We are now seeing more employees refusing to comply with workplace vaccination policies. As a result, some are either being terminated or placed on unpaid leave.
Some employment lawyers have publicly stated their beliefs and opinions that failing to comply with a mandatory vaccination policy is grounds for dismissal with just cause. However, it is crucial to keep in mind two points:
- The courts have not yet decided whether failure to comply with a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy is grounds for a just cause termination; and
- Lawyers who express legal opinions on this subject often represent the employer, and their opinions are unsupported and speculative. In addition, those lawyers are often trying to attract the attention of various employers in the hopes of gaining new business.
Any employee reading the news and hearing from employment lawyers that failing to comply with a mandatory vaccination policy is grounds for termination with just cause should view that opinion with extreme scrutiny.
Can You Be Fired for Refusing to Get Vaccinated?
In my previous blog, I stated that the introduction of a mandatory vaccination policy, while legally permissible, is still a fundamental change to the terms of employment.
If an employer implements a mandatory vaccination policy, but an employee chooses not to comply, the employer may terminate the worker’s employment without cause, as long as the reasons for not being vaccinated are not protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code. In most cases where an employee’s reasons for not being vaccinated are not protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code, an employer must still provide severance pay.
What Happens If You Are Placed on Unpaid Leave?
Employers who opt to place their employees on unpaid leave for failing to comply with a mandatory vaccination policy may still face claims for constructive dismissal. Requiring an employee to take an unpaid leave of absence is no different than placing an employee on layoff. Unilateral unpaid leaves of absence are a material change to the terms of employment and the employee has the right to treat the employment contract as repudiated.
When Should You Consult an Employment Lawyer?
Have you been placed on unpaid leave as a result of your unwillingness to comply with a mandatory vaccination policy? Consult an employment lawyer without delay. Inaction in these circumstances can lead to condonation of the unpaid leave of absence. Similarly, if your employment has been terminated, whether for just cause or without cause for refusing to comply with a mandatory vaccination policy, speak with an employment lawyer immediately to determine if you may be entitled to compensation.
If you are searching for an employment lawyer in Toronto, contact us at Lecker & Associates. With over 35 years of experience representing workers in employment disputes, we are in a strong position to help with your case.
Call us today to schedule a consultation with one of our Toronto employment lawyers.