judges have found that alcohol and drug testing is
permitted in safety-sensitive workplaces if the company has reasonable cause to believe an individual is
impaired while working, has been directly involved
in a workplace accident, or is returning to work after
treatment for alcohol or substance abuse.
“The core issue [with the court rulings] tends to
be whether employees can safely perform their jobs,”
issues, along with
the #MeToo movement, have been
at the forefront in
North American workplaces for the past several
months. Across Canada, federal
human rights legislation has protected against sexual orientation and gender discrimination for years,
Pau says. Harassment tends to be covered in provincial occupational health and safety laws, adding
a layer of protection for workers and obligations on
employers, Stam notes.
“It’s a legal responsibility for HR to create a tox-ic-free workplace,” says Melanie Peacock, an owner
and lead consultant of Double M Training and Consulting, based in Calgary, Alberta, and an associate professor with the Bissett School of Business at
Mount Royal University.
In Ontario, legislators incorporated sexual harassment into the province’s Occupational Health
and Safety Act. Since 2016, the law has required
employers to thoroughly investigate all sexual harassment complaints and inform complainants of
the fndings, Stam says.
As in several U.S. states, training is mandated,
too. “All employees in Ontario are now trained on
their companies’ sexual harassment policies and formal investigation procedures annually,” says Shana
French, a lawyer at Sherrard Kuzz, a Toronto-based
labor and employment frm.
“Having strong laws is only helpful, however,
when employees feel confdent to access their rights
under the laws,” Stam says. “The #Me Too movement
has made a big diference with empowering em-
ployees to pursue their rights, given our society’s
newfound optimism that a woman’s complaint will
be taken seriously and believed.”
The legislation is driving change, French says.
“There has been an uptick [in the number] of women
bringing forth complaints, resulting in sexual ha-
rassment investigations,” she says. “There seems to
be more awareness in Ontario workplaces, and HR
is committed to educating its staf about sexual ha-
rassment. The efort is sincere.”
The governments of British
Columbia, Alberta and Ontario have mandated increases in the minimum
wage in recent years—
providing a case study in how
such legislation can afect
businesses. One unfortunate
consequence of the resulting
higher labor costs is an increase
in the number of terminations and
staff reductions at small and midsize businesses, HR experts say.
Rising minimum wages across the country have
also led employers to look beyond the pay rate of
just their front-line workers, Stam says.
In Ontario, the recent increase in the minimum
rate to $14 (Canadian dollars) per hour has had a
signifcant impact on retailers, which have been
evaluating and adjusting salary increases based
on seniority, says Kathryn Benson, senior human
resources consultant at HR Options in Toronto.
In some cases, it has resulted in unintended con-
sequences. “The minimum wage hike has created
tension among senior and junior employees.”
So, while the issues are similar in both countries,
there are wrinkles in Canadian employment law
that might seem foreign to U.S. practitioners. Yet
Canada’s worker protections and emphasis on work/
life balance could inform HR leaders as they develop
policies to help alleviate stress and burnout among
workers. That’s essential to building world-class
workplaces on both sides of the border.
Catherine Skrzypinski is a freelance writer in
Vancouver, British Columbia.
This article relates to Global & Cultural Effectiveness, one of
the nine competencies on which SHRM has based its certification. To learn more, visit www.shrmcertification.org.