“Employees’ rights are stronger than ever before,” warns Howard Levitt of Levitt & Grossman LLP - employers must “overhaul their human resources and employee practices in 2015” to ensure they are thoroughly prepared for a possible law suit.
“Preventative action costs less than the legal fees associated with damage control,” explains Levitt. Here’s the steps he says you should be taking:
Draft employment contracts
“Now is the time to have your old employment agreements reviewed by counsel to ensure they are still iron clad,” advises Levitt. “If you don't have employment contracts in place, hire counsel to help you draft agreements for current and potential employees.”
Levitt’s advice comes in response to the recent CEVA case, where employee Bruce Rodgers was awarded $345,985 as a result of a poorly drafted employment agreement.
Read more about the Rodgers vs. CEVA case here
Levitt heavily stresses the importance of properly documenting “poor performance, tardiness and insubordination” – particularly with employees you suspect will become problematic.
Take complaints seriously
In a high-profile case with Walmart, harassed employee Meredith Boucher was awarded $410,000 by the Ontario Court of Appeal. The company failed to investigate Boucher’s claims appropriately and paid the price.
“Take complaints seriously,” suggests Levitt. “Interview the complainant and ask questions. Determine a resolution. Create a policy for all employees to follow if they need to voice complaints, especially with respect to bullying and harassment in the workplace
Read more about the Boucher vs. Walmart case here
Educate managers on the importance of HR
“Train management to understand HR issues, avoid human rights complaints and document poor performance,” writes Levitt. “Quarterly seminars will help managers lead effectively, while ensuring they remain on side with respect to legal obligations to employees.”
In Canadian courts, 2014 was the year of the employee – dismissal awards increased and miscreant employers were reprimanded more strongly - but don’t worry, says one leading employment lawyer, you can still take back control in 2015.