Labour & Employment Law Blog

Personal Liability at the Workplace and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Personal Liability at the Workplace and the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Coronavirus pandemic has added a layer of worry for average employers who are struggling to keep their businesses open. Not only are employers faced with having to keep their operations financially afloat, they also have to think about the health and safety of those in their employ beyond what they used to in the past.

While it has always been a legal duty to maintain the health and safety of employees across all industries, typically some industries found it to be more of a live issue than others. Indeed, in such industries executive personal liability as it concerns the health and safety of employees has always been part of the job. Thus, for instance, in construction most employers are live to the daily reality that managers could be held personally responsible in the event of a workplace accident or non-compliance with strict health and safety requirements.

Now, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, this reality has come to the forefront of most business owners regardless of the nature of the business, including those where conventional day-to-day health and safety concerns were not meaningfully at play in the past. Recently, this has become even more pressing due to the passing of Regulation 82/2020 (“Regulation”) by the Ontario government under the Emergency Management and Civil Protections Act specifically as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Regulation extends liability statutorily not only to business organizations but to certain individual actors within these organizations. The Regulation states that, the “person responsible for a place of business that is open shall ensure that the business operates in accordance with all applicable laws, including the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the regulations made under it.”

The Regulation also sets out that the person “responsible for a place of business that is open shall operate the business in compliance with the advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials, including any advice, recommendations or instructions on physical distancing, cleaning or disinfecting.”

There is a fundamental legal premise in the law: a corporation is a separate legal entity with its own rights and obligations. This means that absent specific circumstances, individuals in supervisory and executive roles will not be held liable for the deeds of the company. Normally, the “corporate veil” will only be “pierced” in the event the law deems it appropriate to attach personal liability to the actual person committing (or omitting to commit) the act.

Although personal liability within a business organization is not a novel concept, the Regulation makes it a point to attach personal responsibility to individual actors of managerial and executive rank in the interest of safety due to circumstances arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is, therefore, advisable for persons “responsible for a place of business” such as managers and executives to remind themselves of the need to remain abreast of recommended safety protocols in workplaces under their supervision. If called upon, those responsible would have to show that they have taken reasonable steps and exercised due diligence in the provision of a safe and healthy work environment.

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.