*MOST PROGRESSIVE NEW HR LAW
Goes to federal Bill C-65, the new OHS workplace violence and harassment law whose cutting edge provisions include employee rights to have violence and harassment complaints investigated and, if necessary, resolved by a neutral third party turning what’s universally recognized as a best practice into a legal obligation.
*WISEST RULING OF THE YEAR
Goes to the Ontario judge for holding that forklift operators who used a cell phone while sitting in the driver’s seat improperly “operated” the equipment even though the forklift was stopped and not actually moving. Simply having the cell phone on them while operating a forklift was a violation, the judge reasoned.
*GUTSIEST RULING OF THE YEAR
Goes to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal for proclaiming unconstitutional the provision allowing pension plans to factor an employee’s age into benefits decisions without being guilty of age discrimination. Right or wrong, this ruling opens a Pandora’s box since all other jurisdictions include similar exceptions in their own human rights laws.
*THE MAYBE NOT SO WISEST RULING OF THE YEAR
Is awarded to the Ontario arbitrator who reinstated a catering attendant with a long service record after she was fired for bullying and harassing co-workers and not showing up for her disciplinary hearing. Apparent message: The attendant’s 21+ years of service trumped her deplorable behaviour.
*SCARIEST CASE OF THE YEAR
The Québec conviction of an excavation contractor of a worker’s death in a trench collapse of not just criminal negligence (under what was once known as Bill C-45) but also manslaughter, a form of homicide.
*BEST EMPLOYER RESPONSE TO A DIFFICULT SITUATION
Goes to Valard Construction, the Newfoundland contractor that didn’t panic after learning that the employee it just assigned to a safety-sensitive position tested positive for marijuana. Instead of instantly firing him, the firm required him to provide medical information so it could assess his eligibility for the position and was vindicated when the arbitrator upheld its refusal to let him take the position until he provided that information.
*BEST EMPLOYER RESPONSE TO A DIFFICULT SITUATION (HONORABLE MENTION)
To the Manitoba Dept. of Finance for the way it handled the probationary employee who claimed his co-workers were poisoning his coffee. Instead of dismissing him as crazy, the agency took the complaint seriously and investigated, putting itself in a strong position to defend later claims of discrimination for denying him a full-time position.
*DO AS WE SAY, NOT AS WE DO AWARD
Goes to all of those legislative assemblies and government agencies across Canada without workplace harassment policies, an embarrassing situation the Me Too Movement brought to light and spurred the effort to correct.
*THAT’S WHY PENCILS HAVE ERASERS AWARD
Is awarded to the employers of Ontario caught in the middle between the former Liberal Government’s Bill 148 “Fair Workplaces” employment reforms and the new Progressive Conservative’s Bill 47 “Making Ontario Open for Business” rollbacks less than a year later.
*TRENDIEST NEW HR LAW OF 2018
Goes to new domestic violence leave that so many provinces adopted this year—and rightly so.
*TRENDIEST NEW HR LAW OF 2019
Our prediction: Mandatory pay equity programs for the private sector following the models of Ontario and recently adopted federal Bill C-86.