Labour and employment

When you work with PooranLaw’s labour and employment team, you benefit from the unique combination of our for-profit Bay Street law background and our unparalleled sector-specific knowledge and experience. This means we offer you the highest quality labour and employment law representation, along with an insightful understanding of your organization, your funding model, regulatory compliance obligations, your employees – and the people and families you support.

We pride ourselves on going above and beyond the typical lawyer-client relationship. We make a point of understanding your operations, your needs and your financial pressures, and then effectively become your human resources business partner or outside in-house counsel, tailoring our services to address your specific requirements.

PooranLaw’s labour and employment lawyers represent clients in all aspects of human resources law, including:

 

Employment contracts, policies and procedures

The PooranLaw team can help you prepare employment offer letters that will set the tone for the rest of the employment relationship, and limit your liability in case things don’t work out. We can also assist with the development of your employment strategy, policies and practices that will help you manage the employment relationship from start to finish.


Grievance mediation, arbitration and Labour Board litigation

At PooranLaw, our labour and employment team has extensive experience working with unionized employers in their interactions with unions.  We provide strategic advice to help our clients manage their workplaces so as to avoid or amicably resolve grievances. Where that is not possible, we vigorously advocate for our clients before mediators, arbitrators and tribunals and have a strong track record of positive results for our clients.


Collective bargaining

For organizations that have been certified by a union, PooranLaw provides representation in first contract negotiations as well as ongoing renewals. We work with your management team to gain a deeper understanding of your workplace, including its challenges and opportunities.

We make strategic use of comparative data drawn from our in-depth knowledge and experience in the not-for-profit and developmental services sector to equip our clients with insight into what to expect, both in terms of union demands and what a union is likely to accept. This data is also useful for educating union bargaining committees, leading to fair and reasonable settlements without resort to labour disruption.

We have the demonstrated ability to negotiate agreements that work for our clients, helping them achieve their operational and economic goals, while at the same time addressing legitimate workplace issues in a way that strengthens trust and employee confidence and builds positive relationships.


Labour disruption management

In the instances where labour disruption becomes inevitable, PooranLaw’s lawyers work quickly and efficiently with your organization to prepare for a strike or lockout.

We collaborate with organization leadership and outside resources, such as temporary labour agencies, private investigators and security teams, to ensure that any strike or lockout is managed to reduce the disruptive effects on your organization, the people you support and their families. This may include seeking injunctive relief to restrain unlawful behaviour by union members.

At the same time, we work with you to get the parties back to the bargaining table and come to resolutions that make sense operationally and economically for your organization.


Performance management and dismissals

PooranLaw’s labour and employment team routinely advises employers in relation to managing performance issues in the workplace. Poorly handled performance management and dismissal processes can lead to claims of wrongful or constructive dismissal, bullying or harassment, stress and disabilities leaves, and protracted disputes.

We recognize that poor employee performance can have a significant impact on your operations, your personnel, and most importantly, the people and families you support; that’s why it’s critical to act quickly to resolve issues when they first arise. We pride ourselves on providing prompt and practical tools and advice that help managers address problem performance in a manner that reduces the risk of escalation.


Attendance management

PooranLaw’s labour and employment professionals have the skill and experience to help you structure and implement wellness and attendance management programs that work. Early intervention with employees who are frequently absent from work has proven beneficial to employees and employers alike. However, managing absenteeism is not always straightforward due to the complexities of human rights, employment standards, collective agreement restrictions, arbitral jurisprudence or the common law.

A well-drafted, clearly communicated and consistently applied integrated absence management program can help. PooranLaw routinely assists clients with developing programs that encourage the early return to work of employees wherever possible while at the same time respecting their human rights, health and welfare.


Employment standards

Employment standards in Ontario have been in a constant state of flux with the introduction of the Fair Workplaces Better Jobs Act in November 2017, and its subsequent repeal under Bill 47, the Making Ontario Open for Business Act.

