December 12, 2014

Stuart Rudner discusses two recent cases where employees were fired for absenteeism. Managing absenteeism is a challenge and this post highlights that difficulty:

Employers should closely monitor the attendance of employees and ensure they have clear policies that are being routinely enforced. Where there are concerns, they should be addressed immediately so employees will understand the rules and not be given the opportunity to argue that an informal agreement existed regarding their ability to take time off.

The fundamental bargain between employer and employee is the employee will work and the employer will pay him. There will always be occasions when employees need to take time off work; that is to be expected and employers should be reasonable in tolerating absences. However, where the extent of the absences becomes unreasonable, employers should be able to take action. In many cases, they deprive themselves of the opportunity to do so by failing to consistently enforce policies and discipline offenders.

The Legal Post shines the spotlight on a case from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice from last month. The plaintiff successfully sued his employer for wrongful dismissal after he was summarily fired for punching a co-worker in the face:

The case arose after a co-worker complained to the plaintiff, an assembler at Northfield Metal Products with 15 years’ service, about the way he was doing his job. An exchange of words followed.

The next day, the co-worker’s elbow accidentally touched the plaintiff as they were passing each other before their shift commenced. The plaintiff became aggressive and threw a punch that caused his co-worker’s nose to bleed.

The employer fired the plaintiff without giving him an opportunity for a face-to-face meeting. The plaintiffs sued for wrongful dismissal and garnered an award of 15 months’ pay.

HRM Online reports that Parliament Hill is implementing a new policy to prevent workplace harassment, sexual and other kinds:

When the recent Parliament Hill sexual harassment scandal hit the headlines, the nation was shocked to learn that such behaviour was thriving in the halls of our government.

Now, the Board of Internal Economy has officially unveiled a new workplace policy which seeks to stamp out workplace bullying, sexual or otherwise, once and for all – but it seems there are still some major gaps in the system.

The ABlawg writes about Alberta’s amendments to PIPA:

Bill 3 essentially removed the blanket prohibition against the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information without consent. This narrow amendment attempts to balance the union’s right to freedom of expression with privacy interests protected by PIPA. While such amendments will make notable changes concerning trade unions in a labour dispute, this is far from a dramatic overhaul of our privacy legislation. During the debates in the legislature, opposition MLAs expressed doubts about whether Bill 3 actually addresses the whole spirit of the Supreme Court decision. For example, they expressed concerns about the limits of the application of the Bill to disclosure of personal information during labour disputes, and not in the context of other union activities (e.g., social justice contexts) (See: Alberta, Legislative Assembly, Hansard, 28th Leg, 3rd Sess, No 10e (1 December 2014) at 259-265 (David Eggen, Kent Hehr, Deron Bilious, Brian Mason and Rachel Notley)). It remains to be seen whether or not the Alberta government will introduce broader and more comprehensive changes to PIPA that will accommodate not only the freedom of expression of unions in a labour dispute but the interests of other social and political groups as well.

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