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Category Archives: Benefits, Compensation, Pensions

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Denial of coverage for medical marijuana under employee benefit plan found to be discriminatory

Posted in Benefits, Compensation, Pensions, Employer Obligations, Human Rights

In 2010, Mr. Skinner was involved in a motor vehicle accident while working, and subsequently developed a physical and mental disability. After exhausting conventional drug options to treat his symptoms, Mr. Skinner’s physician prescribed medical marijuana. The medication provided him with some relief from his chronic pain and improved functionality. Mr. Skinner requested coverage for the medical marijuana under the Canadian Elevator Industry Welfare Trust Plan (“Plan”), a private benefit plan designed to provide health and related benefits to union employees in the elevator industry.

The Plan’s Trustees denied the request on the basis that: (i) medical marijuana did not … Continue Reading

The Alberta Court of Appeal offers further guidance on the principle of good faith in employment

Posted in Benefits, Compensation, Pensions, Employer Obligations, Litigation, Termination

Click here to view our colleagues’ posts titled “Incentive Plans in Alberta can still Limit Entitlements to ‘Actively Employed’ Employees” and “The Alberta Court of Appeal clarifies the organizing principle of good faith with style.” These posts address the recent Alberta Court of Appeal’s decision in Styles v. AIMC, and will be of interest to employers in British Columbia as an example of how the courts may apply (or should not apply, as in this case) the common law principle of good faith in contractual performance in a wrongful dismissal case. This case also serves Continue Reading

BC government enables smaller employers to give employees pension plans.

Posted in Benefits, Compensation, Pensions, Legislative Changes, Pensions

Pension plans can be a very helpful retention mechanism for good employees (and, it must be noted, bad ones too), and many larger employers offer them to their employees as part of their overall compensation package. However, the cost and complexity of pension plans have also meant that they may not be considered by most smaller employers. Recent legislative enactments have attempted to address this.

In 2012, the federal government enacted the Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act, creating Pooled Registered Pension Plans (PRPPs) at the federal level, in an effort to make large-scale defined contributions pension plans available to Continue Reading

Don’t make promises you can’t keep (even inadvertent ones) – a good lesson for all BC employers

Posted in Benefits, Compensation, Pensions, Best Practices, Employer Obligations

The recent decision of the BC Supreme Court in Feldstein v. 364 Northern Development Corporation provides a cautionary tale for well-meaning employers seeking to provide compensation and benefits package details to candidates during the interview process.

Cary Feldstein had been diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at the age of nine, obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science and worked in his chosen field of software engineering and was the major breadwinner for his family. In 2012, his existing employment was terminated and he sought out employment with other firms, including 364 Northern Development Corporation (“364”).  The court found that the … Continue Reading

Supreme Court of Canada Gives Quick Win To BCTF On Parental Benefits

Posted in Benefits, Compensation, Pensions, Human Rights, Labour Relations, Litigation, Unions

The Supreme Court of Canada recently made a rare oral ruling from the bench, giving the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (“BCTF”) a quick win in their appeal of a decision by the B.C. Court of Appeal regarding discrimination and unequal treatment under the Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The case started in 2012 with a grievance filed by the BCTF against the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association and the Board of School Trustees of School District No. 36 (collectively, the “Employer”). The grievance alleged that the collective agreement discriminated against birth mothers in that … Continue Reading

Hot Off the Press – Doing Business in Canada: Navigating Opportunities for Investment and Growth

Posted in Benefits, Compensation, Pensions, Human Rights, Labour Relations, Privacy

If your organization is currently thinking about establishing or acquiring a business in Canada, the newest edition of Doing Business in Canada, written by McCarthy Tétrault, will prove to be a valuable resource. The guide provides a broad overview of the legal considerations that non-residents should take into account to help ensure their success as they enter into a business venture in Canada. Each section offers timely information and insightful commentary on different areas of law.

The book includes a chapter on employment in Canada, with sections on:

  • employment standards
  • labour relations
  • human rights
  • occupational health and safety
  • privacy
Continue Reading

Pension Benefits Not Deductible from Wrongful Dismissal Damages

More like private insurance

Posted in Benefits, Compensation, Pensions, Damages, Litigation, Termination, Wrongful Dismissal

The Supreme Court of Canada has decided that pension benefits received by a dismissed employee are not to be deducted from an award of wrongful dismissal damages.  The decision in IBM Canada v. Waterman affirms an earlier ruling of the BC Court of Appeal which we discussed here.

