What is an employment standards violation?
An employment standards violation is a breach of the minimum employment standards set by legislation. If you run a business in Ontario, those minimum standards are likely set by the Employment Standards Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. If your business is in a federally regulated industry like telecommunications or transportation, you may be governed by the Canada Labour Code.
These statutes contain detailed provisions governing various terms and conditions of employment, such as wages, overtime, tips and gratuities, rest periods, layoffs, notice of termination and severance pay, sick leave, maternity, holiday, vacation, health and safety, and even workplace violence and harassment.
Can my human resources staff and software keep me compliant?
Many employers mistakenly assume that their human resources staff and software will keep them compliant with employment standards. This is often not the case. Employment standards can be highly technical, counterintuitive, and sometimes ambiguous. Further, the law is always evolving in this area.
Why should my business remain current with employment standards?
Aside from avoiding employment standards claims, it is crucial to have a good grasp of employment standards for day-to-day employee management, such as drafting workplace policies or employment contracts; disciplining, terminating, or laying off employees; administering pensions and benefits; assessing leaves of absence; and conducting workplace investigations, among others.
It is especially important that employers stay compliant with employment standards surrounding termination of employment. For instance, an employment contract that limits an employee's entitlements to anything less than the minimum employment standards set out by legislation, can be entirely void, leaving a company without any protection from wrongful dismissal claims. As well, Courts have been known to punish employers who fail to provide terminated employees with their minimum entitlements, by awarding extra damages, sometimes in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
What do I do if my business receives an employment standards complaint?
The first thing you should do is speak to an experienced employment lawyer; how you respond to an employment standards claim is very important. Any retaliation action against the complainant employee (actual or perceived), can lead to a reprisal complaint. Reprisal is prohibited by both the Ontario Employment Standards Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. An employer can commit reprisal against an employee even if the underlying employment standards claim has no merit. It is therefore crucial that employers use the utmost caution when dealing with employment standards claims.
Should I speak to an employment lawyer about my legal obligations?
Yes. We absolutely recommend that you consult with a qualified employment lawyer if you have any uncertainty whatsoever regarding your employment standards obligations. For the most part, employment standards issues, on their own, can be dealt with relatively easily, as long as they are addressed promptly and properly. The real danger for employers comes from not knowing their employment standards obligations. It can be much more difficult for an employment lawyer to help you once a problem arises; it is always best to understand your legal responsibilities before an employee makes a complaint.
What can Hyde HR Law do for my company?
Employment standards are a hot political issue and are subject to constant additions and amendments. The lawyers at Hyde HR Law are experts in employment standards. We provide tailored advice on your minimum employment standards obligations, and how to use that knowledge to shield your company from liability. We also have extensive experience defending our clients against employment standards claims, from negotiations through to hearings. Contact us today.