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Vancouver Employment Law Blog

Understanding employee rights upon termination

When workers in British Columbia lose their jobs, it can be one of the most stressful times that they will ever face. Employment law surrounding workplace dismissals can be complicated, and there may be many questions and concerns these individuals will have as they try to push forward and plan for the future. Unfortunately, job losses occur all too frequently, and it can be crucial for employees to know their rights on these occasions.

Bill to protect nurses from violence-related workplace injury

All employers in British Columbia have various obligations and duties toward employees. The Workers' Compensation Act requires employers to protect the health and safety of employees. An employer who fails to comply with the required standards could be held accountable if an employee should suffer a preventable workplace injury. However, some believe that health care workers in particular need more protection against workplace violence.

Members of the BC Nurses' Union welcomed the recent proposal of Bill C-434 that would lead to an amendment to the Canada Criminal Code and require investigations into assaults against health care workers as crimes for potential sentencing. Peace officers and transit operators are already professions that are protected under Canada's Criminal Code. Advocates now ask for health care professionals to be added to the list.

Carcinogens are as threatening as any other workplace injury

Workers in all industries in British Columbia are exposed to hazards in the workplace. While any workplace injury that involves fractured bones or open wounds is easy to recognize as being work-related, some occupational illnesses might be questioned. However, an endless list of carcinogens and radiation sources exist in various industries, and employers must protect employees against them.

Cancer-causing material can enter the bodies of workers through inhalation or ingestion, or it can be absorbed through the skin. What many employees do not realize is that carcinogenic material adheres to work clothes. If workers do not change their clothing before they go home, they put their families at the same risk.

Legal help is available when hiring new employees

Business owners in British Columbia must ensure they follow the required legal steps when hiring new employees. After crafting a job description and placing an advertisement that complies with human rights and employment law, the employer can conduct interviews with applicants and make an employment offer to the successful person. Along with informing the chosen candidate of the starting date and time to report for duty, it might be a good idea to discuss other matters that might reduce some of his or her anxiety.

To get off to a good start, the new employee can be prepared for what to expect on the first day at work. The employer can explain the dress code and inform the worker of any special equipment to bring along to work. A facility tour, a meeting with supervisors or managers, orientation sessions, or other methods of mentoring can be utilized. This will set the new person at ease and make him or her ready to give his or her best.

Needles and sharp objects pose serious workplace injury hazards

The hazards posed by puncture wounds caused by needlesticks and other sharp objects are prevalent in the health care industry. However, the threat of this type of workplace injury can also be found in Vancouver facilities where workers deal with solid waste and recovery of recycling material. These injuries often involve inadvertent skin punctures during the disposal or disassembly of hypodermic needles.

The Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety says other sharp objects that pose puncture or skin piercing threats include razor blades, scalpels, metal wire and scissors. When a discarded needle or another sharp object pierces a worker's skin, infectious diseases can be transmitted. These bloodborne pathogens could include HIV and the hepatitis B and C viruses.

Employment law: compensation for termination of employment

Employees in British Columbia often have questions about their entitlements if their employment is terminated without cause. The BC Employment Standards Act (the "Act"), which governs the minimum standards for employment, generally requires employers to provide employees who have been terminated without cause with notice of termination or compensation in lieu of notice. The Act requires compensation in lieu of notice of termination as follows:

  • An employee who has worked for a company for at least three consecutive months must receive compensation equal to one week's wages.
  • An employee who has worked for twelve or more consecutive months must receive compensation equal to two weeks' wages.
  • An employee who has worked for three consecutive years or more must receive compensation equal to three weeks' wages, with an additional week's wages for each additional year up to a maximum of eight weeks' wages.

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.

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