What to Look for in a Labour Lawyer

What to Look for in a Labour Lawyer

Employees and employers across industries and including freelancers, business owners, entrepreneurs, and contractors seek labour law specialists to provide advice on every step of the employment process. Labour lawyers have the knowledge and expertise to ensure your rights are protected whichever side of the coin you land on. If you are experiencing workplace challenges, setting out to sign an employment contract, or you want to know more about employment law, a good labour lawyer can help. But, what do you look for in a labour lawyer?

The Consultation

First and foremost, when you reach out to a labour lawyer, they should be willing to meet with you to have a consultation about their services. You want to talk to the lawyer who will be working with you rather than another staff member, student, or paralegal because you want to know more about the lawyer’s skills and expertise. During the consultation, the lawyer should provide information about the cost of services, potential outcomes, and a general sense of how they would handle your case. You should be wary of any lawyer that makes grandiose claims or promises, and look for a lawyer that is knowledgeable, accessible, and honest.

A Good Fit

During your consultation, you should also determine if you have a good fit with the lawyer. Do you feel that you can communicate easily with them or that they offer trustworthy advice? If you’re going to be working with this lawyer for the long term, you want to know your personalities are a good fit. Many people underestimate the importance of a good working relationship with their lawyer.


Don’t just go on the word of potential lawyers. Speak to friends, colleagues, and trusted confidants about recommendations for a good lawyer. If you don’t know anybody that can refer you to a labour lawyer, do some online research and see what past clients have to say.

Expertise is Key

Obviously, you want to work with a labour lawyer with an excellent track record, but you also want to know they have expertise with your type of case. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about previous experience before you provide details about your case – this will help you get a sense of whether that particular lawyer has experience in your field.

Common Sense

Finally, use your common sense and choose a labour lawyer that fits well with your general needs. For example, working with a local lawyer whose fees are within your budget is very important. You need to know that you can access services and that you won’t be left high and dry half way through your case. If you can’t afford a lawyer or you have to travel long distances to access their services, you’re not going to get what you need from the relationship. That’s just common sense.

Human Rights Law in Canada

Human Rights Law in Canada

Canada is a country that provides its citizens with a wide range of rights and freedoms.  In 1977, the Parliament of Canada passed the Canadian Human Rights Act that intends to define rights and freedoms that apply equally to all its citizens regardless of their personal identities.  In other words, no matter your sex, sexual orientation, gender (including gender identity and gender expression), race, marital status, creed, age, ethnicity, ability, and political or religious belief, you should be afforded equal opportunity under the law.

If ever you have felt discrimination, it is the Canadian Human Rights Act that would outline which protections you are afforded.  That being said, this Act is under federal jurisdiction, and there are also provincial and territorial laws that apply to human rights in Canada.  While the Canadian Human Rights Act protects individuals for federally regulated activities, each of the provinces and territories would have their own set of anti-discrimination laws that protect individuals at that level.  For example, with respect to employment protections, the Canadian Human Rights Act protects those Canadians that are employed by the federal government, First Nations governments, and private companies that are federally regulated (i.e. banks, trucking companies, broadcasters, and telecommunications companies).

Additionally, the Canadian Human Rights Act not only protects against discrimination, but harassment as well.  Whereas discrimination may be defined as unjust or prejudicial treatment of an individual based on factors such as race, religion, sex, or gender, harassment constitutes a form of discrimination that includes any physical or verbal behaviour that you deem offensive or humiliating.  Harassment is typically considered behaviour that persists over a period of time, particularly if you have identified the behaviour as harassing and attempted to communicate to the perpetrator how their behaviour negatively affects you.

There are a wide range of behaviours that are considered harassment according to the Canadian Human Rights Act.  Unwelcome comments or jokes about aspects of your identity, threats or intimidation related to your identity, or unwelcome physical content such as touching or pinching are all examples of behaviour that may be defined as harassment.

Ultimately, the Canadian Human Rights Act sets out to provide all Canadians with a safe space in which they can be employed, conduct business, and engage in society without the risk of harassment or discrimination.  Should you feel that you have been treated unjustly because of aspects of your identity that include but are not limited to your sex, sexual orientation, gender (including gender identity and gender expression), race, marital status, creed, age, ethnicity, ability, and political or religious belief, you should speak with a lawyer about your rights as a Canadian.  None of us should feel oppressed or ostracized as citizens of this country.

