10 Things Your Boss or Employer Cannot Do in Ontario

10 Things Your Boss or Employer Cannot Do in Ontario | Leckers Law

Employers have a tremendous amount of power over employees and their working life. There is a large amount of actions your employer can do against you. As a result, employees have to tolerate a lot of actions taken by their boss, manager or company. However, in this article, we are going to address 10 things a boss or manager cannot do in Ontario.

1. Bully, harass or provide a threatening work environment

An employer has to ensure safety of those it employs. Specifically, it must provide a safe system of work, proper equipment and choose appropriate and competent people to work in its businesses. Normally, this relates to physical hazards, but the law increasingly considers mental hazards. Your manager cannot harass you, either mentally or physically, in order to force your compliance. You should report this to your company’s human resources, the Ministry of Labour or if necessary, consult an employment lawyer.

2. Use a human rights-related ground to act against you

Human rights are protected statuses in the eyes of the law. They are reasons that employers cannot use to justify any type of action over their employees, normally to their detriment. Hair colour is not a protected ground and if your employer wanted to determine merit based on hair colour over any other metric, that is legal, if questionable business-wise. It is the burden on the employee to prove that a human rights related ground occurred and thus can take the form of polite or systemic discrimination. If an employer or manager uses or hints towards contemplating a prohibited status in relation to your employment, contact the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, the Canadian Human Rights Commission or an employment lawyer.

3. Decrease your salary, commission or pay without your consent

This has many caveats that will require an employment lawyer to confirm. However, in general, employers and managers cannot unilaterally decrease your remuneration without a specific contract provision permitting this. If they change your sales territory, move your accounts to a co-worker or reduce your hours/shifts, it is possible employers are not allowed to do this. This has to be a substantial change, not a trivial one, which is difficult to discern without technical knowledge of the law in this area. Consult an employment lawyer or legal aid to know more about this.

4. Provide an employee something verbally, but not confirm it in writing

If you have ever read your employment contract in depth, you may have seen something about “representations”. If your employer conveys an offer, a proposal or some contract with legal effect on your bottom line, you must ensure it is confirmed in writing. In the eyes of the law, if it is not in writing, it is treated with deep suspicion, especially so in the modern remote working era. So, if a manager promises a promotion, salary increase or some benefit but never confirms it in writing, be very wary of relying on it.

5. Your physical location governs a remote worker’s employment

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered how we work. A return to the office for workers is developing over time as business figure out this new paradigm. You may or may not have a right to work remotely, depending on your contract, tenure, duties and accommodation requirements. Generally, an employer determines when and where you work. If you started working before the pandemic remotely but perform the work in related to business operations outside Ontario, Ontario law will govern the employment relationship.

6. Ignore your doctor’s accommodation requirements

If you are sick or injured and getting back to work, you may have requirements from your physician in performing your work. While your employer or manager can validly decline your physician’s demands that dictate their business operations, they cannot totally ignore your doctor. They must give your physical and mental restrictions serious consideration before declining to provide appropriate accommodations. This is a two-way street between employee and employer, which means both parties need to be reasonable and flexible.

7. Dismiss you “for cause” for an unintentional act

Your employer or boss cannot dismiss you at will in Canada. If they do dismiss you, while they are permitted to do so, they must compensate you in order to find new comparable alternative employment. Sometimes, employees are dismissed with nothing on the grounds that they committed an act of wilful misconduct. If your boss has a policy that everyone must smile at the workplace and you unintentionally frown on your way into the office in the morning, they cannot be dismissed summarily for violating their policy. While this is a light-hearted example, the same principle applies to broader more serious actions. Consult an experienced employment lawyer if you are dismissed for cause.

8. Impose anti-competition or overly-broad contract provisions

In Ontario, companies would historically attempt to prevent departing employees from working from competitors. On October 25, 2021, non-competition covenants given to employees in Ontario, except in certain limited circumstances of a C-suite level executive or in the purchase of a business, are illegal. To a lesser extent, other post-employment obligations like non-solicitation remain valid, but are met by a requirement to be reasonable and proportionate.

9. Place you on a layoff without a contract or your consent

A temporary layoff is a bizarre action in the life of someone’s employment: you are not working, but are still employed by a company, for a limited period of time. In Ontario, bosses and managers cannot place you on a layoff without your express permission. If this is an industry standard, like snow-plow drivers or landscapers, it is more likely that this will be viewed as legal. In most other circumstances, unless you have agreed to a layoff in the past and continued to work again for the same company, it is generally illegal for your boss to lay you off. Consult an employment lawyer to determine your exact fact pattern.

10. Quiet Firing or cultivating a toxic workplace

In response to the phenomenon of quiet quitting, quiet firing has emerged by managers and bosses. The rise of bad bosses, bullying managers and toxic work environments continue to plague Canadian workplaces. The legal community has described this as a constructive dismissal whereby your employer does not outright say you are fired, but you can read between the lines based on their actions, tone of language, lack of etiquette etc… Some instances of quiet firing:

  • You are denied salary increases;
  • Provided meaningless feedback from your manager;
  • Your manager avoids you;
  • You are chosen to answer very hard questions at meetings;
  • Your suggestions are overlooked;
  • You are not provided any additional opportunities or projects; or
  • You’re left out of meetings, events and/or social gatherings.

Being disregarded or neglected at work can seriously harm an employee’s mental health, which will require you to decide to remain or leave the role.

Where Can I Find an Employment Lawyer in Toronto?

Lecker & Associates is a Toronto employment law firm that has fought for employees for over 35 years. Our experienced employment lawyers have represented clients in thousands of cases involving wrongful dismissal, constructive dismissal, employment contract disputes, sexual harassment in the workplace, and short– and long-term disability claims.

Call us today at 866-473-1685 or use our contact form to request a consultation to discuss your case.