Ridout Barron


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

Survey finds high prevalence of workplace discrimination

A consulting company conducted an online poll from April 10 through May 1 among over 5,000 employees of large companies with employee numbers exceeding 1,000. The aim was to judge the level of discrimination in workplaces across Canada, including Alberta. The survey focused on inclusion and diversity in recruitment, advancement, retention and commitment of leadership in the surveyed companies.

Although the results reportedly compared favourably with other countries, a spokesperson for the consulting company asserts that workplace discrimination remains an obstacle. Analysis of the responses indicates that about one-third of workers who identify with diversity groups had encountered discriminatory incidents. These groups include women, people of colour and those who identify as LGBTQ. The percentage went up to 40% and beyond for respondents with disabilities and those with indigenous backgrounds.

Why do so many adults neglect to draft wills?

According to a recent survey, over 50% of Canadian adults, including many in Alberta, have not taken the trouble to do estate planning. The survey also addressed why the individuals who don't have wills have not made the effort to have them. Almost 30% of those without signed wills felt they could not afford to have wills drafted, or they had no idea how to go about establishing a will.

Some Albertans might not understand why signing a will is so important. The truth is that anyone who dies without a will has no control over what happens with his or her assets or belongings. That person cannot name heirs or choose a trusted person to settle the estate. If there are young children left behind, the government will decide guardianship issues, and the heirs would be designated by the applicable laws of intestacy.

Employment contract disputes involving implied obligations

When non-unionized people in Alberta start new jobs, they typically form a contractual relationship with their new employers. Many people do not realize that, when they sign employment contracts, they agree to more than what is in writing. Many employment contract disputes involve implied obligations of which the parties were not aware.

These obligations are called implied-in-fact terms that form part of employment legislation but are not typically set out in employment contracts. Some of the implied obligations of employers include providing safe work environments in which employees are treated with dignity, respect and decency. Also, employers have to pay employees for work done and reimburse workers for authorized expenses incurred. Proper training and required equipment must be provided.

Real estate and your right to know about material latent defects

Buying real estate In Alberta is typically an exciting process, but it can turn into an unanticipated nightmare. Sometimes a seller will go to great lengths to hide defects that might jeopardize the sale. However, some laws require real estate sellers and their agents to disclose any material defects. Professional building inspectors can even miss some of them.

Material latent defects include any undetectable physical weakness or defect that can make the property dangerous or unfit for occupation by the buyer for his or her chosen purpose. The seller must also share any notices by authorities for repairs required to the building, or any high-cost repairs that might be necessary. Also, any required permits that are not in place must be disclosed because they could jeopardize the transaction.

Employers unsure whether cannabis use can justify termination

In the 12 months since cannabis became legal across Canada in Oct. 2018, many employers are unsure about their rights when it comes to employees who are impaired by cannabis. This includes business owners in Alberta. While alcohol-impairment on the job might justify termination, does the same apply for cannabis impairment on the job?

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) surveyed business owners across the country. The results indicated that more than 50% of Canadian business owners are unsatisfied by the education their local governments provided about the cannabis legislation as it applies to employment. CFIB found that the number of businesses that reported cannabis-related incidents during the past year was higher for those with more than 100 employees than smaller concerns.

What to consider when starting a new business in Alberta

One of the most important considerations when establishing a new company in Alberta is how to set it up properly. There are several options for business structures, including partnerships, proprietorships and corporations. In partnerships, liability is unlimited because each partner is personally responsible for business debts. The tax returns of each partner must include their personal and partnership incomes. It is also a good idea to consider the type of relationship that exists between partners to identify potential decision-making problems.

A sole proprietorship is another option, in which the owner is personally liable for the business debts. Advantages include low setup costs and no conflicts over decision-making. This option can have either tax advantages or disadvantages, depending on the profitability of the company.

Choose beneficiaries wisely when setting up wills and estates

Drafting estate plans needs careful consideration of various matters that will affect the decisions made. Many people in Alberta choose to seek legal counsel to support and guide them through setting up their wills and estates. The choice of beneficiaries is one aspect that offers various options, each with its pros and cons. Along with irrevocable, revocable and contingent beneficiaries, there might be minor children to add as well.

Naming irrevocable beneficiaries means no changes may be made without the consent of the beneficiaries, making it crucial for the testator to understand the implications of such designations. Careful consideration and thought are essential before choosing this option. In contrast, the more familiar option of revocable beneficiaries allows changes to be made at any time. However, it is crucial to keep these up to date because a divorce or a changed will do not automatically change beneficiary appointments on products like RRSPs, RRIFs, LIRAs, and life insurance policies.

Does business law in Alberta protect trade secrets?

Many Alberta business owners have suffered the financial consequences of insufficient protection of their trade secrets. Anything that can adversely affect a business if it becomes public knowledge can be regarded as a trade secret. Business law does not protect confidential information, but many ways exist to protect trade secrets.

Typical matters that business owners want to keep secret include marketing and customer research, unpatented inventions, exclusive or unique recipes, chemical formulas and newly developed products or ongoing experiments. Also, business plans, training manuals and other essential information about the business. Reasonable steps can be taken to protect such secrets.

Offensive behaviour can cause hostile work environments

Anyone in Alberta who shares his or her workplace with other people might have to endure with some indignities. While it remains playful and innocent, good-natured name-calling, teasing and harmless flirting, it might be acceptable. However, such behaviour can become offensive in an instant, changing conditions from pleasant to hostile work environments.

Employers must prevent the escalation of such conditions by dealing with it effectively when the first sign of potential bullying or harassment appears. If the employer allows such behaviour to persist, it may constitute a failure to fulfill an obligation to the workforce. As soon as employees feel unsafe or unwelcome in their work environments, it is a sign that the workplace has become poisoned.

Termination: Lost wages and disability payments?

Employees in Alberta who were dismissed and then became disabled during the termination notice period might have questions about their rights when it comes to payment for lost wages. A recent decision made by The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench provides clarity about the termination of employment with a reasonable notice period. The court found that double dipping is not allowed.

The case arose when a man sued his former employer for wrongful termination, claiming payment for lost wages during the notice period. The man was 64 years old, and he sought severance pay for 24 months. He then became disabled during his notice period and started receiving disability benefits to which he was entitled until age 65. The legal point is based on a principle of the employee being entitled to the same remuneration as that to which he or she would have been entitled had there not been a reasonable notice period.


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