Welcome to Nixon Wenger LLP

Employment Law

Employment Law

Employment law involves the professional relationship between organizations and non-union employees.  Most non-union employment contracts are unwritten, but they are, nevertheless, contracts.  The law that governs employment is found in statutes such as the Employment Standards Act, Canada Labour Code and the Human Rights Code, as well as in the judge made law. The interpretation and enforcement of employment disputes falls to the courts and various administrative tribunals.

Our lawyers provide advice and representation to both employers or employees.  We advise on the application of provincial and federal workplace statutes, prepare and interpret employment-related documents such as employment contracts and policies, counsel on managing accommodation issues, assist with handling problem employees and difficult terminations, conduct workplace investigations and assessments, and provide representation in wrongful dismissal actions and at administrative tribunals.

Employment Law Services

A good employment contract can provide valuable clarity about employment terms and grant the employer flexibility to make necessary workplace changes. At the end of employment, a properly worded termination clause will establish employee entitlements and provide certainty to an otherwise risky and potentially expensive process.

Our lawyers are able to act proactively for clients by drafting and negotiating contracts both before and during the course employment.  After termination of employment, we are able to act for clients to interpret contractual language and negotiate the resolution of outstanding contractual issues or advance our clients’ interests at courts or tribunals.

Workplaces in B.C. are either provincially or federally regulated. The majority of employees are covered under the Employment Standards Act.  This legislation generally establishes the basic entitlements of employees with respect to compensation, hours of work, vacation and leaves of absence, among other things. Similarly, the Canada Labour Code sets out basic entitlements for employees who work for federally regulated organizations.

Our lawyers are familiar with the obligations of both employers and employees under the Employment Standards Act and Canada Labour Code and are capable in both advising and representing clients on claims or potential claims arising under this legislation.

Ending an employment relationship is never easy.  There are many thorny issues that frequently arise in the course of termination such as the proper amount of notice, what entitlements should be included in a separation package, how to communicate the dismissal, and what ongoing obligations the employer and employee may have to each other after termination. Our lawyers are able to provide advice to smoothly resolve all issues arising out of the end of a employment relationship. 

Recent years have brought heightened scrutiny of the employer’s duty to maintain workplace safety for employees.  Health and Safety refers not only to risk of physical injury, but also mental health.

Our lawyers will assist you with the duties and obligations of both employers and employees in issues related to workplace health and safety.   We are able to act for either employers or employees where allegations of failure are brought forward regarding their health and safety responsibilities.

The British Columbia Human Rights Code  and the Canadian Human Rights Act prohibit workplace discrimination. Where employees experience discrimination at work, the employer will be responsible for responding appropriately. Where issues cannot be resolved employees may advance complaints through the B.C. or Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

Our lawyers are experienced in advising employers and employees on human rights matters and representing parties in the resolution of disputes at the Human Rights Tribunal.

Workplace investigations are conducted to address allegations of harassment, misconduct, violations of company policy or any other issue that impacts the workplace. Typically, investigations are initiated in response to complaints filed by employees, reports of wrongdoing, or concerns raised by managers. The primary objective of a workplace investigation is to gather relevant information, assess the credibility of the parties, and determine whether any policies or laws have been violated. This process involves interviewing witnesses, collecting evidence, reviewing documents, and analyzing data to reach a fair and impartial conclusion.

Where a complaint is raised under legislation such as the B.C. Workers Compensation Act, the Human Rights Code or the Canada Labour Code, it may be mandated that a workplace investigation must be conducted.

We are experienced in conducting fair and impartial workplace investigations that meet applicable statutory requirements. By promptly addressing concerns and taking appropriate action, organizations can prevent conflicts from escalating and mitigate potential legal risks. Ultimately, a well-executed workplace investigation helps to promote a safe, respectful, and compliant work environment for all employees.

Workplace matters can be very complex. Employment relationships are governed by various legal statutes and judge made laws that must be applied consistently. There also are inherent challenges in managing the diverse attributes, skills and needs of the workforce. We recognize that employers and employees sometimes require support with understanding their rights and obligations and determining the best way to handle difficult situations.  We are experienced with providing clients with timely and knowledgeable legal and human resource advice.  We are creative and solution focused, which can save both time and money in the long-run.

Get in touch with our Employment Law Team

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Our Employment Law Team

Employment Law FAQ’s

The Employment Standards Act provides that if you are purchasing the assets of a business and if you are taking on the employees at the same time, their employment will be deemed to be continuous. Therefore, if you terminate an employee, you will still be liable for the entire length of their service to the company you purchased as well as their time with you. Notwithstanding these continuation provisions, it typically makes sense to require the seller to terminate the employment of all of their employees and then rehire their employees on substantially the same terms and conditions.  This may not be particularly useful with respect to employment standards severance provisions but at the common law it can reduce your obligations to the employee to the time you have actually employed the employee.  Putting an appropriate employment contract in place for each such employee can also serve to reduce your liability, including by explicitly stating whether or not you are prepared to give credit for past years of service.  These terms and conditions are often critical to the negotiation of both asset purchase and share purchase agreements.  They should be given appropriate consideration at the time of entering into such agreement and we encourage you to seek legal advice.  These considerations are equally important to the seller of a business.

Without established company policies and notes documenting your employee’s non-compliance with those policies and letters giving notice to your employee of their non-compliance you will have a difficult time establishing that your employee ought to be terminated for cause.  We can assist employers to put in place appropriate policies and monitoring procedures to ensure that employees are aware of when they are not in compliance with those policies.

We can also assist with communicating appropriately with employees whose conduct or performance needs to improve.

In most cases your employer is obligated to comply with the minimum standards in the Employment Standards Act. However, under common law you may also be entitled to receive notice or pay in lieu of notice that exceeds the amount established by the Act. There are a number of factors that go into making such a determination such as your age, how long you were employed, you level of responsibility, and how easily you will be able to find alternate employment. We would be pleased to speak to you about your situation.

Recent changes to the Limitation Act have shortened the time you have to sue before the limitation takes effect and ends your claim. Most claims are now 2 years. Get legal advice early so your rights are protected.