Lawyers as forest rangers
You can compare employment lawyers to forest rangers.
We prevent legal fires when we, for example, draft employment contracts and legally required policies, and when we provide prophylactic advice such as pre-termination advice.
We put out legal fires when we, for example, defend wrongful dismissal actions, human rights complaints, and claims for overtime pay under the Employment Standards Act.
Lawyers as compliance officers
In recent years with the proliferation of new workplace laws, employment lawyers have also taken on the role of compliance officers for some clients.
Unless a person is responsible for keeping an organization up to date on Ontario’s employment laws, an employer is simply not aware of new employment laws.
In the past, many employment laws were of the “Thou shall not…” variety.
Increasingly, however, the laws are of the “Thou shall do (something)…” variety, which makes compliance impossible if the employer is unaware of a new law. As most people are aware, ignorance of the law is not a defence to a violation of a law.
New employer obligations
As readers of this blog are aware, the Ontario government regularly introduces new laws and amends existing employment laws. Here are a small number of recent new or changed laws:
- Mandatory training
New employees must generally receive customer service training under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), and mandatory health and safety training under the Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA).
- Mandatory investigations
Employers are now required to investigate workplace harassment complaints (i.e. my co-worker is “bullying” me) and the person who investigates the complaint must be appropriately trained. If not, the Ministry of Labour can order the employer to retain an external investigator at the employer’s expense.
Although an investigation into a human rights complaint is not explicitly required under the Ontario Human Rights Code the failure to do so can result in an order to pay an employee damages for failure to investigate even if an adjudicator concludes no discrimination took place.
- Mandatory requirements in relation with disabled employees
As of Jan. 1, 2016, 11 new obligations were imposed on employers with 50 or more employees as a result of the employment regulation under AODA. These obligations were all of the “Though shall do (something)…” variety. One such obligation is to prepare an individual accommodation plan for any disabled employee who requests accommodation. This plan must address at least eight prescribed issues. These new obligations are imposed on employers with one to 49 employees on Jan. 1, 2017.
I will continue to bring new employment law developments to your attention through this blog. But sometimes this is not enough.
The MacLeod Law Firm’s compliance services
To help employers comply with new employment laws and to manage compliance risk, the MacLeod Law Firm is offering a number of fixed fee services.
One service is our HR/employment law compliance service. After determining a client’s compliance needs, we prepare a schedule of monthly services. (i.e. month one – Occupational Health & Safety Act compliance; month two – Employment Standards Act compliance; month three – mandatory postings and training compliance, etc.)
Another service is our AODA compliance report. We review each client’s current practices and provide a written report setting out exactly what the organization needs to do to comply with AODA’s new employment regulation.
For over 25 years, Doug MacLeod of the MacLeod Law Firm has been advising employers on all aspects of the employment relationship. If you have any questions, you can contact him at 416 317-9894 or at [email protected].