Anthony Moffatt has accepted our offer to join the Firm as an Associate Lawyer!

We are pleased to announce that Anthony Moffatt has accepted our offer to join the Firm as an Associate Lawyer commencing Wednesday, 3 January 2019. Anthony obtained his LL.B. from UBC in 2006. He was called to the Ontario Bar in 2007, and was called to the BC Bar in 2010. Since 2011 he has worked as Senior Policy and Legal Advisor for WorkSafeBC, where he led his department to make complex policy and regulation amendments.

Prior to WorkSafeBC, Anthony practiced in Labour and Employment Law at Bull, Housser & Tupper LLP (now Norton Rose). Prior to that, he practiced in Employment and Labour Law at Ogilvy Renaud LLP, in their Ottawa Office (also now Norton Rose). Following law school, Anthony articled with McCarthy Tetrault LLP in Ottawa. Anthony brings with him previous sales and marketing experience, which he looks forward to applying with the firm.

Please join me in giving Anthony a very warm welcome to the Firm.

What are the Benefits of Employment Insurance?

Benefits of Employment Insurance

In Canada, employment insurance (EI) is operated by the government and provides temporary income assistance for eligible employees who cannot work.  There are different types of benefits offered through EI in Canada including regular benefits and special benefits.  Of course, as with any kind of insurance, there are specific eligibility requirements.   Let’s take a moment to review the eligibility criteria as well as the types of benefits of employment insurance that are available to workers in Canada.

Ultimately, there are several eligibility requirements for EI in Canada.  First, you must be employed in insurable employment – which means you and/or your employer have been contributing to EI premiums.  Next, you can only collect EI regular benefits if you have lost a job through no fault of your own.  Once you have been off work and not receiving pay for at least seven consecutive days, you can apply for EI.  However, in order to qualify, you must have worked between 420 and 700 insurable hours in the 52-week period before your claim starts.  Finally, you must be ready, willing and capable of working while you’re collecting benefits, and you must also be actively seeking work to qualify.  Nevertheless, there are some special exceptions for eligibility so if you are not certain of your eligibility status, you should apply for benefits regardless.

So then, speaking of benefits, what are the benefits of employment insurance in Canada?  Essentially, EI represents temporary income assistance for individuals who have lost their job through no fault of their own.  The exact amount of income assistance depends on your earnings.  The basic EI rate is about 55% of your average weekly income with a maximum amount of $547/week.  Also depending on the length of your employment, you may be eligible to receive EI benefits for a period of 14 weeks to a maximum of 45 weeks.  The length of time you can collect benefits is also determined by the unemployment rate in your area.  Additionally, a family supplement is available to individuals with children and a spouse (who receives the Canada Child Benefit) if their net family income is below $25,921 per year.  This supplement can bump your EI benefits up to as much as 80% of your average weekly income, but this figure also depends on your net family income.

Finally, EI benefits are also available to certain individuals who are off work because of sickness.  You may qualify for temporary income assistance through EI if you cannot work because of sickness, injury, or quarantine.  Typically, the maximum length of eligibility for sickness benefits is 15 weeks.  Also, you might be surprised to learn that maternity and paternity benefits through the government are also part of your EI benefits.

InfoNex Conference – Calgary August 21 and 22, 2018

Duty to Accommodate Wars
Sebastien Anderson made a presentation at the InfoNex “Managing Your Duty to Accommodate” Conference in Calgary on 21 August 2018. Sebastien’s presentation was titled, “Duty to Accommodate Wars: When the ‘Force’ is Against You!” His presentation focused on discrimination on the basis of disability with the RCMP the abject failure and refusal of the Force to accommodate its disabled Members, whether or not they are injured in the line of duty!

RCMP lawsuit that alleged sexist, racist workplace settled

RCMP lawsuit that alleged sexist, racist workplace settled

The RCMP officer who has settled her claim says she is now able to move forward in a better work environment. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

There has been a settlement in the case of a Vancouver Island RCMP officer who alleged a supervisor made derogatory comments against women and First Nations people.

Labour Rights Law Office represented Cpl. Swann, but we are not at liberty to discuss the terms of the settlement.

The statement of claim filed in August 2017 named several supervisors, including the former commanding officer of British Columbia’s E-Division, claiming they did nothing to stop the harassment.