As a result, navigating and ensuring compliance with the Employment Standards Act has never been more challenging. At the same time, employees and unions are more aware than ever of their employment-related rights. This increases the likelihood of complaints and grievances and makes it increasingly important for employers to understand their obligations and to implement practices that ensure compliance.

PooranLaw’s labour and employment team is at the forefront of advocacy and education for social purpose employers on the issue of employment standards reform. Our work in this area includes policy review and development, contracts, representing employers in employment standards claims, and arbitration related to the interaction between employment standards and collective agreements.  We routinely provide guidance on:

  • Equal pay for equal work and lasting implications after repeal
  • Scheduling, hours of work and eating periods, and excess hours agreements
  • Overtime pay, lieu time and overtime averaging agreements
  • Public holidays
  • Vacation with pay
  • Pregnancy and parental leave
  • Family medical leave
  • Emergency leave (family responsibility leave, sick leave, bereavement leave)
  • Lay-off and recall
  • Termination and severance of employment
  • Misclassification of workers
  • Exemptions, including those for residential care workers, homemakers, domestic workers, supervisory and managerial employees, and building superintendents

Wrongful dismissal

The labour and employment lawyers at PooranLaw have extensive civil litigation experience in Ontario courts. We consistently leverage this experience to help us resolve disputes quickly and cost-effectively. We vigorously defend employer rights and interests, including the right to terminate an employee for just cause or to enforce a binding employment contract, but we also know when and how to effectively settle disputes. Where litigation is necessary, our lawyers have a strong track record before all levels of courts and tribunals.


Compliance audits

Our clients’ workplaces are subject to a wide range of provincial employment and labour statutes and regulations. PooranLaw’s labour and employment team has the depth of knowledge required to effectively advise organizations on how to navigate this area, balancing regulatory requirements with operational realities. By engaging in a proactive compliance audit, organizations can detect pitfalls before they translate into civil liability, fines or enforcement by government authorities.

Our professionals provide compliance audits on a wide range of statutes and regulations, including the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Employment Standards Act, the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Pay Equity Act.


Labour analysis for corporate restructuring

The PooranLaw team performs complex labour law analysis in relation to corporate structuring, mergers, amalgamations and social enterprise start-ups. In particular, we identify labour risks and provide strategic advice in connection with successor and related employer applications by unions.

Our lawyers also provide guidance to organizations as they operationalize change and represent our clients in negotiations, mediation, arbitration and labour board proceedings related to restructuring, integration and harmonization.


Positive employee relations and union certification drives

At PooranLaw, we advise union-free organizations on developing strategies and protocols to assist them in developing positive employee relations that build strong, trusting, direct relationships between management and front-line staff. In most cases this will include cultivating a solid, fair and responsive management team and a long-term employee engagement and communication strategy to ensure employees know they are respected, heard and their concerns are prioritized.

In more acute situations, where an organization finds itself in the midst of an active union certification drive, we provide advice and guidance to help management understand their rights and obligations. We collaborate with our clients to develop response plan and communication strategies that include sharing important information with employees, expressing honestly held opinions and answering questions in a manner that avoids unfair labour practices and the risk of remedial (automatic) certification.


Human rights and accessibility

PooranLaw’s labour and employment team has extensive experience helping both unionized and union-free employers navigate the complex legal framework that governs an organization’s rights and obligations in the context of human rights, disability, accommodation, discrimination and harassment in Ontario.

We work with our clients to ensure compliance with applicable legislative requirements, including under the Human Rights Code, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Employment Standards Act and at the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

Our lawyers also provide guidance, training, investigations and strategic advice for our clients and their staff to help prevent complaints. When complaints do arise, we work with clients promptly to ensure a thorough investigation is done, relevant evidence is captured and liability limited.  We negotiate early and effectively, and in most cases succeed in achieving an amicable, economically prudent result that limits financial and public relations exposure. Where settlement is not possible, we advocate aggressively to obtain the best possible results for our clients.


