Friday, 8 August 2014

Did you know...?

... Telling an employee who has given notice of resignation that you no longer require their services and they can leave immediately can convert that resignation into a termination without notice?  If the employee has provided 'reasonable notice' of resignation, but the employer decides to end the relationship before the expiry of that notice, it is the employer who has terminated the contract.  In these circumstances, the employee is entitled to payment in lieu of reasonable notice. 

This concept was illustrated in a recent decision out of the Supreme Court of Canada, Quebec (Commission des normes du travail) v. Asphalte Desjardins inc. The Supreme Court determined that it is a "fiction" for an employer to claim that it has 'renounced' (or 'waived') the employee's notice of resignation, when in fact it has taken unilateral action to bring the contract to an immediate end. While the Asphalte Desjardins case was decided under the Quebec Civil Code, similar rules are applied by the common law courts.  See for example, the decision in Compton v. Partners in Motion Pictures Inc., a 2005 decision of the Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench. 

Once an employee provides notice of resignation, the employer can accept it or seek to negotiate a longer or shorter period of notice, but cannot dictate the effective date of resignation.  If the employee is to be sent home prior to the effective date of resignation, the employer should make clear that their active service will not be required, but that the employee should make him or herself available during the notice period to facilitate the transition of duties, projects, etc.  Full salary and benefits must be maintained for the entirety of the notice period, as well.

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... That the new Ontario Budget Bill was accompanied by the Building Opportunity and Securing Our Future Act (Budget Measures, 2014) ("Bill 14") which, among other things, amends the Insurance Act to require employers who provide Long-Term Disability ("LTD") benefits to do so through "a contract of insurance undertaken by a licensed insurer"?  No longer can such benefits be self-insured. Health benefits providers have been pressing for this change for some time, as it provides greater security for those receiving benefits coverage.  This measure brings provincially-regulated employers in Ontario into line with federal employers, who have been subject to a similar requirement since 2012. Bill 14 received Royal Assent on July 24, 2014, but has yet to be proclaimed.  Stay tuned...
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... That an employer's duty to accommodate an employee suffering from drug addiction or alcoholism may not be triggered until the employee fully discloses the existence of the disability?  In a handful of recent decisions, adjudicators have been reluctant to overturn employer decisions to terminate the employment relationship where an employee engages in serious misconduct, even where the behaviour has its roots in addiction or alcoholism.

In Bish v. Elk Valley Coal Corporation, the employer had a drug and alcohol policy which offered amnesty to employees who disclosed an addiction, in exchange for their undertaking to go to rehab.  The employee was found to have cocaine in his system when he was tested after an accident on the job.  He had never disclosed an addiction prior to the accident, although he had attended a training session on the drug and alcohol policy.  The Alberta Human Rights Commission dismissed his complaint, finding that the employee was terminated not because of his addiction, but for his non-compliance with the policy, including his failure to reveal his condition and seek treatment. The Commission's decision that there was no prima facie discrimination was upheld by the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench on appeal.

In Huffman v. Mitchell Plastics, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario reached a similar conclusion.  Huffman was terminated by the company following grossly inappropriate behaviour at the office Christmas Party.  The employee was drunk, and belatedly claimed that he suffered from alcoholism, which he had 'disclosed' to the employer when he inquired about benefit coverage for the medication "Champix" (commonly used to assist smokers to quit smoking).  The Tribunal found that the Applicant had not properly disclosed his disability or provided sufficient information from which the employer ought to have known that he was an alcoholic.  Accordingly, the employer could not be expected to recognize that it had a duty to accommodate the employee at the point when it terminated him for his conduct.

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Are you struggling to manage an employee's resignation?  Have questions about accommodating an addicted employee?  Feel free to contact Lance Ceaser to obtain advice and guidance.

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