Cpl. Jill Swann said she could not reveal the terms of the settlement because she signed a non-disclosure agreement.

In a phone interview this week, she said she was relieved it’s behind her.

“You’re just happy it’s been resolved, that you can close the door on it and move forward,”  Swann said.

“And that’s what I want to do.”

She confirmed that the case was resolved at the end of July, almost a year after it was filed in B.C. Supreme Court.

‘There’s great people’

Swann, a  22-year RCMP veteran who had been off work for seven months in 2015 because of the harassment she faced, said she loved her work.

“It’s a great job and there’s great people,” Swann said, adding that there are new supervisors and management who “get it.”

“We have a process in place in the organization and when it works, it works very well. It’s just everybody has to know what the process is,” she said.

However, like many RCMP members who have spoken out about harassment or taken court action, Swann says she is still contacted by women who have had bad experiences seeking help and insight.

Swann’s suit claimed her immediate boss, Cpl. Roger Collin, called her names like “meth face” after she had some facial surgery, and “Big Red Machine” referring to her hair and weight gain.

Swann also claimed he often made derogatory comments about Indigenous people. Her husband — also an officer with the RCMP —  and children are Métis.

And she alleged Collin sent her a box of condoms in a bouquet of flowers when she gave birth to her youngest child, and also drew a bull’s-eye target symbol on her soft body armour along with some derogatory names.

The suit alleged that the RCMP “failed to provide … Swann with a safe workplace, free from all forms of harassment and intimidation,” contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canada Labour Code, the Canadian Human Rights Act and the RCMP’s own rules.

Contacted by CBC News, now retired Cpl. Roger Collin said he had no information and nothing to say but his signature is on the settlement document filed this week.

The RCMP also declined comment.

In an email, E-Division spokesperson Staff Sgt. Annie Linteau wrote:  “We were advised by legal that a Consent Dismissal Order was entered and approved by the Court on September 18, 2018. We have no additional information that we can provide.”


Choosing an Employment Lawyer

Choosing an Employment Lawyer

Employees and employers alike sometimes require the services of an employment lawyer.  Whether you are negotiating an employment contract, dealing with the difficult circumstances around a possible wrongful dismissal, or even managing the nuances of a human rights complaint, employment lawyers offer a breadth of expertise that may effectively serve employees as well as employers.  Indeed, just as there are a wide variety of services provided by employment lawyers, there are a wide variety of individuals from a wide range of sectors who seek these services.  So, how do you ensure that you are choosing the right employment lawyer?

Whether you are a freelancer, contractor, entrepreneur, employee, or business owner, the process of selecting an employment lawyer will generally follow similar stages.  First, you want to identify potential employment lawyers and set up an initial meeting.  But then, even finding lawyers can be a trick – you can search online or ask friends, family, and colleagues.  Ideally, you want to gather some information about the services the employment lawyer provides, and the quality of that service and then narrow your search to your top candidates.

After identifying your preferred candidates, you’ll arrange an initial consultation to discuss your concerns and the lawyer’s expertise and past experience.  Always make sure to meet with the lawyer who will ultimately take on your case.  During this initial meeting, you can get a sense of the employment lawyer’s professionalism and communication style to determine if it’s a good fit for you.  Additionally, you should ask about the cost of services, the lawyer’s opinion about the likely outcome and action plans, as well as potential timelines for your case.

You may also want to ask for references from your employment lawyer.  They may be able to offer testimonials or even put you in touch with previous clients who would be willing to speak to their experience with that lawyer.  However, given confidentiality rules, you may not always be able to get in touch with past clients, which is why it is always advisable to seek recommendations from friends and colleagues first.

Next, you want to get a better sense of the lawyer’s experience.  You can ask about how long they have been practicing employment law and the kinds of cases they have handled in the past.  Even ask the employment lawyer about their rate of success.  Speaking again about lawyer’s fees, you can also get more information about how you will need to pay the fees (up-front, at the end of service, or monthly bills, for example).

Finally, consider logistical factors such as the lawyer’s location and the size of their firm.  Ideally, you want to work with a lawyer that is local and accessible to you.  And while you may have preferences between working with a large firm with extensive expertise, smaller and medium-sized firms often develop closer relationships with their clients.

