In a recent decision with important implications for employers in all sectors, the Ministry of Labour has charged a teacher working for the Toronto Catholic District School Board for failing to wear a mask while at work.
The charges were laid under part I of the Provincial Offences Act for alleged commission of an offense under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The Occupational Health and Safety Act is Ontario’s legislation imposing obligations on all workplace parties to ensure workplace safety.
The specific basis for the charge was that the teacher failed to use or wear protective devices or clothing that the worker’s employer required to be used or worn. The maximum penalty for this charge is a $1,000 fine, plus any victim fine surcharges.
This is a critical decision from the Ministry of Labour that confirms the obligations of all members of the workplace (including workers) under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to ensure a safe workplace during COVID-19. This decision reinforces that workers can face serious consequences if they breach such obligations and fail to wear appropriate personal protective equipment at the employer’s instructions. This has special significance to the Developmental Services Sector, where people supported may be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.
The decision to lay charges here also provides evidence that a decision to impose masking rules, and strict enforcement of same, as an expression of an employer’s obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act will be reasonable measures. Moreover, the imposition of a provincial offenses charge suggests that discipline from an employer for a worker’s breach of these rules will also be reasonable and necessary.
PooranLaw will continue to monitor legal developments related to occupational health and safety during COVID-19. In the meantime, if you require legal assistance, we encourage you to reach out to your regular PooranLaw lawyer, or any member of our team.
Note: This article provides general information only and does not constitute, and should not be relied upon as, legal advice or opinion. PooranLaw Professional Corporation holds the copyright to this article and the article and its contents may not be copied or reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without the express permission of PooranLaw Professional Corporation.