ontario’s Strategy for Women’s Economic Empowerment”). Yesterday’s announcement comes on the heels of last week’s budget plan in which the Canadian federal government outlined proposed proactive pay equity legislation that would apply to federally regulated employers — see here for our article on the proposed federal legislation.

For more on Ontario’s new pay transparency legislation, see here.

Baker McKenzie partner Susan Eandi introduces Chris Burkett from Toronto to talk about employment laws in Canada and give an overview of what’s changed in 2017 as well as what we can expect in 2018.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Employers must review their workplace health and safety policies to ensure that anti-harassment polices are up to date and that training is in place, particularly around sexual harassment.
  2. Review termination clauses in employment agreements to ensure compliance with ESA and clarity of language and intent.
  3. Implement the minimum wage and equal pay obligations that are now in force.
  4. Be proactive in managing the use of cannabis in the workplace, particularly where accommodation requests come into play.
  5. Prepare for expanding supply chain + ESG transparency and global corporate human rights obligations. If operating globally, ensure you have a policy and due diligence program in place to mitigate adverse human rights impacts and lower risk of exposure to human rights lawsuits and reputational damage.

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