News

Roper Greyell Recognized in Chambers Canada 2018

September 2017

We are pleased to announce that Roper Greyell has once again been ranked as a leading employment and labour law firm in the 2018 edition of Chambers Canada. Thomas A. Roper Q.C., Delayne Sartison Q.C., Gregory J. Heywood and J. Najeeb Hassan were also ranked individually.

Meet the Roper Greyell lawyers who have been recognized for their expertise:

Thomas A. Roper Q.C. was first ranked by Chambers and Partners in 2009 and is known for his ‘long-standing practice’. One client praised him as “highly responsive” with another adding that he is “imbued with wisdom.”

One client described Delayne Sartison Q.C. as “one of the best lawyers I’ve dealt with – she’s highly organised, highly responsive and very well prepared.”

Gregory J. Heywood is described by one source as “one of the most tenacious lawyers I’ve worked with.”

J. Najeeb Hassan  is known for his experience with the certification and decertification of unions, collective agreements and managing strikes. One client commented that they relied on his “knowledge and experience to help guide us through complex and contentious labour issues.”

All quotes are from Chambers Canada 2018.

Click here to view the 2018 Chambers Canada Guide.

About Chambers Canada

Chambers Canada is a well-respected legal publication that ranks the world’s best lawyers and law firms. Rankings are based on in-depth research and interviews conducted by over 150 highly qualified researchers.

Roper Greyell Welcomes New Associate, Julia Bell

September 2017

We are pleased to welcome Julia Bell to the firm.

Julia graduated from the Juris Doctor program at the University of Victoria in May 2015. While at the University of Victoria, Julia received numerous awards, including course prizes in labour law, administrative law, and contracts law. She also worked as a peer tutor for first-year law students.

Prior to joining Roper Greyell, Julia articled at a national law firm and clerked for seven justices at the British Columbia Supreme Court.

New edition of Human Capital Law and Policy – Business Council of British Columbia

September 2017
Legal update by: Thomas A. Roper Q.C.

In the latest edition of Human Capital Law and Policy Jock Finlayson, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer, Business Council of British Columbia and Thomas A. Roper discuss the expected changes to the province’s labour and employment laws and regulations.

Here are the highlights:

  • There has been a renewed interest, on the part of the federal and some provincial governments, in employment standards and labour law reform. In part, this reflects greater public concern over inequality, the growth of “precarious” employment, and the impact of technological innovation on the job market.
  • Since 2014, Ontario and Alberta have modified aspects of their employment standards and labour relations legislation, including by instituting a significantly higher minimum wage. At the same time, the Trudeau government has altered the rules for collective bargaining and employment standards in federally-regulated industry sectors.
  • As documented in this article, in some respects the policy and legal changes adopted in Ontario and Alberta bring these two provinces into alignment with where BC already sits today. Even so, with an NDP government in place in BC, new labour and employment standards legislation is likely to be under consideration here.
  • Recently, the BC government signalled that the province will move to a $15.00 an hour minimum wage over the next few years. The government will seek advice from a soon-to-be-established Fair Wage Commission on the specific pathway for getting to $15 an hour.
  • When considering changes to labour and employment standards legislation, BC policy-makers need to be mindful of the cost impact on employers, pay attention to developments in other jurisdictions, and avoid taking actions that could jeopardize the strong economic growth and robust job creation the province has enjoyed in recent years.

Click here to read the complete article.

Delayne Sartison Q.C. Named 2018 “Lawyer of the Year” for Employment and Labour Law

August 2017

We are pleased to announce that six of the firm’s lawyers have been listed in the 2018 edition of The Best Lawyers in Canada.  In addition, Delayne Sartison Q.C. was named the 2018 “Lawyer of the Year” for Employment and Labour Law in Vancouver. Lawyers were selected based on feedback from peers within their region and legal practice areas.

Join us in congratulating the following lawyers who are listed in the 2018 edition of Best Lawyers:

Click here to view the Best Lawyers website.

About Best Lawyers

Since 1983, Best Lawyers has become a definitive guide to legal excellence. The peer-review publication is based on a confidential survey in which thousands of leading lawyers rank the legal abilities of other lawyers in specific practice areas.