Pay equity

Pay equity compliance can be a costly drain on an organization’s resources, both in terms of financial obligations and administrative time and effort. At PooranLaw, we work with our clients to develop plans designed to assist them in achieving and maintaining pay equity.

We can help you identify and address existing pay equity issues, as well as new issues that may arise as a result of negotiated pay increases or other changes in the workplace. In particular, we assist with pay equity maintenance obligations that may arise as a result of changes in the workplace, including:

  • Unionization
  • Collective bargaining that affects compensation and job rates
  • Sales, mergers, acquisitions and amalgamations
  • The creation of new job classes
  • Changes in the value of work performed in a job class

We work together with our clients to prepare pay equity plans, perform compliance audits, develop strategies to address pay equity vulnerabilities, negotiate pay equity issues with unions, and address and resolve pay equity complaints.


Occupational health and safety

The labour and employment team at PooranLaw offers clients comprehensive guidance and representation in occupational health and safety matters. In particular, our lawyers:

  • Provide advice and representation to clients in relation to compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act(OHSA)
  • Develop, review and revise health and safety policies to ensure ongoing compliance in the face of legislative and regulatory change
  • Provide training and guidance to managers under the OHSA
  • Guide clients with respect to reporting requirements under the OHSA
  • Assist clients in preparing for and participating in Ministry of Labour inspections and investigations
  • Conduct investigations as mandated under the OHSA, including in relation to workplace violence and harassment complaints
  • Participate in OHSA-related litigation before the Ontario Labour Relations Board

Workplace safety and insurance

At PooranLaw, our team has extensive experience working with unionized and union-free employers in their management of workplace injuries and interactions with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). Our services include:

  • Providing general advice with respect to WSIB matters
  • Assessing your liabilities in the areas of return to work obligations, the duty to accommodate, labour market re-entry and entitlement to benefits
  • Assisting with audits and investigations by government bodies and providing representation in prosecutions or appeals

Management training

At PooranLaw, we pride ourselves on partnering with clients to provide training that is specifically tailored to their workplace, their sector and their unique labour and employment circumstances. We believe that an educated and informed management team will be more confident and respond more effectively when challenges arise.

We provide webinars, interactive seminars, case studies, workbooks and handouts, checklists, mini-tests and self-evaluation opportunities, and situational role play for various workplace issues. For example, we routinely provide training on:

  • Workplace violence and harassment
  • Conducting workplace investigations
  • Performance management
  • Attendance management and workplace accommodation
  • Cannabis in the workplace
  • Bill 148 and Bill 47 compliance
  • Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)
  • Privacy
  • IT-related workplace misconduct
  • Inspections and employment standards compliance
  • Independent contractor relationships
  • Collective bargaining
  • Best practices for positive employee relations in union-free workplaces
  • Managing employee disability and medical absenteeism

Privacy

PooranLaw’s labour and employment professionals work with not-for-profit and charitable organizations on a wide range of information, data security and privacy matters, including managing Internet-related harms, recovering stolen information, data breach management, access and privacy, and anti-spam compliance.

Our team has over a decade of experience coaching organizations in relation to their information security obligations. We assist our clients in proactively developing policies, practices and procedures that prevent and reduce liability in connection with privacy breaches. We also advise and guide organizations in responding to information security and privacy breaches, inquiries, complaints, investigations and litigation.

Our approach recognizes your organization’s operational needs, while at the same time respecting and protecting the confidential and personal information in your organization’s possession. We can assist with:

  • Managing and responding to privacy breach incidents
  • Guidance with respect to privacy legislation and regulatory obligations, including under the Personal Health Information and Protection Act (PHIPA), Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), the Social Inclusion Act and Quality Assurance Measures Regulations (QAM)
  • Developing privacy and confidentiality policies, practices, procedures and protocols related to the collection, use, disclosure and retention of personal information and personal health information
  • Access to information requests
  • Compliance with Canadian anti-spam legislation (CASL)
  • Internet-related harms
  • Representation before tribunals and in civil proceedings

Contact us to find out more about how PooranLaw can assist with your organization’s labour and employment issues.