Michael Ford (post until Oct. 31/19)
Employment & Labour

Employment law gives Marshall an outlet for advocacy passion

Long before entering the legal profession, Toronto employment lawyer Kathryn Marshall was passionate about advocacy.

“I was definitely one of those students who were out there leading a group, causing a stink about something,” she says. “I’ve always been interested in pushing issues and helping to change laws.”

Marshall, an associate with MacDonald & Associates tells AdvocateDaily.com that her profession, as well as her current practice area, provide the perfect outlet for her desire “to make a positive difference in people’s lives.”

“Employment law is an area that affects pretty much everybody. Work is a huge part of a person’s identity,” she says. “If you don't have challenges with a job or issues with a boss, then you certainly know someone who does.”

Marshall's desire to make a difference for her clients aligns perfectly with firm's philosophy, says Natalie MacDonald, founder and principal of MacDonald & Associates.

"This is the very foundation of our firm's culture and I'm thrilled to have Kathryn as part of our growing team," she says.  

Although employment law wasn’t specifically on the curriculum at her law school, Marshall says she gravitated towards it over time, building a practice serving both employees and employers.

Before that though, she wasn’t afraid to kick up a fuss, founding a nationwide campaign for the establishment of sexual harassment and assault policies on university and college campuses across Canada.

Marshall was called to the bar in B.C. in 2013 and Ontario in 2015, and has also testified before a House of Commons committee looking into legislative amendments to protect women and girls from exploitation and violence.

The theme has continued in her practice, where she has a strong focus on sexual harassment and workplace bullying cases.

“These issues have always been near and dear to me,” Marshall says. “With the #MeToo movement, it’s shone a spotlight on the rampant problem of sexual harassment that exists in almost every single industry.

“Now people are really recognizing the serious harm that was done when the epidemic was brushed off, and we’re finally seeing the law catch up with that,” she adds.

Since her call to the bar, Ontario passed Bill 132, which amended the Occupational Health and Safety Act, mandating employers to conduct investigations into incidents of alleged workplace harassment.

The bill also explicitly expands the definition of workplace harassment to include sexual harassment and provides provincial inspectors with the power to order an impartial investigation at the employer's expense. Those changes built on Bill 168, which had previously created requirements for risk assessments and policies regarding workplace violence and harassment.

Elsewhere, the province has also enshrined domestic and sexual violence leave of absence as a job-protected right in workplace law.

“Society’s perception of these issues is becoming more supportive of victims,” Marshall says. “Courts and governments at all levels are cracking down on these crimes.”

When clients come to her, Marshall says her primary concern is that they are heard.

“I listen to what they have to say and make sure I get the full picture,” she explains. “I also want to immediately find out what the client’s ultimate goals are so that I can ensure I’m always working side-by-side with them to achieve positive results.

“I’m always trying to keep my eyes on that prize,” Marshall adds.

And in court, she really comes alive.

“I love advocating my client’s position and offering persuasive reasons to a judge that it’s the right one, using novel arguments and creative strategies,” Marshall says. “When you can win over the court through oral advocacy, that’s a great day for me. It’s a challenge, but I really enjoy it.”

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