Ridout Barron


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

Employers could be accused of discrimination in recruiting

There is a fine line that business owners must not lose sight of in their recruitment. The Alberta Human Rights Act has clear guidelines, and non-compliance might lead to accusations of discrimination. Advertisements and job descriptions may not indicate that selection will be based on specific grounds. The prohibited grounds include religion, race, gender, colour, mental or physical disability, ancestry, age, place of origin, sexual orientation, family and marital status, and income source.

None of the mentioned grounds may be specified in advertisements or circulated material related to employee recruitment. Furthermore, inquiries and interviews may not include questions related to the prohibited grounds. Also, employers may not expect job applicants to provide any information about the protected grounds related to applicants or anyone else.

Employment contract disputes often follow misunderstandings

Employees in Alberta do not always fully understand the workplace rights they have. Misunderstandings could lead to avoidable employment contract disputes, which are less likely to occur when both employees and employers understand their respective rights. Employers cannot expect workers to pay for purchasing, cleaning and repairing work uniforms. However, many rights that employees think they have are not actually rights under employment laws.

Benefits are perks provided at the discretion of employers and not something to which employees are entitled. Workers in occupations like sales, management and supervision, counsellors, and instructors at nonprofit establishments and some professionals do not necessarily have rights to specific work hours, breaks and overtime pay. Furthermore, employment laws do not prescribe sick leave payments, except for illness or injuries that have long-term consequences but only for periods up to 16 weeks.

How business owners can deal with high net worth divorce disputes

When the wealthy owners of successful businesses in Alberta divorce, there will undoubtedly be concern about its effect on the company. Regardless of whether one or both spouses are involved in the business, financial issues may arise in any high net worth divorce. Along with the divorcing spouses, business partners will naturally also want to limit any adverse effects.

Under Canadian family law, each spouse is entitled to half of the business value, even if only one of them is an owner, or owns shares in it. Disputes may arise when it comes to the valuation of the business. Accepted methods exist for such assessments. However, due to the prevalence of subjective factors, non-owners often challenge the valuation obtained by the owner spouse.

When does a constructive trust form part of estate planning?

An Alberta court can order a constructive trust to right a wrong that led to one party being financially abandoned, abused or taken advantage of by another party. Although such an order can be issued in family court, it also forms part of estate planning under certain circumstances. When the court finds that one party lawfully owes the other party specific property, it can order that the obligated party hold the property in a constructive trust for the other party.

This could involve a family member who believes he or she is owed an inheritance. In many cases, such a court order follows a claim of unjust enrichment by one spouse against the other. To make such a claim, the claiming spouse must prove that he or she suffered deprivation due to the defendant's enrichment, and the enrichment must have happened without any legal reason.

What are valid grounds for contesting a will?

The trauma of losing a loved one could be exacerbated if it becomes clear that someone who expected to be a beneficiary is disinherited. Anyone in Alberta who is in such a situation will want to retain legal counsel at the first opportunity. Once the will is probated and assets are distributed, it might be too late to file a claim contesting it.

Such a claim would only be valid under one of several circumstances. Evidence that the person who signed the will lacked the mental capacity to understand his or her assets, obligations and the effect of writing the will might lead to the will being declared invalid. A will can also be challenged upon proof of undue influence or if the person writing or changing the will was coerced to make changes or bequests. Family members, acquaintances or care providers have been known to take such steps, and the courts will undoubtedly look at reported suspicious circumstances.

The benefits of legal counsel in estate planning

Although it may make financial sense to download a do-it-yourself will from the internet, it might not make legal sense. For many people in Alberta, estate planning is a complicated process, and the circumstances of each individual are unique, many of which might not be included in DIY documents. For that reason, it makes sense to utilize the skills of an experienced estate planning lawyer.

A lawyer can assess the client's needs and explain what the individual needs and why. Legal counsel can also focus on ensuring the client's wishes will be carried out as planned upon the client's death. At the same time, the lawyer can ensure that the will and other estate planning documents follow the laws of Alberta.

Legal options for victims of employment discrimination

Employees in Alberta often have questions about their legal rights. Although victims of discrimination in the workplace have protections under employment and human rights laws, how they choose to fight for their rights is essential. The avenue chosen will depend on the outcome they wish to achieve.

The first option is to file a contract claim for wrongful dismissal or another violation of the employment contract or to file a tort claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Only financial damages can be sought in a tort claim. The plaintiff can claim compensation in lieu of notice and aggravated damages if there is proof that the manner in which the plaintiff was terminated caused mental distress.

Estate management upon the death of a spouse

Some people in Alberta shy away from thoughts about their own and their spouses' deaths. However, dealing with wills and estates in a timely manner can provide peace of mind. Losing a spouse is understandably traumatic, though having estate plans in place can ease the financial and emotional impact of such a loss.

Couples are advised to discuss their estates to ensure each spouse understands the wishes of the other. Such understanding is crucial in order to reduce the challenges and stress down the road when a spouse dies. Establishing an information package will help the spouse who has to execute the estate of a deceased spouse.

Termination not the suitable response to employee impairment

Pain relievers, cold medication and other nonprescription and prescription drugs can cause impairment of employees, along with recreational cannabis and alcohol. Although current legislation does not cover testing workers for impairment, Alberta employers and supervisors can develop policies for addressing it. This could promote a safety culture that recognizes and responds to impairment of employees instead of outright termination.

In industries where employee safety is at risk, employers may implement programs to test workers for impairment. However, before putting a plan in place, it might be a good idea to seek legal counsel on applicable labour and employment laws, human rights issues, occupational safety and health matters and privacy. Furthermore, any policies developed to deal with impairment in the workplace must be specific. Employees must know what is considered as impairment, and the steps that will be taken if a worker's impairment poses risks to others.

Make sure conditions in your will are valid

Estate law in Alberta can be contentious and complicated. The stakes can be high, and in some cases, a will can lead to bitter disputes. When the testator chooses to impose conditions on gifts or bequests, he or she might risk the will, or specific conditions of the will, being declared invalid.

Valid conditions on a will must be legal, clear, detailed and possible. Any condition that creates uncertainty when it comes to names, boundaries, percentages, specific amounts or time periods may be disallowed. If a gift or bequest depends on the completion of a task by the beneficiary, and the court finds the task to be impossible, it might override that condition.


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Ridout Barron

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