The top 10 of 2018

Key employment and labour law developments have set the tone for 2019
By George Vassos and Rhonda Levy
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 02/20/2019

2018 saw many developments in Canadian labour and employment law which significantly changed the landscape for employers, both during the year and for 2019. Here are 10 of the most notable things that happened across the country.

Canada first major world economy to legalize recreational cannabis federally. On Oct. 17, 2018, Canada’s Cannabis Act made it the first major economy to establish a legal framework federally for recreational cannabis use by adults. Legalization of recreational cannabis does not provide employees with a right to use it in the workplace and employers are entitled to establish policies prohibiting use and possession in the workplace. Cannabis for medical purposes continues to be regulated under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations. Under federal and provincial human rights legislation, employers have a duty to accommodate cannabis use by employees medically authorized to do so and those addicted, unless accommodation creates undue hardship to the employer.

Legislative initiatives and the #MeToo movement made sexual harassment in the workplace a top priority for employers, while human rights tribunals increased damages in sexual harassment cases. 2018 saw heightened awareness among employers to implement strict policies and procedures regarding sexual harassment, to provide comprehensive anti-harassment training, and to conduct thorough investigations of complaints. Legislators amended several statutes by elevating employee rights when they experience sexual harassment and work-related stressors (Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act and Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997). Bill C-65, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, proposes to require federal employers to make substantial changes in addressing workplace violence and harassment. Harassment is recognized as a tort upon which a civil action may be based, and an employer is required to pay significant moral damages for a poorly managed investigation of a sexual harassment complaint. We saw an increased volume of employee complaints emboldened by the #MeToo movement. Finally, we witnessed an upward trend in damages for sexual harassment in human rights cases (see the Ontario human rights cases of A.B. v. Joe Singer Shoes Ltd. and G.M. v. X Tattoo Parlour.