Labour & Employment Law Blog

Two Employment Law Issues related to COVID-19 set to make changes in 2021

Two Employment Law Issues related to COVID-19 set to make changes in 2021

There are two COVID-19 related employment law issues that we believe will be making major waves in 2021.

The first is that employees may now be facing major negative consequences from certain off-duty conduct that prior to COVID-19 would be none of the employer’s business.  The second is whether employers are going to tolerate an employee who refuses to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

There has been a lot of chatter in the media lately about certain employees or public figures who have been caught either outright defying public health orders from the Ontario government or at least have been caught engaging in certain behaviours that may seem arguably inappropriate given their position.  For instance, in December 2020 there were a few politicians as well as a Niagara-region hospital CEO who were caught taking holiday vacation overseas while the government was begging people to stay at home and not travel unless for essential reasons.  This was previously completely normal behaviour and it would be utterly preposterous for an employer to fire you for taking a vacation.

However, the global pandemic has clearly changed things.  The employer has to take into account how previously normal behaviour by an employee (such as holiday travel) will affect the workplace given COVID-19.  For instance, the employer has to determine how the employee has exposed the workplace to COVID-19 and how that might affect the employer’s business and operations.  The employer may even have concerns about how the employee’s “risky” behaviour will affect the employer’s reputation.

It remains unclear as to how employers should approach this situation.  Should the employer discipline the employee in any way?  Provide only a verbal warning or perhaps a written sanction to the employee?  Fire or terminate the employee immediately?  Some well-informed employers may have some sort of workplace policy related to these issues and COVID-19, which may provide some guidance.  However, we suspect that many employers do not have such policies given the ever-changing set of circumstances that employers are faced with respect to COVID-19.

Moreover, unfortunately, the law in Ontario does not provide us a lot of guidance either.  There are simply not enough COVID-19 related firings that have made its way through the courts to allow for a robust body of case law that lawyers could use to help with these questions.

It also remains unclear as to how an employer should approach an employee who refuses a COVID-19 vaccine.  There of course may be legitimate human rights issues (such as a disability) that causes the employee to refuse a COVID-10 vaccination.  This situation is easier for the employer as they would try to accommodate the employee unless there was undue hardship.  Certain lawyers have suggested that the employer cannot either discipline or fire the employee.  They believe that, unless the employment agreement specifically sets out vaccination as a term of contract, the employee cannot be fired or disciplined for refusing a COVID-19 shot.

However, it may not be that simple.  The fact is that COVID-19 remains a dangerous public health threat.  It is not simply the flu.  It has caused a tremendous amount of harm to our healthcare system and has caused a lot of people to die or get very sick and need hospital care.  In addition, the fact is that COVID-19 has already caused major changes to the workplace. Under Ontario’s Health and Safety Act, it is up to the employer to ensure that COVID-19 health and safety measures are being met in the workplace. This means that vaccinations will become an increasingly live issue in all workplaces and not only among healthcare professionals where there is an existing body of case law in that regard.

We suspect that many of the above concerns will be flushed out by Ontario’s courts in 2021.

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.