For a limited time, we are offering FREE twenty-minute zoom consultations for employees seeking employment law advice...

As businesses throughout the province of Ontario gradually begin to reopen, many employees have questions about what the employment relationship will look like in the era of COVID-19.

For a limited time, we are offering FREE twenty-minute zoom consultations for employees seeking employment law advice. Please contact dcontant@compellingcounsel.com to schedule your free consultation.

What are my rights if I need to stay home because of an emergency order (i.e. isolation or quarantine) or to provide childcare?

The Ontario government has created a new unpaid infectious disease emergency leave for employees who need to be home sick from work, in isolation or quarantine, or who need to remain home in order to care for their children or other specified family members. Employees who take emergency leave have job protection, and there is no maximum number of leave days (although the employee must continue to meet the eligibility criteria).

Your employer also has a duty to accommodate parents to allow them to deal with their parental obligations, up to the point of undue hardship. This could include the need to accommodate more flexible hours, or to accommodate a request to work from home due to childcare responsibilities.

Can I refuse to return to work because I believe it will be unsafe?

Employers have an obligation to protect the health and safety of their workers. This includes taking reasonable precautions to prevent the spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19. Likewise, employees have a right to refuse unsafe work.

As a starting point, we recommend that employees raise any potential health and safety concerns with their employer. Every situation is unique, and what is reasonable will vary depending on the nature of a workplace. The Ontario government has released industry-specific guidelines which are a starting point for what is reasonable in any given workplace.

Your employer also has an obligation to accommodate personal health issues (for example employees who are immune-compromised or have other medical conditions).

If the employer investigates and determines that the workplace is safe, the employee must return to work or seek intervention from the Ministry of Labour (which can investigate).

Before refusing to return to work, we encourage employees to obtain legal advice.

I have been temporarily laid off, is that “legal”?

The Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the “ESA”) does allow employers to temporarily layoff employees or reduce their hours. Recently, the government of Ontario extended the length of time employees may be temporarily laid off.

It is important to remember that while a temporary layoff may not constitute a constructive dismissal for the purposes of the ESA, it is possible that it might still be a constructive dismissal at common law.

Typically, a common law constructive dismissal occurs when a fundamental term of employment has been changed significantly by an employer. This could relate to compensation, the employee’s duties, or the employee’s title. Constructive dismissal can also arise where an employee is subject to abuse or a toxic work environment.

Before quitting your job or raising the issue of constructive dismissal we strongly encourage you to seek legal advice. If you quit and later cannot prove that you were constructively dismissed, you may not be entitled to compensation.

 

For a limited time, we are offering FREE twenty-minute zoom consultations for employees seeking employment law advice. Please contact dcontant@compellingcounsel.com to schedule your free consultation.