Here’s a chronicle of what happened in Newfoundland over the past 6 months:
Top 5 New Saskatchewan Employment Laws
Spring 2019 saw a flurry of legislative activity with the adoption of 5 significant new employment bills. Here’s the rundown.
1. Enhanced Employment Standards Leave (Bill 153)
Perhaps the most wide-ranging new legislation was Bill 153 which passed in April to increase parental and maternity leave rights and extends current leave to care for critically ill children to adult family members in accordance with recent federal EI changes, as summarized in the table below.
Parental & Family Leave Changes in Saskatchewan under Bill 153
|Maternity leave||*Increased from 18 to 19 weeks
*Leave may begin 8 weeks before birth date (as opposed to 9 weeks under previous law)
*Date in which employer can force employee to take leave early if pregnancy would interfere with job duties + employer can’t reassign or modify job duties increased from 12 to 13 weeks
|Adoption leave||Increased from 18 to 19 weeks|
|Parental leave||*Date leave must begin increased from 12 to 13 weeks before birth or adoption date
*Date leave must end increased from 52 to 78 weeks after birth or adoption date
|Combined maternity + parental leave||*Increased from 34 to 59 weeks for employees who’ve taken maternity or adoption leave
*Increased from 37 to 63 weeks for all other cases
|Critically ill adult care leave||New unpaid leave of up to 17 weeks to care for critically ill adult family members(1)|
|Interpersonal violence leave||*Unpaid leave extended to include sexual violence committed by a person the victim didn’t know or had no previous relationship with(2)|
|Leave verification||Nurse practitioners can provide medical certificates verifying employee’s need for family care giver leave|
(1) Employees don’t have to provide the usual 4 weeks’ notice to take critically ill adult care leave
(2) First 5 days of interpersonal violence leave are now paid days via Bill 172
2. Paid Domestic Violence Leave (Bill 172)
Under new Bill 172, victims of sexual and interpersonal violence in Sask. will still have 10 days of leave, but 5 of them will be paid. Bill 153 (see above) also extends sexual and interpersonal violence leave to include violence committed by a person with whom the victim had no previous relationship. As before, employees must have at least 13 weeks’ service to be eligible. On May 2, Sask. also adopted Canada’s first bill to allow the police to disclose a person’s violent or abusive history to intimate partners who may be in danger—Bill 141, aka “Clare’s Law,” in honour of Clare Wood, a UK woman murdered by her partner with a hidden violent past.
3. Apprenticeship System Reform (Bill 136)
Apr 11: The Assembly passed reform legislation (Bill 136) that reorganizes the Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Commission into a corporation made up of up to 20 members representing employers, employees and each of the trades, responsible for administering and enforcing the province’s apprenticeship system rules.
4. New Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Protections (Bill 139)
In May, Bill 139 was adopted to give the Sask. government broad new powers to enforce laws governing compensation of TFWs. The bill also establishes new TFW adjudication and appeals procedures.
5. Workers’ Comp Reform (Bill 165)
The fifth piece of significant new employment legislation was Bill 165 making the following changes to Sask. workers’ comp laws:
- Addition of 6 new cancers to list of occupational diseases presumed work-related for firefighters: prostate, skin, breast, ovarian, cervical and multiple myeloma;
- Increase in the number of WCB members to 9, including 1 full-time chairperson, 2 full-timers and 4 part-timers;
- Clarification of the WCB’s authority to make policy directives on any matter governed by Workers’ Comp Act; and
- Clarification that dependent spouse benefits are pegged to the Consumer Price Index.
Speaking of workers’ comp, on Jan. 1, 2019, the WCB revised its rules (Long-Term Earnings Loss (POL & PRO 01/2018)) for calculating the earning capacity of a worker (or his/her spouse) who can’t return to suitable productive employment. Key new rules:
- Earning capacity adjustments based on annual CPI increases can’t exceed annual increases to maximum wage rate (for workers subject to maximum wage rate);
- WCB may deem earning capacity above actual earnings if worker leaves suitable productive employment for reasons unrelated to injury; and
- Unlike with initial wage base, WCB may consider all earnings from covered and excluded industries, non-employment income and other earnings potential in determining worker’s earning capacity for long-term loss benefits.
Top 3 New HR Cases in Saskatchewan
Here are what we consider to be the 3 most important HR cases decided in Saskatchewan in the past 6 months.
1. Not Enough Evidence to Discipline Nurse for Stealing Drugs from Patient
Did she or didn’t she? That was the only question in this Jan. case where a health agency disciplined a veteran nurse for stealing a bottle of morphine tablets from the home of the patient she was treating. It was an extremely close case with no eyewitnesses. The employer’s circumstantial evidence was strong, including the testimony of the patient who insisted the nurse did it even though she didn’t actually see her do so. But the union’s circumstantial evidence was also strong—the lack of evidence that the nurse had any substance dependency, her 20-year discipline-free service record and the fact she had so much to lose if she got caught. After weighing the arguments, the panel ruled, 2 to 1, that the employer failed to meet its burden of proving, on a balance of probabilities, that the nurse actually stole the narcotics [Saskatchewan Health Authority v CUPE, 2019 CanLII 2192 (SK LA), Jan. 3, 2019].
2. Texting ‘I Quit’ to Boss While in a Drunken Stupor Is a Real Resignation
A bartender celebrating his 35th birthday while off duty on Saturday night sent his boss a text: “I quit. Find someone else to work Tuesday.” The next day, he texted an apology and claimed he was drunk. But this wasn’t the first time the bartender’s drinking had gotten him into hot water with his employer. So, the employer decided to just accept his resignation. The union argued that the bartender was drunk and obviously didn’t mean to resign. A resignation doesn’t count unless it’s sincere, voluntary and unambiguous. But the Sask. arbitrator said this resignation met the standard: the bartender put it in writing, didn’t show up for his next shifts and waited over a week for the meeting between the employer and union to try and formally take it back [Unitehere! Local 41 v Army, Navy & Air Force Veterans Club #38, 2019 CanLII 10712 (SK LA), Feb. 7, 2019].
3. Employer Can’t Bar Senior Employee from Joining Rival Until It Wins the Case
A brokerage firm in a niche insurance market containing only 4 underwriters sued to prevent a senior official in charge of business development from moving to a competitor. To get the injunction it wanted, the firm had to persuade the court, among other things, that the non-solicitation clause in her employment offer letter was actually enforceable. And that’s a tough task. Judges hate non-solicitation, non-compete and other “restrictive covenants” and don’t enforce them unless the employer can prove they’re reasonable. The firm in this case couldn’t get over that hump so the court nixed the injunction. The firm appealed but the Sask. Court of Appeal said the lower court’s ruling was reasonable. The good news for the firm is that the ruling didn’t go to the merits of the claim. Translation: The firm would still get a shot to prove its claims at trial; it just couldn’t enjoin the official from hooking up with the competitor unless and until it won the case [Knight Archer Insurance Ltd. v Dressler, 2019 SKCA 34 (CanLII), April 12, 2019].