Is it mandatory that I provide my age, race, religion, etc. on a job application?
No. Employers are prohibited, under Ontario’s human rights laws, from requesting this information during the hiring process. If you are being asked to give this type of information on an application, an employment lawyer can be contacted to protect your interests.
I have been given an ultimatum by my boss. I must date him/her, or be fired. Is this legal?
No. It is neither acceptable nor legal for a boss to request or demand money or sexual favours for career advancement or employment. This violates basic human rights and some crucial laws in Ontario. You have the right to say no, and are also encouraged to file a complaint against your boss with your human resources department, stating that your boss’s behavior is unwanted and must stop. Print a copy of your complaint and keep it for your records and legal consultation.
The person who is harassing me is the same person who handles complaints of sexual harassment. What can I do?
The solution to this problem is to complain to the supervisor above them. Even if it is the president of the company doing the harassing, an employee can seek resolution of the problem by filing a complaint with the company’s Board of Directors. If you work for a small company, and the instigating party is the owner of this company, the complaint may be filed with the owner via email or registered mail. Each of these delivery methods allows you confirmation of receipt. Additionally, you are encouraged to confide in a colleague within your company whom you can trust. This person serves as your independent witness.
Pregnancy and Discrimination
I’m pregnant. Do I tell my boss?
The law protects you if you advised your employer of your pregnancy before decisions affecting your employment were made. It is better to be open and honest with your employer rather than wait for him or her to find out on their own that you are pregnant. This disclosure is common courtesy, giving your employer notice that you may miss work now and then due to sickness or doctor’s appointments. It also gives your employer time to arrange a temporary replacement while you are out on maternity / parental leave.
My maternity leave has come to an end and my boss has informed me that he/she wants to fire me and keep my replacement. Is this legal?
No. Pregnant women have certain rights, which I have explained in my Rights for Pregnant Women article. You are encouraged to empower yourself through information, and to contact an employment lawyer who will help you protect your interests.
Can a pregnant employee in our company be laid off?
Yes. However, it is advisable to lay off someone who is not pregnant if at all possible. It is a presumption under the law that a negative change in the employment status of a pregnant woman is due to her pregnancy, and this presumption is difficult to disprove. If the decision to lay off employees is genuine and necessary for your business, and some are pregnant, there is some justification for your actions. This does not mean, however, that your company will not wind up paying a significant amount of money justifying its decision. It is a human rights violation and a breach of an employment standard in Ontario to lay off a pregnant woman just because she is pregnant. A bona fide reason must be presented for this action.
Upon returning from a medical leave of absence, I was immediately fired. Is this legal?
No. It is your boss’s duty to accommodate you following a medical leave of absence up to the point of undue hardship. You are entitled to your job. If your job is not available, you are entitled to be presented with similar employment.
My boss has given me a discipline letter. Must I sign it?
You sign a discipline letter only if you agree with it. If you disagree with the content of the letter, do not sign it. Respond in writing, explaining your concerns. Keep a copy of the letter and your response for your records and legal consultation.
Should I require employees to sign discipline letters?
Though employees should be asked to sign discipline letters, it is within their rights to refuse. It is often advisable to require the employee to sign acknowledging that they have received the discipline letter. If the employee refuses to sign acknowledging receipt of the letter, make a note of this on the letter before giving it to the employee. Bring a witness to the meeting who can confirm that the employee received the letter but refused to sign acknowledging receipt.
Terminations and Termination Meetings
If you are terminated, it is important to make note of who in the meeting says what. If you are given documents to sign, do not sign them until you have reviewed them with a lawyer. If you are asked to return the document because you refuse to sign it, do not do so. Keep the document and review it with an employment lawyer.
I fired an employee. Should I give this person a positive reference?
Yes. It is especially important to offer a positive reference letter to an employee who has been fired. This type of reference helps the person find new employment more quickly, which is in your best interest as an employer. Always willingly provide a verbal confirmation of employment to employers requesting this information of an employee you have fired. Further information on this topic can be found in my article entitled Reference Letters.
I was fired without being given a reason. Is this legal?
Yes. An employer has no legal obligation to provide the reasons for firing an employee.
I have been fired and asked to sign a release. Do I have to?
No. A release is a serious legal document that should not be signed without consulting an employment lawyer. Further information on releases can be found in my article entitled Full and Final Releases.
I would like to start a union in my workplace. Can I do this?
Yes, although this is not as simple as it may seem. The proper and legal formation of a union takes several technical procedures. This process is not long, but should be done with the assistance of a labour lawyer so that no steps are missed, and your union is certified by the Labour Board.
Employees in my business are trying to start a union. Can I do anything about it?
Yes. There are several self-help steps that you can take. For example, you should talk to your employees to find out why they are considering certifying a union in your workplace. Find out what the union is offering to employees as an incentive to join. Find out what needs your company is not satisfying that the union is promising to satisfy. Schedule a consultation with a labour lawyer and develop a strategy to satisfy your employees without the need for a union.
Decertifying a Union
Can I join with my employees to kick the union out?
No. Employees must decertify a union on their own, without any support from the employer, financial or otherwise. You cannot pay for their application or assist with the process in any way. Employers who aid in the process risk sanctions by the Labour Board, which include monetary penalties and a declaration that the union stays in your business.
How can we get the union out of our workplace?
Decertification of a union takes special procedures. The rules set forth by the Ontario Labour Relations Board must be followed. Each collective agreement has its own open period, typically dictated by the length of the agreement itself. When you have entered the open period of your collective agreement, there are special rules that must be followed. These depend on the type of work done by your bargaining unit, and the various sectors that have been created by the Labour Board. Before making an attempt to decertify a union, you should consult a labour lawyer. Done improperly, your attempt to get the union out of your workplace may fail.
Fair treatment by the Union
What can I do if I do not feel I am being treated fairly by my union?
You have the right to file a complaint against your union if you feel you are being treated unfairly. Before taking this step, it is best to attempt to resolve your differences through discussion. Often, a union is better able to understand and address concerns submitted to them in writing, and a solution can be found.
Can my union be forced to treat me fairly?
Yes. A union is in place for a reason, and is held to certain standards. You have the right to file a duty of fair representation application against your union, which is a lawsuit claiming gross negligence. This process can be tricky. Consult a labour lawyer before attempting this process.
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