Labour & Employment Law Blog

Is my employer obligated to allow me to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Is my employer obligated to allow me to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic?

A common question that arises these days is whether the employer has to, legally speaking, permit its employees to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The answer is a qualified “no.”

Absent the passing of legislation or an order by the government, employers do not have to allow their employees to work from home. Indeed, some employers are simply unable to do so because the physical presence of the employee is a job requirement.

In other instances, where a certain job may be performed remotely, an employer may choose to allow its employees to work from home if the alternative would be failure to comply with the employer’s obligations to ensure a safe and healthy workplace. However, failure to provide employees with a safe and healthy workplace is not a “cart blanche” for the employee’s right to work remotely per se. Instead, the employer is legally obligated to facilitate a safe work environment instead of extending the definition of “workplace” to a remote location. Thus, failure to attend at a safe workplace while insisting on the ability to work from home is an act of insubordination which constitutes cause for dismissal.

Ontario’s employers should, however, be mindful of their obligation to ensure compliance with the Ontario Human Rights Code, 1990 (“Code”). This means that if, for instance, a parent employee requires accommodation that would necessitate working from home due to a lack of childcare obligations the employer may have to facilitate such an accommodation to the point of undue hardship. What constitutes undue hardship under Ontario’s legislation are financial costs, outside funding, and health and safety risks. Such an accommodation (including the looking into the possibility of such an accommodation) would only be expected if a protected ground under the Code is triggered.

Although there are recurring themes during this unfortunate time, each case should be contextually analyzed with a view to the employer’s legal obligations towards its employees and the organization’s practical business interests.

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.