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Vancouver Employment Law Blog

Employment law requirements when hiring employees

Hiring employees, either directly or through employment agencies, must comply with all applicable laws. In British Columbia, the BC Employment Standards Act protects the rights of employees by mandating that employees meet certain minimum standards with respect to terms of employment. 

Even if workers have agreed to non-standard employment contracts, whether written or verbal, the Employment Standards Act enforces minimum standards that cannot be circumvented using a contract. These standards include certain rules around work hours, minimum wage, vacation pay and time, and statutory holidays. Employers hiring employees must be mindful of these minimum standards even though some industries and positions may be exempt from portions of the Employment Standards Act.

How are workplace investigations handled in your workplace?

Increased media scrutiny around bullying, harassment, and other inappropriate conduct in the workplace has brought greater focus and attention on BC employers' Respectful Workplace policies and their internal procedures for dealing with employee complaints. WorkSafeBC requires all employers to not only take reasonable steps to prevent, or otherwise minimize workplace bullying and harassment, but to also develop and implement written procedures for workers to report incidents or complaints of workplace harassment and bullying. These procedures must include how, when, and to whom an employee should report incidents or complaints, including procedures in the event that the employee's supervisor or manager is the alleged bully and harasser. 

Workplace injury: Workers can refuse to work in unsafe conditions

Employers in British Columbia are responsible for the protection of the health and safety of their employees. Workers must be informed of the known hazards that pose workplace injury risks, and they should be given safety training to learn how to mitigate those hazards. Workers who are tasked with jobs in unsafe conditions have the right to refuse to do the work.

Employers who encourage their workers to report near misses and potentially unsafe circumstances benefit significantly from an up-to-date understanding of safety concerns on site. Regardless of the employer's policy or lack thereof for internally reporting safety concerns, workers have the right (and obligation) under worker's compensation legislation to report an unsafe work condition if necessary. When faced with an internal report of an unsafe work condition, it will then be the duty of the employer to assess the situation and take appropriate corrective action. Employers may not discipline workers who refuse to work due to a safety concern.

Employment standards violations lead to $310,000 payment to foreign workers

Employers in British Columbia are legally obligated to comply with employment standards and provide safe work environments. They must always honour workers' rights and protections. Following the disclosure of employment standards violations in a case in which a wealthy British Columbia family were found to have committed wage theft against 174 foreign workers, the Minister of Labour connected recent Employment Standards Act amendments with the prevalence of these kinds of complaints.

The payment order of the Employment Standards Branch arose from a third-party complaint submitted on behalf of a number of foreign workers recruited to work 40-hour work weeks for the entire six-month period of their contracts on an agricultural property. However, after one month of full-time work, the employees' work hours were significantly reduced. The Employment Standards Branch ordered the employer to pay back wages, vacation pay and interest. 

Employment law: What constitutes discriminating advertising?

Employers in British Columbia can land in hot water if they publish discriminating advertisements for job vacancies. Under employment law, the human rights of applicants may not be violated by placing ads that restrict some people from applying. No such advertisement may include specifications, limitations or mention preferences as to the types of applicants who may apply.

The characteristics that may not be specified or hinted at in marketing material for job vacancies include gender expression and identity, sexual orientation, race or colour, family and marital status, ancestry, or age. Also, places of origin, religion, political belief, and mental or physical disabilities may not jeopardize anyone's chances of securing employment. Employers may only limit applicants if the reason can be proved, such as advertising for a position that requires an applicant who understands and speaks a specific foreign language.

Deceased workplace accident victims honoured in British Columbia

Sunday, April 28, 2019 was the National Day of Mourning, and the Olympic Cauldron in Vancouver was lit to mark the day. Deceased workplace accident victims were honoured in memorial services across the province. Hundreds of surviving family members, workers and union leaders paid tribute to victims who succumbed to work-related injuries or illnesses.

According to WorkSafeBC, 131 workers lost their lives in 2018. While this is 27 fewer deaths than in 2017, authorities say more needs to be done to improve occupational safety. Harry Bains, the B.C. Minister of Labour, said workplace safety should be the first priority of employers and employees.

Employee Terminations: Payment In Lieu Of Notice

Terminating employees is rarely a smooth task. Even if every process is followed by the book, there could be anger, resentment and hurt feelings that may cause conflicts in the workplace. Therefore, its important for employers to know their statutory rights and obligations for how to process employee terminations.

As listed on the Government of British Columbia website, there are several different rules that need to be followed. The outline for providing notice and calculating compensation amounts is also listed.

What does wrongful termination really mean?

It is not uncommon for employees in British Columbia who lost their jobs to feel that they were unjustly dismissed. However, the term wrongful termination (also known as wrongful dismissal), in law, applies to certain specific situations. The simple explanation is that wrongful termination occurs when when a person is fired without cause and either no severance pay is offered or the amount of severance pay is insufficient.

A person may have grounds to claim wrongful termination even if he or she is not fired. This is known as constructive dismissal, which occurs when an employer makes changes to an employee's terms of employment that are so drastic the changes undermine the employment agreement between the employee and employer. Both constructive dismissal and wrongful termination may be legally challenged.

Vancouver woman fights for benefits after workplace accident

Workers in most industries in British Columbia are entitled to workers' compensation benefits. Some employers will do anything to avoid paying a victim of a workplace accident, but injured workers should not give up. Legal counsel is available to fight for the rights to compensation.

An example of such a case involves an employee of a federal agency who was injured in a car accident while driving an unmarked police vehicle. She had permission to drive the company vehicle to her home after work because she was scheduled to give a presentation at another location on the following morning. After she embarked on the trip the next day, she encountered a snowstorm. She lost control of the vehicle and crashed into the median.

Focus on craft brewery workplace injury risks

Employers in British Columbia must protect the health and safety of their workers. WorkSafeBC expects employers in all industries to mitigate known safety hazards to prevent on-the-job accidents. The craft brewery industry is growing rapidly, and safety authorities say the workplace injury risks have increased at a similar pace.

The most frequently reported injuries on claims for compensation among workers in craft distilleries and breweries include exposure to excessive cold and heat, falls, repetitive motion, struck-by, and overexertion injuries. Injury data also revealed that workers between ages 25 and 34 suffered the highest number of occupational injuries in this industry. As a part of the emphasis program, WorkSafeBC published and distributed a video as well as guides and posters to inform employers and employees of newly established and existing safety standards.

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