The 2015 cases that changed employment law

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Wilson v. Atomic Energy  

This May decision marked a huge change in the rights of federally regulated employees, says Levitt.

“The Canada Labour Code governs federally regulated employers – those are banks, railways, airlines, telecommunication companies, interprovincial trucking – companies that have essentially national scale and are regulated by the federal government,” he explains.

“Employees covered by the Canada Labour Code – as opposed to say the Ontario Employment Standards Act or the B.C. Employment Standards Act – can either sue for wrongful dismissal or they can go and get their jobs back by applying to an adjudicator payed for by the government,” he continues.

“But when Wilson sued for wrongful dismissal saying a six-month severance package wasn’t enough, the Labour Canada adjudicator said ‘Well, they gave him notice and they gave him severance pay so we’re not going to accept it as a complaint.”

“That’s a huge change in the rights of federally regulated employees and this is a case that went to the federal court not just the adjudicator so it’s a case with serious potential for reducing the claims of federally regulated employees suing for reinstatement,” stressed Levitt.

Betts v. IBM

The most recent landscape changing decision came in August, and addressed employees’ obligations to comply with company medical leave policy.

“Betts was on medical leave, the second in five years, and he didn’t comply with IBM’s medical leave policy requiring him to submit his information so they fired him saying he abandoned his job,” reveals Levitt.

“Generally, employees on medical leave have more protection than others and generally you can argue that people fired during medical leave have more rights but this case said that it was a just dismissal,” he continues.

“By not complying with the company’s medical leave policy and not submitting the forms, that was cause for discharge in a situation that generally the court would not have found that to be cause for discharge in the past.”
Those are the cases of the year that have changed the law in big and little ways,” concludes Levitt, urging employers to consider the repercussions as they move into 2016.
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