Mr. Waterman was a long-service employee who was terminated with two months’ notice when he was 65.  He rejected a severance offer that would have provided him some wages and some pension.  He sued for wrongful dismissal but in the meantime began to get payments under the defined benefit pension plan … Continue Reading

Annual Client Conference

Conference Materials Available Online

Posted in Benefits, Compensation, Pensions, Employee Obligations, Employment Standards, Human Rights, Litigation, Occupational Health and Safety, Privacy, Termination

Thanks to over 230 clients who attended our annual full day client conference on Friday March 8.

The materials for all the presentations and workshops are available online here.

The materials cover:

  • What we can expect from an NDP government in Victoria
  • Privacy in workplace computers
  • Bill 14 – The new harassment, bullying and violence in the workplace provisions
  • Pension and Benefits law developments
  • A review of human rights, employment and labour cases from the past 12 months
  • Thinking about staying non-union
  • Written employment contracts and policies
  • Best practices in terminations
Continue Reading

Pensions: The Basics

DB versus DC

Posted in Benefits, Compensation, Pensions

Our colleague Mark Firman from our Toronto office has recently posted a couple of short pieces to help sort out the differences and pros and cons between defined benefit and defined contribution pension plans.

These are good reads for anyone thinking about setting up, reviewing or changing pension plans.

 

Look here to see Part I – The Basics.

Then you can look here to see the sequel – The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing.… Continue Reading

Month in Review

Posted in Accommodation, Age, Benefits, Compensation, Pensions, Damages, Discipline, Discrimination, Employee Obligations, Employment Standards, Family Status, Human Capital, Human Rights, Immigration, Investigations, Just Cause, Labour Relations, Litigation, Murphy's Laws of HR, Privacy, Recruiting, Termination, Unions, US vs.Canadian Employment Law, Wage and Hours, Workers Compensation, Wrongful Dismissal

The bloggers of BC Employer Advisor issued our first Month in Review to summarize our most recent posts.

Visit the summary here.

 … Continue Reading

Hybrid Pension Plans Not the Best Answer

Time to Consider Target Benefit Plans

Posted in Benefits, Compensation, Pensions

One of the key elements of the new collective agreements recently reached by the Canadian Auto Workers with Ford, GM and Chrysler is a “hybrid” pension plan for new employees. It has both “defined benefit” (DB) and “defined contribution” (DC) components. This hybrid solution follows a similar arrangement between Air Canada and the CAW reached in September 2011.

Hybrid pension plans appear to meet both employer needs for predictable funding and employee wishes for predictable benefits.  But employers should look at a better choice: “target benefit” plans.

A few basics:

DB pension plans guarantee pensioners a specific benefit calculated by … Continue Reading

Employer Required to Provide Benefits After Age 65

Check Your Employment and Collective Agreement Language!

Posted in Benefits, Compensation, Pensions, Discrimination, Human Rights, Labour Relations, Unions

An Ontario arbitrator has ruled that old language in a collective agreement was not clear enough and the employer is obligated to provide benefits to employees past 65, notwithstanding the age limitation in the benefits contracts.

The case highlights the need to review employment and collective agreement language now that mandatory retirement has been outlawed.

Like many collective agreements (and individual employment agreements), the employer promised to provide benefits but referred to the actual policy for the full terms and conditions, including limitations on age.  Such limitations are allowed under human rights law in Ontario (and in British Columbia) in … Continue Reading

When Changing a Bonus Can be Constructive Dismissal

Posted in Benefits, Compensation, Pensions, Constructive Dismissal, Damages, Termination, Wrongful Dismissal

A judge in BC has ruled that a unilateral change to an employee’s bonus was constructive dismissal:  Piron v. Dominion Masonry.  That was despite the employer’s plea that the bonus was discretionary, and despite the evidence that the bonus varied widely from year to year and project to project.

The case highlights the need for employers to be careful about how incentive compensation is determined, especially if they want to be able to claim it is discretionary in any way.

James Piron was a 44 year old masonry foreman who had worked for Dominion Masonry for 19 years.  He … Continue Reading

Restrictions on Withholding Pay

Posted in Benefits, Compensation, Pensions, Employment Standards, Wage and Hours

The Employment Standards Act (British Columbia) prohibits an employer from withholding or deducting any part of wages unless the employee has consented in writing. Problems frequently arise when employment terminates and the employer seeks to recover loans, advance payments (of wages or vacation pay) or other debts from the employee by way of deductions from the final pay.

