Labour & Employment Law Blog

Employee entitlement to emergency or bereavement leave. What happens when a pet dies?

Employee entitlement to emergency or bereavement leave. What happens when a pet dies?

In July 2018, a woman in Montreal was unsuccessful in her complaint filed with Quebec’s labour tribunal. She had complained to the tribunal that her employer had refused to allow her to take paid leave after the unexpected death of beloved pet cat. The tribunal ruled that there were no laws in Quebec that would allow an employee to miss work due to the death of a pet and, as such, the employer was not required to allow her paid leave.

Unfortunately, the laws in Ontario as in Quebec do not acknowledge a pet owners special relationship with their pet. Ontario fails to set out or specify in any work-related or employment legislation that employees may take either emergency or bereavement leave due to a pet.

In today’s world, it is common that people treat their pets as a member of the family. In many cases, pets will live well over 15 years and, as such, the relationship between a human and their pet has lots of time to grow. So what happens when a pet dies or gets sick? Pet owners can be devastated by such an occurrence and grieve the loss as they would grieve for a human member of their family.

Employees in Ontario may take up to 10 days of protected leave due to death, illness, injury or other urgent matter related to a spouse, parent, step-parent, foster parent, step-child, foster child, grandparent, step-grandparent, grandchild, step-grandchild, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, brother or sister. Interestingly, this list is rather arbitrary, as it does not include other people such as an uncle, aunt, cousin or even a friend.

In addition to the above, family status is a protected ground from discrimination under Ontario’s human rights legislation. This means that employers must accommodate certain familial obligations that their employers may have unless that accommodation would result in “undue hardship” to the employer. For instance, a common form of accommodation that employers often make is changes to an employees work schedule to order to work with the employee’s childcare obligations.

Employees have only the possibility that perhaps their employer may have a company policy that would include an entitlement for leave days related to pets in addition to other family members. An employer may find that it is beneficial to ensure that their company policies related to leave entitlements to have some flexibility despite that they law does not require them to do so. For instance, a person may be close with their best friend, aunt and uncle or pet and be devastated if these individuals were hurt, injured or passed away. They would be out of luck if they expected the law to entitle them to leave because they would not be entitled to leave in Ontario. That same individual may not be particularly affected by a death of a step grandparent and yet in that instance, they would be entitled to leave.

Perhaps it may be time for Ontario to change so that it has some flexibility when it comes to protected leave due to the death, illness or injury of another person (or pet). The purpose of the law is so that the employee has time to either grieve or assist in the illness for someone they are close with. What should it matter if the person takes leave for the death of a beloved pet or best friend rather than for a step grandparent?

The above article is for general information purposes only, does not constitute legal advice or create a solicitor-client relationship. Because each case is unique and factually driven, if you have concerns with regard to the foregoing issues, please make an appointment with one of our lawyers or a qualified legal practitioner elsewhere. We represent clients in the Greater Toronto Area including Toronto, North York, Markham, Vaughan, Thornhill, Newmarket, Aurora, Brampton, Mississauga, Barrie, Ajax, Whitby, Pickering and Oshawa.

Legal Receptionist

Zeilikman Law is an employment law firm located in Vaughan, Ontario. We are looking to hire a legal receptionist to join our firm. Preference will be given to candidates who have experience working as a receptionist at another law firm.

Location: Vaughan, Ontario.

Start Date: Immediately.

Hours: Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. Full time. In-person only. This is not a remote work position.

Wages: 35,000 to 40,000 per year.

Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Manage our firm’s multi-line telephone system to receive incoming calls.  Screen incoming telephone call inquiries to determine the nature of the telephone call and provide standard information related to our legal services.  Take and deliver messages and route incoming telephone calls to the appropriate staff person.
  • Answer general inquiries coming from the firm’s social media and website email.
  • Welcome in-person visitors upon arrival.  Direct visitors to the appropriate staff person and / or office or boardroom.
  • Organize in-person visitor schedule to prevent overlap and multiple bookings.
  • Receive, sort, and distribute daily mail and deliveries.
  • Arrange for couriers.
  • Keep front reception, kitchenette area and boardroom tidy.
  • Perform various clerical duties such as filing, photocopying, and faxing on an as-needed basis.
  • Process client or other payments.
  • May be asked to run minor errands outside of office such as attending post office to arrange a courier or pick up mail.
  • May be asked to assist other law clerks or lawyers of the firm as required and as appropriate.
  • Any other basic administrative duties or tasks as deemed appropriate.

Required Skills:

  • Basic knowledge of general office procedures including filing, faxing, and printing and copying.
  • Basic word processing computer skills.
  • Proficient in receptionist and telephone practices, etiquette, and decorum.
  • Professional attitude and appearance.
  • Excellent organizational skills.
  • Positive customer service attitude is a must.
  • Must be able to maintain confidential and sensitive information.

Education and Experience:

  • Highschool diploma or equivalent.
  • 1 – 2 years’ experience in an office setting with an emphasis in accounting, reception or clerical work is required.   We would prefer experience in a law firm environment.

Applications for this position should be sent via email to jennifer@zeilikmanlaw.com. All applications should include a cover letter, resume and at least two references. Only successful candidates will be contacted.