Employment & Labour

Seminars to review significant human rights, labour law issues

By Kathy Bockus, AdvocateDaily.com Contributor

Employers will have an opportunity to learn more about the impact of changes to the legal landscape on workplaces this October during two seminars, Toronto employment lawyer Doug MacLeod tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The two half-day seminars will address human rights issues around company benefits for employees over the age of 65, along with how the legalization of marijuana and Ontario's changing labour laws will affect workplaces, says MacLeod, principal of MacLeod Law Firm.

"We are not in the seminar business, but these three issues are important enough that people need to spend half a day getting up to speed on them," he says.

The first session will take place in Barrie on Oct. 23 and the second in Toronto on Oct. 24.

MacLeod will be presenting along with colleagues Nicole Simes, who has a "vibrant human rights practice," and Nadia Halum, a lawyer with the firm who does a great deal of compliance work and is familiar with the new cannabis legislation.

With regard to marijuana use, MacLeod says employers will face the challenge of clearly setting out expectations in policies about what can and can't be done in their workplaces.

"They can say you can't bring your cannabis on our private property and worksite and they can say you can't come to work impaired,” he explains.

MacLeod suggests safety-sensitive workplaces — such as manufacturing facilities — will need to have some kind of drug or alcohol policy spelling out that employees who take medical marijuana will have to disclose that fact to employers.

In addition, supervisors will need to undergo training to judge impairment and companies will have to introduce some sort of impairment test as part of that training, he adds.

MacLeod says impairment testing is currently "pretty controversial" and drug testing "is a no-no in most circumstances" unless there's been an accident.

He says the federal government has introduced a saliva test for roadside use by peace officers that employers might be able to adopt, although there may be constitutional challenges on the grounds of unreasonable search and invasion of privacy.

MacLeod points out that no one has a crystal ball to see what issues may arise.

"We're not there yet. It's a whole new world,” he says.

As far as Ontario's changing labour laws, MacLeod predicts Premier Doug Ford will proceed with legislation to block the planned minimum wage increase to $15 from the current $14.

“The move to increase the minimum wage would have had a definite impact on smaller organizations,” he says.

Other major changes scheduled to take effect in 2019 that will be discussed at the seminars include short-notice scheduling changes, increases in call-in wages, and the new pay transparency law.

One human rights case MacLeod will discuss involves an employee who challenged current legislation that states employers can reduce health benefits for an employee after they reach the age of 65.

"The preliminary decision concluded legislation that permitted this age discrimination was unconstitutional," he says. “The employee whose benefits were cut when he turned 65 has a sick wife who requires expensive drugs for her medical condition,” he says. “The man contends the law is unconstitutional. The results in this case will be very important for employers going forward.”

The seminars are primarily for clients, but MacLeod says any employer is welcome to attend. The cost is $199, plus HST.

Participants are invited to register by contacting Judy Lam at judy@macleodlawfirm.ca.

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