Roper Greyell Welcomes New Associate, Jacqueline D. Gant

August 2017

We are pleased to welcome Jacqueline Gant to the firm.

Jacqueline received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Simon Fraser University, where she was the captain of the varsity soccer team, and her Juris Doctor from the University of Victoria.

Since her call to the bar in 2015, Jacqueline has been advising employers concerning the management of workplace issues in both union and non-union environments, including discipline and discharge cases, collective agreement interpretation, accommodation issues and policy grievances. She has acted for clients in various industries, including mining, technology, post-secondary institutions and municipalities.

Prior to joining Roper Greyell, Jacqueline articled and practised at a large national firm in Vancouver.

Reading the Tea Leaves: Some Early Indicators of Potential Changes to Workplace Law in British Columbia

August 2017
Legal update by: Mike HamataBrandon Hillis

Last week, Premier John Horgan distributed mandate letters to his 22-member cabinet.

Each letter makes references to the new government’s “three key commitments to British Columbians” (making life more affordable, delivering the services that people count on and building a strong, sustainable and innovative economy that works for everyone), the Confidence and Supply Agreement with Andrew Weaver’s Green Party Caucus and a commitment to reconciliation with British Columbia First Nations.

Each letter also sets out the specific priorities for each ministry. For example, Finance Minister Carole James has been mandated to eliminate tolls on the Golden Ears and Port Mann bridges, and Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy has been directed to develop an immediate response to the opioid crisis that has gripped much of British Columbia in the past year-and-a-half.

From a workplace law perspective, the most interesting mandate letters are those given to Minister of Labour Harry Bains and Attorney General David Eby, which provide some valuable (albeit early) indicators of some of the changes that may come to British Columbia:

Minimum Wage

Significant increases to the minimum wage are coming. One of the tasks set out for Minister Bains is to establish a commission to support the work of implementing a minimum wage of $15/hour by 2021.  Minister Bains’ mandate letter makes it clear that the province will be moving to a $15/hour minimum wage in the next four years, and that the only question that remains is how it is going to get there.

A $15/hour minimum wage will represent a close to 33% increase over the current minimum wage, and will move the province from having one of the lowest minimum wages in the country to having one of the highest.[1]

Temporary Foreign Workers

Not to be confused with the Long Gun Registry, Minister Bains has been directed to create a Temporary Foreign Worker Registry to “…help protect vulnerable workers from exploitation and to track the use of temporary workers in our economy.”

On October 6, 2016, Mr. Horgan (as he then was) identified the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (“TFWP”) as a cause of unemployment in the construction industry:

We’re hearing that the temporary foreign worker program is taking jobs away from British Columbians in the construction industry, but the full impact on people is unknown… The Christy Clark government needs to start tracking temporary workers so we can see how many jobs and apprenticeship opportunities for young British Columbians are being lost.

The election platform casts the issue in a different light, and instead focuses on preventing abuses of temporary foreign workers, providing a path for foreign workers to “remain in BC”, and improving recognition of foreign credentials. The platform also includes a commitment to end the practice of charging recruitment fees.

Ottawa is responsible for the TFWP, but provinces are largely responsible for its enforcement. B.C.’s proposed Registry is modelled after a similar registry in Manitoba. A B.C. registry could allow the provincial government to more actively monitor compliance with the requirements of the TFWP. In 2014, the Globe and Mail reported that in that in the first fiveyears of its registry, Manitoba investigated more than 600 registered employers who hired temporary foreign workers and found that nearly half were non-compliant.

Employment Standards

Minister Bains’ letter tasks him with updating employment standards to reflect the “changing nature of workplaces and ensure that they are applied evenly and enforced.”

Given the vagaries of that statement, determining what Minister Bains’ next steps may be requires a fair amount of guesswork. However, the reference to the “changing nature of workplaces” suggests that amendments to the ESA could be aimed at reflecting the increased amount of part-time, on-call and casual or seasonal employment in the province, as well as the fact that increasing numbers of workers are able to work remotely.

