Toronto Labour Lawyers - Labour Law Firm | Hyde HR Law

What is Labour Law?

The term "Labour Law" is often used interchangeably with "Employment Law". They are not one and the same.

Generally speaking, Labour Law deals with the rights, restrictions and obligations of employees, employers and trade unions. In essence, it applies to a unionized work environment, whereas Employment Law, for the most part, applies to a non-unionized workplace.

Can unionized employees sue for wrongful dismissal?

The answer is "NO". However, unionized employees have special rights guaranteed to them under labour relations legislation. For example, in Ontario, the Labour Relations Act provides that no unionized employee can be terminated without "just cause". Just cause in a unionized environment is a little different from just cause in a non-unionized workplace. Arguably, it is more difficult to establish just cause when terminating a unionized employee. Generally, a unionized employee must be found guilty of wilful misconduct or wilful neglect of duty, in order to lose his or her employment on a permanent basis. Even then, arbitrators have the right, in certain circumstances, to lessen the penalty and put employees back to work. This does not happen in employment law.

Can a unionized employee be terminated with notice or pay in lieu of notice?

Generally, the answer is also "NO". We often hear of non-unionized employees claiming "wrongful dismissal" upon termination of employment. In employment law, "wrongful dismissal" has been defined as the failure to provide reasonable notice of termination of employment or pay in lieu of that notice. This does not apply in labour law, because as mentioned previously, termination can occur only for "just cause".

Are poor performing employees protected if they are unionized? 

No. Poor performing employees do not have guaranteed jobs in a unionized environment. It is however much harder for employers to fire them. Employers cannot give reasonable notice of termination or pay in lieu of notice to get rid of a poor performing union employee. Rather, the employer is required to impose escalating (progressive) discipline over a period of time, ultimately terminating that employee for "just cause". Often, this begins with a verbal warning, then a written warning, followed by a suspension (the time varies depending upon the severity or frequency of the wrongdoing), culminating in dismissal for just cause. As noted above, in most cases, an arbitrator has a right to second-guess the employer, and lessen the penalty, based upon the circumstances.

Can unionized employees fight an employer in court?

Again, the answer is "NO". In labour law, except for in very limited circumstances, a unionized employee does not have a right to pursue his or her own case. That right belongs exclusively to the union. In labour law, the rights and obligations of workers, employers and unions are for the most part governed by a Collective Agreement signed between the employer and the union. Employees do not sign that agreement, nor are they recognized parties to that agreement. There are only two parties: the employer and the union. The union has a statutory obligation to represent its unionized employees (often called "bargaining unit employees") to the best of its ability. This is referred to as the "Duty of Fair Representation" and it requires the union to represent its members fairly, in a manner which is not discriminatory, arbitrary, or in bad faith. Therefore, the courts have held that unionized employees do not have a private right to sue an employer. Where a dispute arises out of a Collective Agreement, the matter must be decided exclusively by an arbitrator – not a court. Labour law legislation also makes this very clear. 

What can Hyde HR Law do for my company?

The lawyers at Hyde HR Law are labour law experts. We are certified by the Law Society of Ontario, as Specialists in Labour Law. What have we done for our clients? We have stopped union organizing drives. We have prevented union certifications. We have represented our clients before the Ontario Labour Relations Board and the Canada Industrial Relations Board. We have extensive experience in collective bargaining on behalf of employers. We have fought hundreds of union grievances and arbitrations. We provide employer strategy, advice and representation in all labour law matters. Contact us today.

Labour Arbitrations

Labour arbitration is the dispute settling process in a unionized workplace. Labour arbitration can be used to resolve union grievances, contested policies, or for the negotiation of a new collective agreement.

Collective Bargaining

Collective agreements are fairly complex, and an inexpertly drafted agreement can significantly increase the cost of doing business. During collective bargaining negotiations, employers must consider every facet of employee relations for years to come.

Construction Labour

Construction labour law is more complicated and rule-driven than any other industry in the province. In Ontario, construction labour law is characterized by divisions based on sector, craft, and geographical area, as well as collective agreements that automatically apply to newly certified employers.

Transportation Labour

Labour law in the transportation sector is highly specialized. Either provincial or federal law can apply, depending on the exact nature of the work. Employers may also have certain rights to conduct drug and alcohol testing on employees. Expert legal advice is critical for companies who operate in this industry.

Aviation Labour

Labour law in the aviation sector largely falls under federal jurisdiction. Aviation labour law expertise requires an understanding of how the aviation sector works, together with a detailed knowledge of federal standards and jurisprudence.

Union Avoidance

Keeping your workplace union-free requires careful and strategic planning long before any union organizing drive even begins. One wrong move in the course of a union drive can lead to your business becoming automatically certified.

Defence to Union Grievances

A union grievance constitutes a ‘dispute’ under a collective bargaining agreement. Unions often seek to extend their power by filing grievances. Employers should always respond, with the help of a qualified labour lawyer.

Applications for Certification

Applications for Certification are, at the end of the day, decided by employees. However, employers have certain rights to participate in these matters, which can often make the difference between becoming certified or remaining union-free.

Termination of Bargaining Rights

Termination of Bargaining Rights, also known as “decertification”, occurs when employees no longer wish to be represented by their union. Any hint of employer influence during decertification can thwart the entire process.

Unfair Labour Practice Complaints

Employers have the right to communicate with employees about unionization – even in the course of a union organizing campaign. Employers cannot, however, use coercion, threats, intimidation, promises, or undue influence to turn employees against the union, or else risk an Unfair Labour Practice (ULP) complaint.