Employment Law affects all aspects of the employment relationship, whether your are an employer, employee, union leader, contractor, or someone who fits none of these categories.
Employee-Side Employment Law Matters
Your employment relationship most often begins with an Employment Agreement. You should take care to review this agreement with an employment lawyer. Your employment contract determines more than just your salary. It can also determine the type of work you do, the hours you work, your vacation days, any vacation carry forward, any bonuses, any benefits (including medical, dental, vision, short- and long-term disability benefits, life insurance, expense accounts) and any other consideration for your services. It is important to review this agreement carefully because this determines your obligations during the course of your employment as well as afterwards. This could include non-compete clauses, potential restrictions on where you can work after ending your current employment, particularly with a competitor, as well as how you deal with the company's confidential or trade information going forward. A lawyer can explain to you if such clauses within your agreement are legal, enforceable and/or valid. If either party violates the employment agreement, this can lead to employment litigation. Your agreement may also dictate how much notice your employer must give you in order to terminate you either with cause or without cause. The agreement must satisfy at minimum, the Ontario Employment Standards Act. If it does not, it may be void. Once again, an employment lawyer can help you determine whether or not you have an enforceable employment agreement. If your agreement is not enforceable, the lawyer can tell you whether certain provisions within the agreement are enforceable. The common law, particularly case law, is what your lawyer will be reviewing.
If you have been terminated from your job, whether it was part of a mass layoff or a team shutting down, or if it was due to your own individual performance, a lawyer can explain to you what you're entitled to upon being fired or laid off. If you are dismissed with cause, a lawyer can look into whether or not your conduct satisfies a with cause dismissal. Potentially this could be argued in a court of law. Commonly, people believe there is one month notice for every one year of work. This is a myth. Actually, there are many factors that go into how much notice or severance pay a person is entitled to. A consultation with an employment lawyer can give you more insight as to whether or not you are presented with a good deal. If your employer is telling you to sign a release, you should quickly contact an employment lawyer to review the release with you, to make sure that it is fair and is in your best interest. You should always get legal advice - it's a small price to pay for a peace of mind.
Employer-Side Employment Matters
If you're an employer, you will want to make sure that you draft documents that will not later be challenged in a court of law. This includes ensuring that any contracts you have with either your employees or any independent contractors do not violate the law. If you're planning to hire contractors, you should make sure that your agreements are clear as to what the terms of the relationship are such as the hours of work, tasks required, as well as when the contract starts and ends. Also, you will need to be aware that depending on the nature of the employment relationship, even though you try to classify the relationship as a contractor relationship, the courts may disagree and consider it an employer-employee relationship. This may affect what happens upon termination of the agreement. Once again a lawyer can explain to you the nuances of employment agreements as well as to ensure that the agreements you draft can be upheld in a court of law.
As an employer, sometimes there could be issues within your workforce between your employees. There is something known as a poisoned work environment or a toxic work environment, where your employees may be subjected to harassment by fellow employees or may be bullied or singled out by their boss or superiors, or there may even be sexual harassment in the workplace. As an employer, if you become aware of such issues within your workplace, you have an obligation to look into it further. It may be something that can be resolved within the company, but perhaps an external workplace investigation may need to be conducted. If your employees are subjected to harassment on a routine basis and you do nothing about it, this may reflect poorly on you should there be future litigation. Workplace investigation lawyers are trained specifically to look into what is going on within a workforce by conducting interviews and looking at all the evidence as a third-party. The scope of what they do is agreed upon with you. It may include a full investigation, or a preliminary investigation. A workplace investigation can be conducted by an employment lawyer specializing in workplace investigations, or by a human resources professional. However, it is usually better to go with a lawyer, in case any matters end up in court, and by hiring a lawyer, it could reflect better on a company in terms of what steps they took to deal with the situation once apprised of it. You may remember a case not too long ago - Jian Ghomeshi and his conduct while working at CBC and the aftermath and fallout from the situation. Take care of your employees and any employment matters right away and contact a lawyer if necessary to discuss your next steps.
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