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Law @ Work: Vancouver Labour and Employment Law Blog

Nurses frequently suffer workplace injury from violence

For most people in British Columbia, going to the hospital is something they do to get well. However, for many workers in the health care industry, hospitals are the very places that put them at risk for a workplace injury. In fact, a recent study by the Canadian Federation of Nurse Unions reveals that going to work can be a dangerous thing for most nurses.

While only 15 percent of workers in other industries say they are victims of abuse or assault on the job, a shocking 61 percent of nurses say they routinely face harassment and mistreatment at work. While many nurses say the abuse is mostly verbal, more than 40 percent of injuries resulting from workplace violence are suffered by nurses. The profession with the second highest rate of injuries from violence was law enforcement at 14 percent.

Wrongful termination and the independent contractor

Understanding British Columbia labour and employment law can be a complicated matter. For example, individuals may find it surprisingly difficult to ascertain whether one is an "employee" in the eyes of the law. As it turns out the difference between being an employee and being an independent contractor can be subtle. Those subtle differences may be very important should a wrongful termination suit hang in the balance.

The BC Employment Standards Act covers rights and responsibilities of employees in BC. For example, the Act outlines the process that an employer must follow if they want to terminate the employment of one of their employees, and how much notice they are legally required to give that employee (or pay in lieu of notice). Independent contractors are not protected by the Act. For that reason, some employers may try to skirt their obligations under the Act by declaring an employee to be an independent contractor.

Discrimination trial testing the boundaries of BC employment law

Canada is a country that promotes tolerance and respect in all aspects of life, including work. Certainly, no person deserves to be subjected to discrimination in the workplace for any reason. The definition of "workplace" is at the heart of a case from British Columbia that is currently before the Supreme Court of Canada. The ruling could have a major impact on employment law disputes in the future.

In 2013, a worker became the target of discrimination while at work. A foreman overseeing the complainant's work on a road project apparently made numerous derogatory remarks, both verbally and in email, about the worker's race, sexual orientation and religion. Although the two men worked for different companies, the foreman was let go by his employer following the incident. A Human Rights tribunal upheld the claim of discrimination.

BC takes steps to reduce risk of workplace injury

No worker is immune to the risk of suffering an injury while on the job. However, the potential sources for a workplace injury are not always readily apparent. In an effort to combat a common but seldom considered hazard, the government of British Columbia has changed the rules covering restaurant servers' uniforms.

Many people have at one time been served in a restaurant by a waitress wearing high heels. Little do most customers realize what a health hazard shoes like that can be. Workers who spend extended periods wearing heels are subject to slips and falls, and are at increased risk of causing damage to their backs, legs and feet.

Special FX artist sues for wrongful termination after firing

The film industry is a major employer in British Columbia. A job working on a feature film is a highly sought-after position, and the opportunity to work on a potential blockbuster is of even greater appeal. That is what a local special effects artist thought he was being offered in a contract. When a three-month contract wrapped up two months early and allegedly without the promised work, the plaintiff chose to take his former employer to court, alleging wrongful termination.

In 2015, the plaintiff was offered a three-month contract with a visual effects company to work on the film "Batman v Superman." He was later told he would actually begin his contract working on another film, "Pan," but that he would likely work on both films over the course of his contract. The contract was to run from March 5, 2015 until May 5, 2015. 

Firefighters in BC get expanded workplace injury coverage

All areas of employment carry an element of risk to workers' health. Those risks vary by profession, and some types of workplace injury may be specific to a particular job. Firefighters are exposed to numerous hazards while on the job, although some are less obvious than others. A recent decision by the government of British Columbia has expanded the list of ailments eligible for compensation.

Firefighters routinely face the risk of burns, injuries from a fall, collapsing structures and other physical hazards. They are also at an increased risk for various illnesses, including many forms of cancer. In 2005, the province and WorkSafe BC issued a list of 10 forms of cancer commonly seen in firefighters that were recognized as illnesses acquired on the job, meaning firefighters are presumptively believed to have contracted those illnesses as a result of their profession, entitling them to WorkSafe benefits. The list included brain, testicular and lung cancer, to name a few.

PTSD- Not every workplace injury affects the body

First responders, emergency workers, and law enforcement officers put their lives on the line and their bodies in harm's way on an almost daily basis. As a result, people in these lines of work are frequently subject to injuries on the job. Although most injuries are easy to identify, such as trauma to the body or illnesses acquired on the job, a different type of workplace injury is beginning to gain recognition in British Columbia.

In 2013, a firefighter in Surrey responded to the scene of a hit-and-run accident. The event left the firefighter shaken and traumatized. Though an official diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was not made, it was clear to his family that the man was never quite the same afterwards. In 2015, he committed suicide.

Fast food employee claims wrongful termination after taking food

The law is meant to protect all people from all walks of life. In the area of employment law, one does not need to be a corporate executive to file a wrongful termination lawsuit. One British Columbia woman took her fast food employer to court after he fired her for allegedly taking food without permission.

Not every long-term workplace injury is immediately obvious

When a person gets hurt on the job, the injury becomes apparent immediately. This is typical of a laceration or impact injury. However, sometimes a workplace injury does not become evident at the moment it occurs, or the severity of the injury may not be obvious. Injury to a worker's hearing, in particular, often falls into this category.

One Vancouver health care worker describes excessive noise as one of the greatest hazards faced by construction workers. WorkSafeBC reports that there were over 300 noise-induced hearing loss claims made in 2015 alone. To compound the problem, the injuries tend to result from prolonged exposure to noise, rather than a single incident.

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