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Vancouver Employment Law Blog

Know employment law before inducing employee from opposition

When it comes to recruiting sales representatives, it is only natural for a business owner to want the best of the best. In many cases, successful sales reps are noticed because they do such an excellent job for other companies. However, inducing an employee from another business could become costly if not all the intricacies of employment law are considered. A business owner could face unanticipated problems if, for instance, the sales manager entices an employee to join the company by promising incentives and commissions of which the owner is unaware.

A recent such case of inducement made its way through the British Columbia Supreme Court this year when the sales manager of another company lured a 44-year-old sales representative from a lucrative and secure position. He was promised high-profile, big-money projects after a probationary period of between six and nine months, as well as a specific percentage of commission on top of a salary similar to what the other company paid him. Furthermore, the sales manager promised to double the commission percentage after the first three months.

Will legalized cannabis use affect workplace impairment standards?

With the fresh legalization of cannabis for recreational use, employers and employees in British Columbia might have concerns about how cannabis use will affect work environments. WorkSafeBC has launched an educational awareness campaign dealing with cannabis impairment and potential workplace accident incidents. Some of the radio advertisements broadcast in Vancouver will be in Mandarin, Cantonese and Punjabi to capture a wide range of audiences.

A spokesperson for WorkSafeBC says workplace impairment is an existing issue, and the campaign aims to remind employers and employees that managing it is a shared responsibility that requires cooperation. He says that the policy of fit-to-work will remain unchanged, regardless of whether the impairment is by alcohol or cannabis. Employers are urged to make sure the company's impairment policy is clearly communicated to all workers.

Employment law: Independent contractor arrangements

Many British Columbia business owners choose to use the services of independent contractors instead of employees. There are benefits for both parties with such a work relationship, but there can also be severe consequences if the independent contractor arrangement is improperly executed. 

Hiring contractors can benefit the cash flow of a company because these workers receive no benefits and pensions, and they are responsible for their own contributions to the Canada Pension Plan and income tax payments. Thus, the employer is not required to deduct income tax, pay a share of pension, or account for Employment Insurance when calculating payroll. Furthermore, the company will not have to finance any life and health insurance and pension plans, nor pay for the independent contractor's training.

Human rights violations in the workplace

Employers' legal obligations to their employees are not limited to meeting workplace standards under the applicable labour or employment legislation. Legal proceedings on the basis of human rights violations in the workplace have grown to comprise a significant part of employment law today. Federally regulated employers in British Columbia must comply with the Canada Human Rights Act, while provincially regulated employers must follow the BC Human Rights Code. Both of these pieces of legislation prohibit discrimination in employment on certain protected grounds. 

Federally regulated employers are prohibited from discriminating against their employees on the grounds of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, disability, or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.

Are you a sought-after employer who upholds human rights?

Most employers in British Columbia know that human rights are not earned by employees -- instead, human rights are held by every person from birth. Regardless of an employee's level of education, skills or the position they hold, they have rights to equality, respect, dignity, and a right to not face any form of discrimination. While employers cannot give or take away their employees' rights, they may violate them, in which case the employer might be held accountable.

Human rights issues do not always present themselves clearly, and may only become evident when issues arise. For that reason, employers should be proactive and review your policies and practices to ensure that they comply with human rights legislation before any legal claims arise.

Human rights law: Worker challenges WorkSafeBC's policy

A 40-year-old marble mason in Vancouver suffered a work-related shoulder injury in 2015 for which WorkSafeBC granted him an award of permanent partial disability. Because his employer had no modified duties for him, he applied for assistance from the WorkSafeBC's vocational rehabilitation services department, which assists in finding alternative employment to accommodate the disabilities of such workers. However, this worker later lodged a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal, claiming the agency violated human rights law by denying his request to attend a post-secondary program based on his age.

The injured worker had several meetings with a consultant at the rehabilitation program, during which his job experience, physical restrictions, interests and education were discussed. The consultant suggested a short training course that would provide the worker with project and safety management certification to obtain employment in the marble mason industry as a foreman. WorkSafeBC would arrange the five-week training course and then provide another 12 weeks of support in finding suitable work.

Employment law: Harassment often goes unreported

An adviser of workplace conduct says the results of a federal survey indicate that a significant percentage of violence or harassment complaints in the workplace are not addressed and resolved.

All levels of government are concerned about the harassment, bullying and sexual violence that appears to be prevalent in workplaces across the country. The House of Commons recently passed amendments to the Canada Labour Code to establish clear frameworks for dealing with allegations and reports of harassment and violence in federally-governed workplaces. In addition, many claims related to harassment in British Columbia workplaces are handled by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and WorkSafeBC.

Despite the legal mechanisms in place to assist workers, the fear of retaliation or job loss often stops British Columbia workers from reporting harassment. Of the respondents to the federal survey who experienced harassment and came forward, seventy-five percent said they faced obstacles in trying to resolve the issue.

Which wage deductions are allowed under employment law

Employees in British Columbia may be unsure about their rights when it comes to deductions from their salary or wage payments. The BC Employment Standards Act, RSBC 1996, c 113, authorizes some deductions and takes action against employers who make unauthorized deductions.

Employers must deduct from employees' wages income tax, contributions for the Canada Pension Plan, premiums for Employment Insurance, amounts pursuant to lawful garnishment orders and other amounts such as union dues that are collectively agreed upon.

The employer may not make unauthorized wage deductions such as amounts withheld to pay for business costs such as breakage, damage, theft or work of an inferior quality. Even if an employee agrees to such a deduction, it will not be enforceable. By law, these clawbacks will be seen as unpaid wages that will be recoverable by the Employment Standards Branch.

Families face challenges after fatal workplace accidents

A British Columbia family who lost a loved one who died an unexpected death in March last year might be able to move forward after a year of battling with unanswered questions. Workplace accidents can be particularly traumatic because investigations can take many months before the cause of the incident is officially determined. However, dependents of deceased workers need not wait until WorkSafeBC's inquiries are completed before seeking workers' compensation benefits.

This family's loved one was a line cook in a pub in a Vancouver neighbourhood when he lost his life. WorkSafeBC inspectors reported that the employer failed to protect the safety and health of the employee. Their final report indicates that the cook stood on a shelf to reach a container that was located above the meat slicer. He lost his balance and fell onto the slicer's rotating blade, suffering fatal injuries.

Labour law: Don't do this if your workers join a union

Business owners in British Columbia will know that there are many intricacies when it comes to the rights of their employees. One issue that often creates tension between management and employees is when employees want to form or join a union and the employer does not approve.

The BC Labour Relations Code, RSBC 1996, c 244, permits employees to freely be a member of a trade union and pursue union activities. Correspondingly, the Code prohibits actions known as unfair labour practices. Management cannot threaten employees with layoffs, job loss or benefits denial if they join a union. No anti-union activities such as meetings at the premises or distributing leaflets produced or copied on site are allowed. An employer may also not demote or reassign employees who support the union to positions or shifts that are less desirable.

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