Earlier this week we
wrote about a recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision that
considered the conflict that sometimes arises as a result of
competing rights under human rights legislation and/or the
Now it seems another battle in this area may be heating up. The
CBC is reporting that an Ontario furniture
manufacturer has elected to close down following a vote by its
workers to unionize. The reason for the closure? The furniture
manufacturer's owners have stated that their Christian beliefs
do not allow them to work with a union. Apparently it is the
owners' view that working with a union does not allow them to
"live peaceably with all men" and to not "use force
to gain what we want." Presumably their current non-unionized
workplace operates as a conflict-free utopia.
While the owners' argument is creative, it's difficult
to imagine that their attempt to link their resistance to working
with a union to their right to religious freedom will be permitted
to take precedence over the workers' rights to organize. The
union has already publicly stated that they are not buying the
owners' argument and have intimated that they will take legal
Since both the employer and the union are pointing to rights
that are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and
Freedoms, if the dispute focuses on the conflict of those
rights we would expect a lively dialogue about the extent to which
one individual's religious beliefs can be protected when they
impinge on the freedoms of others. However, we believe it is
most likely that the union will seek access to the protections
available to organizing workers under the Ontario Labour
Relations Act and will argue that the employer's religious
beliefs are not genuinely held but rather are being used an excuse
for anti-union sentiment and should not require a consideration of
We will continue to monitor this story.
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Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
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