The Difference between a Union and Non-Union Workplace

The Difference between a Union and Non-Union WorkplaceIf you’ve never worked in a union environment, you may not know the difference between a union and a non-union workplace.  Some of the nuances that distinguish union from non-union workplaces are quite complex, the reality of the difference comes down to who defines the work culture.  In a non-union work environment, the employer holds the majority of power.  This means the employer determines work expectations, sets wages, determines work schedules, and maintains independence over discipline, promotions, and other aspects of work culture.  On the other hand, in a union environment, employees have more control.  Through their union, employees can negotiate workplace contracts that include details about work expectations, wages, schedules, discipline, promotions, etc.  But, what else do you need to know about union and non-union environments?

Let’s start by discussing some of the pros and cons of working in a union environment.  Wages, benefits, security, and support are some of the reasons employees prefer a union environment.  Some estimates indicate union workers earn on average $200 more per week than non-union employees.  Additionally, union workers tend to receive medical benefits more often than non-union counterparts.  More than 90% of union workers are entitled to medical benefits compared to less than 70% of non-union workers.  Moreover, union employees’ spouses or domestic partners are more often included in this benefit coverage compared to non-union employees.

Another benefit of working in a union environment is job security.  In a union environment, the only way an employee can be dismissed is for just cause – this means they must exhibit serious misconduct (e.g. theft from the employer) to be fired.  Additionally, the support union employees receive from their peers allows for collective action if a worker feels they are being treated unfairly.  Sometimes, tare even rules in union workplaces to protect more senior staff from being overlooked for a promotion or a transfer to a new position.

Of course, there are some drawbacks to working in a union environment.  For example, all union members are expected to pay union dues which can cost up to a few hundred dollars per year.  There is also the fact that as a union member, you are part of a collective and you lose some of your autonomy.  Whether you agree with union decisions, you are bound to the employment contract they negotiate.  And, perhaps most unfortunate, many union workers report supervisors tend to be less collaborative.  This resulted in unionized workers feeling less trust, support, and partnership with management.

So, while outlining the basic differences between union and non-union workplaces is relatively straightforward, it is clear there are some underlying differences that must be carefully considered if you are entering a union or non-union workplace.  Plus, every union is different, so do your research and choose a workplace that fits for you and your values.

What is an Employment Resignation?

What is an Employment Resignation?

What is employment resignation?  It’s really quite simple.  Resignation is the process by which you officially end or terminate employment.  There are many ways to submit an employment resignation; depending on the nature of your employment contract or the laws in your province, you may resign verbally or in writing.  That being said, most employers will request written notification of your intent to resign – but why?

Human resources departments can be fastidious in their expectation to receive your employment resignation in writing.  Usually added to your personnel file, written notice of resignation provides your company a record of the date your employment ended.  This record can be used to protect the company in case any legal challenges come up, but it is also important with respect to processing the end of your employment for other legal reasons.  For example, in British Columbia, you are not eligible for employment insurance if you choose to resign.  Written notice of employment resignation is therefore used by your employer to file the necessary paperwork with government bodies.  Similarly, written notice of employment resignation is evidence that your employer did not terminate your employment – either with or without cause.

Many people see employment resignation as a difficult process, but it does not need to be viewed negatively.  Life circumstances change, sometimes there is a poor fit between you and your company, or you may be pursuing new challenges or opportunities.  Whatever your reasons for terminating your employment, the way you resign says a lot about you professionally.  Consider the company you work for and the position you hold when deciding to resign.  In many provinces, you are not legally required to provide any notice of termination – but how will this affect the company you work for and your ability to get a reference?  Alternatively, you may have signed an employment contract that very clearly outlines your responsibilities when you resign your employment.  Take care to provide your company with adequate and respectful notice.

Some other tips for employment resignation is to be brief.  Your written notice of employment resignation should include the current date, the final date of your employment, your name, and signature.  You are not required to provide a reason for your resignation, but many find it easiest to include something about “seeking new opportunities” to make the resignation more palatable to your employer.  At a minimum, it is usually recommended to provide 2 weeks’ notice of resignation.  Again, you’ll want to carefully consider your position, the impact of your resignation, and your employment contract in formatting your resignation letter.

Remember, a succinct and respectful resignation letter that provides adequate notice to your employer is the ideal way to terminate your employment.  You never know when you may cross paths with your employer or their human resources personnel in the future.