We are often contacted by unionized employees who have questions about their rights and the obligations of their union. For general information for unionized employees see here.
Recently, the Court of Appeal issued an important case that affects unionized employees who are off work because of a disability.
Barber v. The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company addressed the problem that many unionized employees face: they are not allowed to bring a lawsuit about concerns covered by the collective agreement.
Many years of court decisions, including from the Supreme Court of Canada, have held that because unionized employees have the grievance and labour arbitration process they cannot bring a civil action in court. They can only bring lawsuits about concerns not raised in the collective agreement. This could include defamation or intentional infliction of mental suffering – in some circumstances.
Barber was a unionized police constable. She became disabled and applied for long-term disability benefits (LTD). Manulife, her LTD insurer cut off Barber’s benefits and she filed a lawsuit against Manulife. As a police constable, she was a unionized employee and her collective agreement required her employer to offer disability insurance coverage to the union members. Manulife brought a motion to strike her legal claim.
The Court of Appeal held that because the collective agreement covered disability benefits, Barber could only proceed through the grievance and labour arbitration process, not the courts.
Employees who are members of a union and part of a collective bargaining unit have limited rights. If you are unionized and experiencing mistreatment from your employer it is important to seek legal advice. Even if an employment lawyer cannot bring a lawsuit for you, there may be other legal options available, such as the Human Rights Tribunal. We also have had many clients who gain a better understanding of their rights and the obligations of their employer and union by coming in for a one-hour consultation. Armed with this information, employees can better assert themselves with their union and get better representation.
If you have any questions about your rights as an employee in a union, or if you are receiving LTD and have questions about human rights please contact us at [email protected] or 647-204-8107 and one of our lawyers would be happy to assist you.
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