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Vancouver Employment Law Blog

Workplace injury: Authorities concerned about asbestos exposure

The continued dangers posed by asbestos may alarm British Columbia residents, homeowners and workers. Since 2000, the numbers of work-related fatalities from diseases caused by asbestos have exceeded the numbers of any other type of workplace injury in the province. In a December 2018 report entitled Keeping Workers, the Public and the Environment Safe from Asbestos, the BC government reported that asbestos-related occupational diseases continue to pose a serious threat to the health of workers, and compiled a number of recommendations to reduce the impact of asbestos.

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that is colourless and odourless--characteristics that exacerbate its danger. Buildings that were constructed prior to 1990 are almost guaranteed to pose asbestos risks because asbestos was a component in over 3,000 different building materials at that time. While regulations have restricted the use of asbestos in new buildings, the renovation or demolition of pre-1990 buildings can disturb asbestos dust, thus exposing workers without respiratory protection to airborne asbestos.

Wrongful Dismissal Assumptions Altered By Ontario Court Of Appeal

A fundamental principle of wrongful dismissal damages holds that damages compensate employees for their actual economic loss. For example, an employee awarded 20 months' pay after being wrongfully dismissed is only entitled to recover the income they have lost during those 20 months. Consequently, if that employee finds work after 10 months, they will only receive the income they lost during the 10 months they were looking for a job, not for the full 20 months.

If the employee's new job pays $10,000 per year less than they would have earned from the employer who wrongfully dismissed them, the employee receives

Lack Of Workers' Comp Can Have Serious Consequences For Employers

Some business owners in British Columbia may not be pleased that just about every employer must register for and pay insurance premiums to protect injured workers. In BC, even property owners who build their own residences or those who hire casual workers as regular gardeners, domestic workers, nannies and cleaners must register with WorkSafe BC. While it might seem like an unnecessary expense, some argue that employers can see the value of these payments if they consider that the absence of workers' compensation insurance could require their businesses to be responsible for payment of medical fees that follow on-the-job injuries and rehabilitation.

Another compelling argument for workers' compensation exists in the fact that an incident that injures several workers can burden the business with astronomical expenses that might compromise profits. Employees who are covered by WorkSafeBC are, except for cases of gross negligence by the employer, generally prohibited from filing personal injury lawsuits against their employers in exchange for the coverage they enjoy at no cost regardless of negligence or fault.

Diligent employers avoid liability for workplace injuries

No business owner in British Columbia wishes to be held responsible for harm to employees. While accidents are known to happen when least expected, employers are required to take reasonable steps to prevent workplace injuries. Employers who properly comply with due diligence requirements will not be accused of exposing their workers to known hazards.

Diligent employers must familiarize themselves with their legal obligations as required by the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation and the Workers' Compensation Act. Generally speaking, an employer must identify workplace hazards and set in place measures to prevent injuries, and ensure all workers are fully informed of all potential dangers they might face. Safety protocols must include risk analysis by knowledgeable individuals, and reviews of previous incidents and near misses, worker input, investigations and audit findings.

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.

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