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Vancouver Employment Law Blog

British Columbia's Day Of Mourning 2018

On April 28th, 2018, Canadians took a moment to pause and pay tribute to victims and survivors of workplace injuries. The National Day Of Mourning, or Workers’ Mourning Day, recognizes and honours the thousands of individuals and families who have had their lives irrevocably changed as a result of an occupational disease or workplace accident. 

Employment law governs medical marijuana use in the workplace

Although medicinal use of marijuana in British Columbia has been legal for some time, legalization of recreational use of this drug is on the horizon. Employment law will likely undergo some adjustments when the non-medicinal use of cannabis becomes legal. Employers who want to avoid unwanted accusations of violations will have to become familiar with the new laws.

Currently, employees who use medical marijuana are entitled to the same accommodation that is offered to employees who use other types of prescription medication to control the pain caused by their disabilities. There is even some level of accommodation required for workers who have developed addictions to marijuana. However, some limits exist in this regard.

Workplace injury: Cancer leading cause of firefighters' deaths

Firefighters in British Columbia and other provinces and territories face multiple safety hazards. Instances of workplace injury are prevalent because they work in dangerous situations in which they are often exposed to extreme conditions that include high temperatures. Although previous research identified cardiovascular diseases as the primary cause of the death of firefighters, new studies contradict that.

Based on data about injuries and deaths from 2006 through 2015 as recorded by WorkSafeBC and the Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada, new research indicates cancer to cause most firefighter fatalities. This was reported by the University of the Fraser Valley and the B.C. Injury and Prevention Unit. They say that 90 per cent of injuries that caused lost work hours followed traumatic injuries but 86 per cent of firefighter deaths was caused by cancer, with mental health being next on the list.

Employment law, human rights prohibit advertising discrimination

Employers in British Columbia face many challenges when it comes to the human rights of their employees. Under employment law, unanticipated claims may arise, and because they were not evident at first, employers can find themselves in a tight spot. One of the areas in which it is essential to comply with non-discrimination and human rights involve employment advertising.

No limitations, preferences or specifications may be used in advertisements except when they can be justified. In British Columbia, personal characteristics that are protected include race, colour, age, mental stability, physical disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression. Also family and marital status, ancestry, place of origin, religion or political belief may not feature in advertisements.

Employment law: Collaboration can provide safe workplaces

The safety of employees of British Columbia businesses is not only a concern for the workers, it should be the primary concern of employers as well. The fact that employment law requires employers to provide safe workplaces should not put a burden on employers while it benefits employees. Safe environments can prevent injuries and boost productivity. For that reason, it is in the interest of both sides to promote a culture of safety in the workplace -- whether it is an office or a construction site.

When it comes to occupational injuries, employers may face premises liability lawsuits if dangerous conditions on the property cause physical or emotional injuries. Along with penalties or fines resulting from lawsuits, it will also affect productivity. For that reason, most business owners carry workers' compensation insurance to provide injured workers with financial relief in the event of a work-related injury.

Employment law: 4 factors to maintain pay equity

In British Columbia, employers must comply with workplace equity laws. Under the employment law of Canada, job descriptions and the wages offered for each position must not be based on the person but rather the job. The remuneration for men and women must be equal for equally valued jobs, and not necessarily for the same job. Reliable and methodical evaluation to determine a job's relative worth can be done by comparing all the jobs in an establishment. This can be achieved by using a simple system based on four factors -- suitable for ensuring pay equity in smaller companies.

The first factor to consider is the skills required for the job, including physical and intellectual qualifications. These skills can be acquired by natural ability, training, education or experience. The next aspect to consider is the physical and intellectual effort required from the employee to do the job. The level of financial, technical and human resources responsibility of the employee must form part of the comparison.

Protecting your company from the legal dangers of poaching

There are many grey areas when it comes to employees moving from one company to another in British Columbia. While you may be concerned about another company poaching staff who are valuable to your business, it would be naive to expect a former employee to forget everything he or she learned while working for you. While you cannot prevent such a person from using the experience gained as your employee, you may be wise to ensure your employees sign bulletproof confidentiality, non-competition and non-solicitation agreements to protect information.

Employee poaching is rife in the information and technology industry, and the fact that it is such a competitive arena makes it tough to prevent the leaking of confidential information. Your most valuable employees will likely be the ones who will be in the sights of your opposition, and proving poaching unlawful might be challenging.

Workplace injury: WorkSafeBC seeks to limit construction injuries

Construction company owners in British Columbia who disregard the safety and health of employees in favour of maximizing profits may not realize that injured workers will adversely affect the bottom line. Instead, proactive steps can avoid instances of workplace injury while non-compliance fines under the occupational health and safety requirements laws can be prevented. To make it easier for employers to comply, WorkSafeBC recently released a three-year plan that will help company owners to limit serious occupational injuries in the construction industry.

A director of the WorkSafeBC prevention field services says the plan followed concerns about the high number of serious injuries that are suffered in the construction industry. He says the rate is significantly higher than in other sectors, and the goal is to bring about a reduction in those numbers. Accident data shows that the leading cause of fatalities among construction workers in British Columbia is exposure to asbestos while falls from heights make up most of the injuries they suffer.

Data analysis may prevent but not eliminate workplace injury

Construction work sites are known hazardous areas at which employers are expected to protect the health and safety of employees. However, construction site accidents continue to occur in British Columbia, and safety authorities are looking at ways in which to change this. Almost every workplace injury can be prevented by using common sense. This is the opinion of an executive of the BC Construction Safety Alliance.

Authorities say that along with putting efficient safety systems in place and providing appropriate personal protective equipment, the gathering and analyzing of data can bring about a safety culture that may prevent many injuries and even save lives. It is suggested that workplace safety data of all the provinces and territories are combined and analyzed. Safety authorities say this could uncover risk areas, indicating where to look for causes of injuries rather than giving answers.

Workplace accident: 44 construction workers died in 2017

Safety advocates expressed their concern about the rate of fatalities in the construction industry. At the annual commemoration of a 1981 workplace accident in Vancouver when a construction platform collapsed, surviving family members of four workers who died there came together. However, the alarming truth revealed by the building-trades council is that 1,000 more British Columbia construction workers have been killed in occupational accidents since that tragedy.

Authorities say that, instead of decreasing, the workplace death numbers increase every year. In 2017, the number of fatalities rose at an alarming rate of 42 percent. Several of the 2017 deaths in the construction industry were caused by workers who fell from heights. Some fell from elevated levels on construction sites, while others fell from ladders. Reportedly, one death was caused by electrocution when a ladder on which an employee was standing to repair a gutter made contact with overhead power cables.

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