Ridout Barron


Calgary Real Estate, Wills and Estates, and Business Law Blog

Changes to business law catch some Alberta employers off-guard

Laws governing employers can change quickly, so it is important for business owners to stay aware of new developments. In Alberta, some owners have been caught off-guard by business law changes affecting labour. While most were aware of minimum wage changes, regulations governing holiday pay are also going to affect companies across the province.

Under the new legislation, eligible employees in Alberta are entitled to holiday pay even if they do not work on a statutory holiday. Previously, employees were only eligible for additional pay if they worked on the holiday along with at least five of the nine days preceding the holiday. Now, they will get five percent of their last month's pay regardless of whether they work on the holiday.

Employee behaviour upon termination can impact legal outcomes

There are many things that can help or hinder people on either side of a legal battle. Alberta workers seeking restitution in a wrongful termination case can take steps before, during and after a firing to give themselves an advantage in court. While there is no way to guarantee results one way or the other, being careful to avoid certain behaviours can be advantageous for those bringing legal action.

A person's behaviour on the day he or she is terminated can have a big impact on one's case. Alberta workers should handle termination day appropriately, even if they feel the situation was unfair. Getting visibly angry can help an employer prove that the fired employee was unstable or a liability. It can also make former employers less likely to work with the terminated employee on things such as employment insurance applications or references for future jobs.

Business law changes in Alberta for 2018

A new year often brings legislative changes for Canadians. In Alberta, business owners should be aware of the changes to business law that come into effect in 2018. Along with changes to labour laws, tax increases on carbon and renovation permits may affect businesses across the province. Workers should also take note of the changes which affect their employee rights.

A major change to Alberta business law kicked in on Jan. 1, 2018, with employment standard changes added to Bill 17. Under the new laws, overtime pay must be at least 1.5 times an employee's regular wage unless a written agreement provides otherwise. Additionally, employees with disabilities must be paid the same minimum wage as other employees. Minimum wage will increase to $15 per hour on Oct. 1, 2018. Unpaid job protection for maternity leave has also been extended to 63 weeks.

Loblaw providing gift cards after business law investigation

Restitution for business malpractice can be challenging, especially for large businesses whose practices affected a large number of customers. Loblaw Cos. Ltd. was found by a Competition Bureau investigation to be participating in a scheme to increase packaged bread prices for over 14 years. To make amends for these business law violations, they are offering customers who purchased the price-fixed bread in Alberta and throughout Canada $25 gift cards, a move that could cost the company as much as $150 million.

Loblaw's parent company, George Weston Ltd., admitted to participating in the price-fixing through its bread-maker Weston Bakeries. The details of what bread from Weston Bakeries as well as the other major bread producer involved will be made available in January when gift-card eligibility details are released. The bread price-fixing took place between late 2001 and March 2015.

Legal marijuana leads to business law questions for employers

The upcoming legalization of recreational marijuana has led to many legal questions. Among these is the question of how employee use of the drug should be considered under Alberta business law. Human resources professionals across the province and the country are considering how use or abuse of the drug should be considered under workplace regulations, especially those where use of marijuana could be a safety or productivity risk.

The Human Resources Professionals Association published a 25-page report detailing its concerns over what legal pot may mean for workplaces. Among the issues are concerns about what specifically constitutes impairment and when an employee can be tested for use of the drug under provincial business law. While there are varying opinions on how serious of a change legalization will present for workplaces, the HRPA believes that the first few legal cases presented in court may set important precedents in clarifying legal issues like disciplinary procedures, termination and discrimination regarding pot-using employees.

Is termination due to off-duty activities legal?

Social media and camera phones have made once private occasions public. Recent headlines of people losing their jobs when after-hours activities are made public have led many to ask whether termination due to behaviour outside of work is legal. Employees and employers alike should know their rights and responsibilities under Alberta law when it comes to reasonable termination.

Generally speaking, employers can fire someone for any reason, including behaviour outside of work. The exception to this rule is when there are discriminatory reasons for the employee's termination. Employees who lose their jobs due to discrimination are protected by Canadian and Alberta human rights legislation. If a terminated worker can make the argument that he or she lost their job due to discrimination, there may be a grounds to pursue a claim against the employer. In those circumstances, the employer may need to present proof of cause in court.

New laws aim to protect workers in hostile work environments

Workplace safety is a key concern for many workers and their families across the country. Alberta lawmakers are paying attention to hostile work environments as part of their labour law overhaul, which aims to protect the physical and mental health of workers. Recent amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act aim to provide better support for injured workers and to modernize health and safety regulations for workers across the province.

Amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act included enshrining the right for employees to refuse dangerous work, creating work site health and safety committees, and expanding rules to prevent workplace violence and harassment. There are also some proposed changes to the Workers' Compensation Act. These include a $90,772 benefit for families of those who die in a workplace-related accident and more benefits for young workers who suffer long-term injuries at work.

Government plans to change business law re parental leave

It is important that business owners stay aware of changes to the legislation governing their operations. Alberta workers and employees are paying close heed to a new business law affecting parental leave for federally regulated workplaces. The Alberta government advised that hopes to change labour regulations to give expectant parents across the province the ability to apply for extended benefits.

The federal government introduced changes in November to allow certain workers to spread federal benefits over 18 months instead of 12 months. The change will affect any worker in a federally regulated workplace, including banks, transport companies and telecommunications businesses. This represents 8 percent of Canadian workers. The government says it is looking to extend these new allowances to all Alberta parents.

Audit shows harassment is an issue for many city employees

Whether an organization is big or small, workers and employers both have rights and responsibilities to ensure a safe and legal working environment. Like many private employees, public servants can face harassment or discrimination in the workplace and may face challenges reporting such issues. This topic has made headlines in Edmonton, Alberta, where an internal audit reported that nearly one-fifth of city employees had experienced harassment.

The high figure showing how many city employees allegedly experienced harassment comes from a 2016 employee engagement survey. The survey was taken by 72 percent of city employees. In the survey, 19 percent of employees said they had experienced harassment, and 11 percent of employees reported that they had experienced discrimination. Of those who had experienced discrimination, only 36 percent said they had reported the behaviour.

Human rights concerns from job interview lead to $56,000 ruling

Workplace discrimination is an issue faced by many people across Canada. Many know that there is legal recourse for human rights concerns related to termination, but what happens when a person doesn't even get a job for discriminatory reasons? A Cold Lake, Alberta, resident was recently awarded $56,000 in lost wages and damages from a company that refused to hire him due to his sexual orientation and race.

The male complainant is married to another man, who serves as an RCMP officer in the area. In the summer of 2014, he was interviewed for an office assistant job at a local auto body shop. During the 75-minute interview, the applicant was asked questions about religion, marriage, race and sexual orientation. The interviewer, who also happened to be the mayor of Cold Lake, advised the interviewee that he did not want to be politically correct and asked very direct questions about these topics. He also mentioned that he was Catholic and alluded to his beliefs on homosexual marriage.


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