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Vancouver Employment Law Blog

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.

The Path To Pay Equity: Part Two

Pay equity, or the equal pay for work of equal value regardless of gender, is a human right. As such, employers have an obligation to ensure that they do not practice gender-based discrimination in their pay schemes.

In 2016, the Special Committee on Pay Equity put forward a report entitled It's Time To Act. In the report, they canvass proactive pay equity regimes adopted by other countries, the commitment by major corporations to offer pay transparency, as well as Canada's federal pay equity system. While being mindful of the 12 years that had elapsed since the previous report on pay equity had been published, the Committee concluded that the system in place was ineffective.

The Path To Pay Equity: Part One

In the age of easily accessed and readily shared information, it should come as no surprise that things that were once considered acceptable have started raising eyebrows. Before employees could access salary information on company review sites or co-workers could communicate via instant messaging service, salary information was far more discrete.

Nowadays, issues concerning gender-based wage discrimination have been brought to the forefront and employers have been left no choice but to respond. From understanding the fundamentals of pay equity to moving towards a fair future, there is a lot to be learned and even more to be done.

The complexities of complying with the duty to accommodate

Under human rights legislation, including the British Columbia Human Rights Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act, employers must adjust workplace practices, policies and rules to allow full participation by all employees up to the point of undue hardship. This means that they have a duty to accommodate employees with a variety of personal circumstances.

A failure to provide accommodation might constitute discrimination, unless the employer can show that the accommodation requested would truly impose undue hardship, or that a bona fide occupational qualification exists that the employee genuinely must be able to meet for the role.

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.

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