Such changes could include changes to the work scheduling provisions of the ESA along the lines of those proposed in Ontario, which would see employees get paid for being “on-call” and not called into work, and which may provide employees with the right to refuse to accept shifts without repercussion if their employer asks them to work with less than four days’ notice.  It is also possible that changes could be made to the legislation to allow employers and employees to put together flexible working schedules, whether by (hopefully) amending the averaging agreement provisions of the ESA to allow for more flexibility (and less red tape) or by expressly allowing for work-from-home or remote work arrangements.  Changes could also include the implementation of equal-pay-for-equal-work provisions to ensure that casual, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees are paid equally to full-time employees when performing the same job for the same employer, as has been proposed in Ontario.

The reference to ensuring that employment standards “are applied evenly and enforced” suggests that the Ministry could be hiring compliance officers with the mandate to proactively ensure that employers in B.C. are complying with the requirements of the ESA.  For years, the Employment Standards Branch’s processes have been largely complaint driven: employers are only held to account when a complaint is filed.  The hiring of compliance officers could provide the Branch with the power to conduct audits of workplaces to ensure that employers are complying with the legislation, a move which – particularly if combined with increased penalties for non-compliance – would provide employers with a powerful incentive to ensure that they are, in all respects and at all times, compliant with the ESA.

Workers’ Compensation

Minister Bains’ letter also makes reference to increasing compliance with “laws and standards put in place to protect the lives and safety of workers.” Similar to the changes anticipated at the Employment Standards Branch, this language suggests that WorkSafeBC may soon be hiring additional compliance officers, and tasking them with taking the initiative to make sure that employers are compliant with the provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act.

Labour Code

Minister Bains’ letter broadly references reviewing the Labour Relations Code to ensure that workplaces support a strong, sustainable economy with fair laws for workers and businesses.  Such a statement is certainly the vaguest of the commitments set out in the mandate letter for the new Minister of Labour.

Given their broad support for the elimination of the secret ballot in certification applications, a review of the Labour Relations Code could lead to an attempt to revert to the card-check system, which enables unions to become certified without a vote, so long as they sign up a sufficient number of employees in the proposed bargaining unit.  As noted in the Vancouver Sun on June 16, 2017, during a conference with members of the B.C. Government and Services Employees’ Union:

… Horgan said he prefers a system called card check, in which a union is certified if a majority of members sign union cards.

“I believe that the right to join a union is a fundamental right in Canada and I believe card check is an appropriate way for that happen,” he told the board.

However, whether such efforts would ultimately be successful is questionable, given the lack of support for such a system expressed by Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver.

Workplace Human Rights

There’s no ambiguity in the direction to Minister Eby to “re-establish the Human Rights Commission.”

Presently, B.C. has a Human Rights Tribunal that adjudicates complaints under the B.C. Human Rights Code. Complainants, with the help of counsel (but frequently on their own), can initiate a complaint which proceeds directly to the Tribunal. The current system is complaint driven – the Tribunal does not have a mandate to investigate human rights violations in the absence of a complaint.

British Columbia had a Human Rights Commission between 1973 and 1984, when it was disbanded. The Commission had a second run, which ended in 2002. We expect the new B.C. Human Rights Commission will have broader investigatory powers than the Tribunal, and may take a more active role in searching out violations of the Human Rights Code. Commentators have identified temporary foreign workers as a potential focus of the reincarnated Commission’s attention.

In short, change is coming to the laws that regulate workplaces in British Columbia. While the ultimate nature and impact of some of these changes is not yet entirely clear, employers are advised to keep abreast of these developments, and to take steps to ensure that as legislation changes, their workplaces remain compliant.

[1] In Alberta and Ontario, efforts are underway to increase respective minimum wages to $15/hour.

Who’s Who Legal: Canada 2017 Highlights Seven Roper Greyell Lawyers

July 2017

We are pleased to announce that seven Roper Greyell lawyers have been ranked in the 2017 edition of Who’s Who Legal: Canada.

