Workplace Law Consulting Inc. always encourages our workshop participants to seek out many sources of information on workplace law and best practices.
We believe the most effective method of learning is when a qualified and knowledgeable instructor is readily available to the learner and when participants that have unique workplace experiences share their case with the class.
The optimal learning environment is when there is a good instructor, good resource materials/case studies and great open discussion and participation among learners. When this occurs the adult learner is truly engaged and absorbing good information.
The decisions of Tribunals and Courts of Ontario reinforces the legal realities that in your workplace you must have:
Specific policies in place
Training programs for both staff and managers
A reporting mechanism that is both reasonable and adequate
The following is a sample case involves an employee’s complaint that she was inappropriately touched by a third-party service provider. The incident took place on the employer’s premises, but the alleged harasser was not employed directly by the employer.
At the hearing (just imagine the time, money and energy involved!) the tribunal chair pointed out:
The manager handling the complaint had not received training in workplace human rights
The employer did not have a harassment policy in place
The employer’s representative failed to investigate the complaint reasonably and adequately
In light of these multiple issues, here is an offering of my top dos and don’ts for employers in 2012.
Written documents do not lie.If you find yourself in a workplace dispute, take steps to document and then preserve your version of the events. Most court cases are resolved based on credibility so do not leave yours to memory.
The single biggest problem in workplace law is that employers do not have comprehensive employment contracts that reduce or eliminate their liability.
Many employers believe that off-duty conduct cannot justify discipline. They are mistaken. Off-duty conduct that, in one way or another, demonstrates a revelation of poor character or is injurious to an employer’s interests can result in dismissal. Similarly blog postings, social networking and emailing among coworkers should be monitored.
These documents are not revised and neglected by employers, often to their detriment. There were a number of court cases in 2011 that were ultimately decided in favour of employees on the basis of obscure language in the policy
manuals, without any regard to what was otherwise fair. Read your policy manuals carefully.
Don’t tolerate abuse of the policies:
2011 saw many high-profile cases played out in the media and the courts. Evidence of progressive discipline is very improtant, not discipling an employee for a workplace violation is perceived as acceptance in the courts.
Think of training as insurance. What is the better investment:
An expensive, high profile hearing that reveals all the details and employer issues?
A half-day training session that would have given the resources and taught the employer how to handle the issue in a reasonable manner and in compliance with the law ?