Watch out for

  • poorly documented loan agreements or advances;
  • employees taking vacation before it is fully earned;
  • adjustments to commission earnings where the amount drawn exceeds the amount earned; and
  • accidental overpayments.

Possible Solutions

For any loan or advance, obtain a signed … Continue Reading

Mental Stress, Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace

Posted in Benefits, Compensation, Pensions, Discrimination, Occupational Health and Safety, Workers Compensation

The British Columbia government has introduced legislation to modify the WorkSafe BC approach to mental stress, and to compensate for bullying and harassment in the workplace.

The proposed amendment to the Workers Compensation Act (British Columbia) is significant and will result in new types of claims for compensation under the Act.  It is hard to predict the full impact, but it is likely to be in the tens of millions of dollars per year.

The important change is in the test for determining whether the mental disorder is compensable.  Under the current law, workers can only claim for “an acute Continue Reading

Deduction of Pension Benefits from Wrongful Dismissal Damages

Posted in Benefits, Compensation, Pensions, Damages, Termination, Wrongful Dismissal

In Waterman v. IBM Canada [2011] S.C.C.A. No. 427 (QL), the Supreme Court of Canada has granted leave to appeal a decision of the BC Court of Appeal deciding that pension benefits are not deductible from wrongful dismissal damages.

The Plaintiff Waterman was terminated without cause by IBM after approximately 42 years of service.  Upon termination, he began receiving full pension benefits under IBM’s defined benefit pension plan, which was entirely funded by IBM.

Waterman gave evidence that did not want to retire at the time his employment was terminated, even though he had the right to retire on full … Continue Reading

Hot Off the Press – Doing Business in Canada

Posted in Benefits, Compensation, Pensions, Employment Standards, Human Rights, Labour Relations, Privacy

If your organization is currently thinking about establishing or acquiring a business in Canada, the 2012 edition of Doing Business in Canada, written by McCarthy Tétrault, will prove to be a valuable resource. The guide provides a broad overview of the legal considerations that non-residents should take into account to help ensure their success as they enter into a business venture in Canada. Each section offers timely information, up-to-date legislative provisions and insightful commentary on different areas of law.

The book includes a chapter on employment in Canada, with sections on

  • employment standards
  • labour relations
  • human rights
  • occupational health
Continue Reading

The Overtime Trap – Part II

Posted in Benefits, Compensation, Pensions, Employment Standards, Wage and Hours

Managers

“Managers” are exempt from the overtime provisions of the Employment Standards Act (British Columbia). But, beware of the narrow definition, and the potential for overtime claims at straight time.

Not everyone called or considered a manager in the workplace is exempt. Only those who are employed in an executive capacity, or whose principal responsibilities are to supervise or direct human or other resources, are “managers” under the Act.

Even then, a manager may still qualify for overtime at straight time.  If the manager’s contract links salary to a certain number of hours worked, or links time off in lieu … Continue Reading

The Overtime Trap – Part I

Posted in Benefits, Compensation, Pensions, Employment Standards, Wage and Hours

The Employment Standards Act (British Columbia) requires that an employer pay an employee overtime wages if it “requires, or directly or indirectly allows, the employee to work more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week.” An employee who can provide some evidence of starting early, staying late, working through lunch or doing work on the BlackBerry after hours will get overtime pay even if the employer never asked for the extra work to be done.

The general overtime rules do not apply to certain types of employees (more about that in a future blog), but there is … Continue Reading

Employment Standards Leaves

Posted in Benefits, Compensation, Pensions, Employment Standards

The Employment Standards Act (British Columbia) requires employers to grant unpaid pregnancy, parental, family responsibility, compassionate care, reservist, bereavement and jury duty leave.

Providing the time off is just the start of the employer’s obligations. Employees on leave continue to “earn” the following, as if they were at work:

  • length of service credit;
  • vacation credit;
  • pension credit; and
  • insurance plan benefits.

The employer must recognize increases in wages and benefits, such as benchmarks for wage increases or qualification periods for benefits being reached during the leave.

The right to vacation time off continues to accrue during the leave, but vacation … Continue Reading