Meet our lawyers who have been recognized for their expertise:

Thomas A Roper Q.C.
Gregory J Heywood
Delayne Sartison Q.C.
Michael Wagner
Sandra Guarascio
Gavin Marshall
James D Kondopulos

Click here to view the complete list of Who’s Who Legal: Canada 2017.

About Who’s Who Legal

Since 1996, Who’s Who Legal has identified the foremost legal practitioners in business law based upon comprehensive, independent research. It is impossible to buy entry into this publication.

The Lawyer’s Daily – B.C. Court Restores Human Rights Tribunal Decision in Dismissal of City Worker

June 2017
Legal update by: Gabrielle Scorer

Gabrielle Scorer comments on the British Columbia Court of Appeal’s decision to restore the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal’s decision re: Francescutti v. Vancouver (City).

Read complete article here.

 

 

Ten Roper Greyell Lawyers Ranked in 2017 Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory

May 2017

We are pleased to announce that ten of the firm’s lawyers were recognized by Lexpert as leading employment and labour law practitioners in the 2017 Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory.

Join us in congratulating the following Roper Greyell lawyers:

*Lawyer listed for the first time in The Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory

For the complete directory, click here

About the Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory

Published since 1997, the annual Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory profiles leading practitioners across Canada in over 60 practice areas and leading law firms in over 40 practice areas.

 

Employer Obligations on General Voting Day: 2017 Provincial General Election

April 2017

A Provincial General Election is scheduled to take place in British Columbia on Tuesday, May 9, 2017.

The B.C. Election Act imposes certain obligations on employers to ensure that their employees have sufficient time free from work to exercise their right to vote.

We are publishing this bulletin to help employers understand the scope of their obligations on General Voting Day.

Who can vote in the Provincial General Election?

All Canadian citizens who are at least 18 years old on General Voting Day and have lived in B.C. for six months before election day are eligible to vote in the Provincial General Election.

When are polling stations open on General Voting Day?

Polling stations are open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. PT.

Time off for Voting

Section 74 of the Election Act outlines an employer’s obligations to provide time off for voting. Of particular significance, employers must provide their employees:

  • Four consecutive hours off work. Employees eligible to vote are entitled to four consecutive hours free from work during voting hours on General Voting Day – i.e. between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. PT.
  • Without loss of pay or penalty. An employer may not make any deduction from an employee’s pay or impose any other penalty because he or she took time off to vote. Employees are entitled to their regular compensation for hours not worked because of voting.
  • At a time scheduled by the employer. While an employer must provide its employees with time off work, the employer can choose in its discretion when to provide the four consecutive hours for voting.

Example:

Sam and Toby both work on General Voting Day. Polling stations are open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. PT

Sam works from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The employer must let Sam do one of the following:

  • Start late – 12:00 p.m. or later
  • Leave early – 4:00 p.m. or earlier
  • Take four consecutive hours off work during his scheduled hours

Irrespective of when Sam takes time off for voting, he is entitled to his regular compensation for his full shift

Toby works from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Toby is not entitled to any time off work because he has four consecutive hours free from work for voting – 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Employers Operating in a Unionized Environment

Any employer operating in a unionized environment is advised to review all provisions of the applicable collective agreement which speak to obligations on General Voting Day. The employer may have obligations over and above the statutory obligations set out in the Election Act.

Employees Working in a Remote Location

The right to have four consecutive hours off work on General Voting Day without any loss of pay or penalty is not a right available to all employees. An employee who is in a remote location by reason of employment such that he or she would be unable to reasonably reach any voting place during voting hours is not entitled to time off for voting.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

The consequences for an employer of failing to grant time off work for voting can be significant. Failure to comply with section 74 of the Election Act is an offence and, on conviction, the employer may be liable to one or both of the following: a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment for a term not longer than one year.

Advance Voting

Any employer anticipating a disruption to its business on General Voting Day can encourage its employees to vote in advance voting. This will be available throughout B.C. from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (local time) on April 29 and 30 and May 3, 4, 5 and 6, 2017. The employer cannot compel its employees to vote on those voting days.

If you have any question at all about how the Provincial General Election may affect you or your workplace, please contact Tamara or James or any other lawyer at Roper Greyell LLP.

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