EKB Hosts Employment Law Seminar for BC Business Leaders

On September 14, 2017, EKB partners Dave Turner, Rod Urquhart and Angela Folino presented a seminar titled, “Your Obligations as an Employer in Awkward Situations: Bullying, Disability, Addiction and Termination”.

The seminar was well attended by BC employers, HR personnel, and Vancouver business leaders. By all accounts, it was an informative and entertaining morning.

The topics discussed included:

Workplace Bullying & Harassment

EKB Managing Partner Rodney Urquhart started off the seminar with a presentation that outlined the various statutes that cover bullying and harassment in the workplace. Rod discussed Workers’ Compensation Act and the Workers’ Compensation Occupational Health and Safety Policies that set out the framework for employer and employee responsibilities. Rod also outlined strategies for how employers might deal with workplace bullying and harassment. As well, Rod led the audience through a review of the compensation claim process, along with a discussion of related human rights issues.

Just (Be)Cause: When Firing an Employee is Justified

This presentation by EKB partner and business lawyer, David Turner, explained the benefits and dangers of alleging just cause (often referred to simply as “cause”) in terminating an employee. Dave observed that termination for cause is the “capital punishment” of employment law and, as a result, the courts have established a very high standard for employers to meet in order to dismiss an employee without notice or pay in lieu of notice.  The courts have established principles such as taking a contextual approach and applying a proportional response to the alleged conduct, but many decisions from courts across Canada are difficult to reconcile. This presentation, and the accompanying article, was titled “Just (Be)Cause” to reflect the view of many employers that the troublingly inconsistent case law in this area appears arbitrary and unprincipled.

Legalizing Marijuana: Addiction & Accommodation

In this timely presentation, EKB Partner Angela Folino outlined the impact of medical marijuana use on the employer-employee relationship as well as changes that employers might expect once the recreational use of marijuana is legalized. With the legalization of recreational marijuana on the horizon and the use of marijuana to treat disabilities becoming more prevalent, employers are faced with situations that they may not have encountered before. Human rights laws require employers to accommodate employees with disabilities to the point of undue hardship. Angela noted that the duty to accommodate must be carefully balanced with the employer’s duty to maintain a safe workplace.

Terminating the Disabled or Soon to be Disabled Employee

EKB Managing Partner Rodney Urquhart addressed the thorny issue of long-term disability as it relates to job termination. The dangers that employers may face in terminating an employee who becomes disabled were highlighted in this presentation, including the possibility of the employer becoming the de facto insurer of a disabled former employee. As well, Rod discussed the risks of terminating an employee who is on long-term disability, including the real risk of human rights complaints and the compensation employers may be required to pay.

Employment Standards: You Might Think You’re Out When You’re In & In When You’re Out

The title of this presentation by EKB Partner David Turner, “You Might Think You’re Out When You’re In & In When You’re Out”, signifies the difficulties faced by employers when either trying to reference and rely on the Employment Standards Act in their employment contracts, or when trying to avoid the Act by hiring managers and independent contractors. Dave’s presentation provided an overview on a variety of topics of importance to employers and HR including determining whether a termination provision will be upheld, how to keep the employment contract in place in light of promotions or transfers, and factors the courts and the Employment Standards Tribunal will consider in determining an employee’s status as a manager as well as whether a worker’s relationship with the employer is more akin to that of an employee or an independent contractor.

Covering a wide spectrum of timely subjects, this EKB seminar sought to assist BC employers with navigating the most difficult matters. The Employment Law group extends our thanks to all who attended. We welcome your suggestions for future seminar topics that may be of interest to your business. For further information, or to submit your ideas for the next seminar, contact the head of EKB’s practice group, Dave Turner.

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