Throughout North America, Canadian occupational health and safety (OHS) agencies and US occupational safety and health (OSH) agencies administer and enforce worker protection laws. These laws require extensive employer efforts to protect employees – although in some situations it’s unclear which employer(s) are responsible for which workers. These complex situations include construction sites where one or more landowners or property occupiers hire one or more contractors to performer work. In November 2023 the Supreme Court of Canada deadlocked four-to-three-to-one in a case involving liability for a municipal “owner” that had attempted to contract all responsibilities (and potential liabilities) to the contractor (“constructor”) hired to repair a municipal water main, after a worksite death. (R. v. Greater Sudbury (City)) Because the Supreme Court deadlocked, the Ontario Court of Appeal decision finding the city liable becomes the law of the case, overturning many years of practice in which owners contracted-out OHS responsibilities to their constructors.Read More
Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog
Canada has ratified International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 190, the “Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019” (also referred to as C190). Ratification was made on January 30, 2023, to become effective January 30, 2024. Canada will consider ILO’s “Recommendation 206,” which provides guidelines on how to apply C190, accounting for complementary roles by governments, workers and employers, and their respective organizations. Readers should note that Canada was intimately involved in the development of C190, proving the chair of the ILO Standard-Setting Committee on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work at the 2018 and the 2019 International Labour Conference.Read More
When must organizations evaluate and disclose how climate change will affect their operations?
The Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) provides a cooperative forum for Canada’s provincial and territorial securities regulators, including the development of model regulations and associated guidance. Last October, CSA took its latest step toward climate-related disclosure requirements, by proposing “National Instrument 51-107 – Disclosure of Climate-related Matters;” public comments were due by January 17, 2022. Assuming CSA moves ahead and finalizes this National instrument (NI), then securities regulators throughout Canada will enact equivalent requirements and establish compliance deadlines for companies they regulate.
On June 20, 2022, the government of Canada published “Single-use Plastics Prohibition Regulations”, which will ban the manufacture and importation of most single-use plastics effective December 20, 2022, with some delayed deadlines to December 20, 2023. Bans on sale will phase in between December 20, 2023 and December 20, 2025. These rules are an important part of national efforts to reduce the manufacture and use of plastics, in order to reduce both resources used to manufacture them, and pollution when they are disposed or discarded. These new regulations are the most far-reaching of global efforts to date (as a narrower example, I wrote about California’s Microplastics Policy HERE). The remainder of this note summarizes the new Canadian regulations.Read More
Beginning in 2020, the Canada Business Corporation Act (CBCA) requires federal distributing companies to disclose annually the diversity in their boards and senior management. (CBCA s. 172.1). Disclosures are made to shareholders at annual meetings, and in filings with Corporations Canada. Corporations Canada has now published its review of filings covering calendar year 2021, citing the latest information and comparing with 2020 reports to assess initial progress.Read More
In December, the Ontario Court of Appeal reviewed a case involving two disputing factions in a 5-member partnership (Extreme Venture Partners Fund I LP v. Varma).1 The two partners who managed the activities decided that their efforts were being undervalued by the other 3, and responded by starting competing businesses, diverting resources from the original entity, and hiding these activities. The other 3 partners eventually found out and sued them for breaches of their fiduciary duties. The trial court found against the wrongdoers, and on appeal the Court of Appeal actually increased their punishment.
In October, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice granted summary judgment to an ex-employee suing her ex-employer for wrongful dismissal, aggravated damages for mental distress and punitive damages. In this case, Humphrey v. Menē, Inc., the Court found that the employer’s “bad faith” termination had invalidated the termination clause in the parties’ employment contract, and then rejected the employer’s change in argument from a termination for cause to termination without cause, and awarded 11 months’ wages at the salary of $90,000, aggravated damages of $50,000 due to mental distress, and $25,000 in punitive damages for 2.7 years of service.
Remembering that summary judgment is only available when the court decides there’s no genuine issue of fact that would justify a trial, this represents an extreme outcome. However, it still should remind employers to tread carefully when moving to terminate an employee.
In June, the Ontario Court of Appeal issued a decision addressing two issues that should interest corporate directors – certainly in the province, and probably throughout Canada. The case is O’Reilly v. ClearMRI Solutions Ltd., and the issues it addresses are:
when might two companies be considered “common employers” of a single individual employee, sharing responsibilities for compliance with applicable labour laws; and
when might corporate directors, including directors of “common employers,” become personally liable for their company’s non-compliance with those laws.
The rest of this note discusses these issues, and the O’Reilly case decision.
Summer has arrived, bringing record-breaking heat to parts of North America. It's time to remember that outdoor work in the summer sun can lead to heat illness, as can indoor work in spaces that aren’t sufficiently insulated or cooled.
In the United States, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and most state OSH programs provide guidance to employers and their workers. California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) administers detailed regulatory requirements for outdoor first promulgated in 2005, and Washington has enforced state-level rules since 2007. Canadian occupational health and safety agencies also recognize “thermal stress” as a workplace hazard, with attention to both heat and cold. California has been working on standards for indoor workplaces since 2017.
If you have outdoor workers in California you must comply with the following requirements, while if you're anywhere else you should at least consider them.Read More
Whose interests should corporate directors consider when running their companies? At least since 2008. The prevailing view in Canada is that while directors must consider shareholders’ interests, they may also consider the interests of other stakeholders. For example, in 2008, the Supreme Court of Canada decided the case BCE Inc. v. 1976 Debentureholders, allowing but not requiring consideration of debenture holders. Recently this permission has been shading toward an expectation.Read More