What is Employment Law?

Employment law is the series of rights and entitlements which have been put in place to protect the rights of workers in non-unionized workplaces. In contrast, labour law is the series of rules and regulations which govern unionized workplaces.


Employment Law entitlements stem from statutes such as the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”), the Canada Labour Code (“CLC”), the Employment Insurance Act (the “EIA”), the Ontario Human Rights Code the (“Code”), the Workplace Safety Insurance Act (“WSIA”), the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”), and other legislation, which provide guarantees such as sick leave rights, vacation pay, severance pay, employment insurance benefits (“EI”), disability accommodation, maternity leave rights, and other similar rights and entitlements regarding workplace issues.

Common Law and Contractual Disputes

Employees are also offered additional protection via the “common law.” Sometimes referred to as “judge-made-law” or a “precedent system,” common law simply refers to a legal system stemming from the United Kingdom, whereby courts can offer guidance on disputes pertaining to the application and interpretation of various statutes, by reviewing how previous judges ruled in similar disputes in the past.

Over time, these rulings and decisions help evolve employees’ minimum rights and entitlements, and set “precedents” on the rights and entitlements of employees in a given dispute. For instance, when assessing the enforceability of an employee’s contract which may purport to limit their severance, employment lawyers can look to previous trial decisions regarding the enforceability of similarly drafted contracts, in order to predict and/or advocate how the law should be applied to the contract in question.

To no surprise, the enforceability of employment contracts is a common area of contention that employees may encounter in the workplace. With the thrill of a new job offer or promotion, employers sometimes use this opportunity to offer employees contracts with buried restrictive provisions within the contract, which may limit the employee’s entitlements in the future. For example, an employee’s right to bonus pay following their dismissal is a commonly disputed matter, and the terms and conditions set out in an employee’s contract may act to exclude their right to bonus pay.

Wrongful Dismissal

One of the most common areas of contention in employment law is with respect to disputes regarding employees’ rights upon termination. When an employer chooses to unlawful terminate an employee (such as due to a protected human rights ground, unfoundedly allege cause for dismissal, or provide the employee with insufficient advanced notice or pay in lieu of notice of their dismissal), the termination may be constituted as a Wrongful Dismissal.  In this instance, the employee may have additional rights and entitlements an employer has conveniently chosen to ignore – such as human rights damages, additional severance entitlements, extended benefits coverage and entitlements, and/or other damages. Further, the manner of the dismissal may also have implications on an employee’s right to collect EI, and other-post employment benefits. In some cases, employees (such as those working in a federally regulated industry) may even be entitled to an order of reinstatement with lost wages, following a dismissal. 

Employment Law Extended Rights

There are a number of other statutory and common law rights that govern other areas of the employee-employer relationship, such as an employee’s right to benefits coverage, disability insurance coverage, constructive dismissal, executive compensation, defamation, independent contractor issues, employee-liability issues, restrictive covenants (non-compete and non-solicitation disputes as an example), and a whole host of other rights and entitlements.

Depending upon the nature of a workplace dispute, the employment law rights, and entitlements workers may be entitled to can have various implications on their other rights and entitlements. As such, when encountering an employment law dispute, it is important to contact an employment lawyer.

If you think your employment law rights have been breached or you have any questions about a workplace dispute, do not hesitate to contact Monkhouse Law Employment Lawyers for a free 30-minute phone consultation with a licensed legal professional.

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