Alberta Labour Laws Lawyer Red Deer

Proud to offer Alberta Labour Laws Lawyers in Red Deer and Central Alberta

Chapman Riebeek LLP provides advice and support to associations and unions navigating the work relationship in unionized workplaces including providing advice on the processes and rules associated with collective bargaining. Labour Law is a contextualized area of the law where we can assist associations and individuals understand and interpret the terms and conditions of their employment as set out in the relevant collective agreement.

Our lawyers are experienced in helping navigate Associations through the collective bargaining process, providing guidance and support through negotiations as well as representation and advice throughout the arbitration process and before the Labour Relations Board.

We understand the sensitivity that surrounds relationships in a unionized workplace and we work closely with our clients to achieve the best outcomes for them in a manner that is respectful of ongoing working relationships.

We can assist you with:

  • Drafting, Reviewing, and Advising on Collective Agreements
  • Advising on or Advancing Grievances under the Collective Agreements
  • Advising on Labour Practices and Compliance with Relevant Labour Codes
Key Contacts for Labour Law
Suzanne Alexander Smith

Suzanne Alexander-Smith, Q.C.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Who is an Employment lawyer?

Employment law is an area of law that has to do with the relationship between employers and their employees(cliché) as well as with trade unions. A lot of mistakes are made when differentiating between the closely related terms Employment law and Labour law. When it comes to Chapman Riebeek LLP, perfectionism is not debatable. Chapman Riebeek LLP has been in service since the 1950’s. The Employment law service happens to come with age and experience; apart from appealing solutions, the undiluted support we provide goes a long way.

What Employment Lawyers Do at Chapman Riebeek LLP?

Employment lawyers give advice to employees as well as employers in all sections of employment, right from hiring through to termination. They counsel in non-conscientious or conscientious ways.

–   Conscientious advice is about helping and representing clients to prepare for and go through the litigation process and internal procedures like disciplinary hearings.

–   Non-conscientious tasks have to do with providing day-to-day support to the Human Resources departments of companies, such as reviewing, and giving advice on employment contracts, compensations, drafting and advantageous policies, employee contracts, etc.

Who is a Labour Lawyer?

Labour lawyers settle the relationship between employers, workers, employees, the government and trade unions.  

Individual labour law is about the rights of employees at work and through the contract for work. Government agencies enforce labour law.

Chapman Riebeek LLP gives advice and support to associations and unions navigating the work relationship in unionized workplaces including providing advice on the processes and rules associated with collective bargaining.

What is Filing of Complaints?

For a majority of employment lawyers’ matters, there usually is a filed claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or other governmental agency which precedes an employee’s pursuit of a private cause of action. In all this, an employment lawyer comes in by helping an employee to file the complaint with the proper department(agency) required and give explanation on the time frame whereby the claim must be filed and disparate factors closely related to the claim.

What is Explanation of Rights?

An employment lawyer helps to explain the rights of the client to him or her. This comprises of explanations that are applicable laws that pertain to the case and options that are effectual, to the client, which may comprise litigation, intervention (mediation), negotiation and or other occurrences.

A common task that they see to is helping employers stay compliant with various laws.

What is Salary and Hour Lawsuits?

Salary and hour compensations claims arise when an employee does not receive the compensation which he or she happens to be entitled to.

What is Litigation?

As Employment lawyers, we also give assistance in employment-related lawsuits. We represent employees who file lawsuits against their employer due to:

– Prejudice

– Unjust termination

– Denial of benefits

– Wage and hour compensation.

 We also protect employers against any of such actions. Employers at times file lawsuits against employees, perfect examples are those who they conceive violated non-compete (a contractual clause that prevents a person or company from competing with another, especially with a former employer or partner) or agreements of confidentiality.

What is a Employment Prejudice Lawsuits?

An employment prejudice lawsuit may arise when an employee is discharged, relegated, reassigned, not hired or contrarily the recipient of the opposed employment action that is based on a secured status.

What is an Employment Class Action?

There are certain occurrences when a lot of employees are similarly affected by different actions by an employer, such as prejudice or a salary and hour claim, the employees may join together in a class action against the employer. This arrangement involves multiple plaintiffs.

What is Workers’ Compensation Claims?

Workers’ compensation claims come up when an employee sustains injury or falls ill due to work stress. An employment lawyer may or may not provide assistance to an employee in filing a case or an appeal.

What is Third Party Lawsuits?

In a few cases, an employee can have a third-party lawsuit against another party apart from an employer for a work-related injury. As employment lawyers, we help prepare charges, converse with the legal representative of the other party and make appearance in court on behalf of the client.

Can Chapman Riebeek help with Union Issues?

As employment lawyers we help advise to employees all about their right to form a union and as well as other rights, such as freedom from Prejudice based on their protected union activity. We also give great advice to employers on their rights and responsibilities regarding union workers.

What Employment Lawyer Services are Available for Employers?

An employment lawyer for an employer usually acts as a representative for the employer when negotiating or arguing an issue with the employee or his or her lawyer. Again, the most common issue employment lawyers for employers face is dealing with an employee’s termination of employment. To that end, employment lawyers for employers advise their clients on the amount of severance to offer an employee. Likewise, employers will ask their lawyer if they have just cause to terminate an employee without severance.

As employment lawyers for employers, we spend a lot of time drafting employment agreements (contracts) and policies. We also happen to do due-diligence for employers in reassessing their employment agreements (contracts) for a business transaction. Due diligence is the investigation or exercise of care that a reasonable business or person is normally expected to take before entering into any agreement or contract with another party.

 For instance, an employer has a total of 137 employees, and they want to publicize the business. An employment lawyer for the buyer would have to critically evaluate all the potential barriers related in a way to the 137   employees, so the employment lawyer will go through all the contracts (Legal agreements) of all those employees to quantify all the possible employment impediment of the transaction.

Unlike employment lawyers for employees, Chapman Riebeek LLP employment lawyers for employers are ready to effectively do the following on any given day:

  • Replying to a requirement letter beseeching more severance.
  • Writing of Statements of justification to repel a wrongful dismissal lawsuit.
  • Draught of a discharge clause in an employment agreement (contract).
  • Drafting exclusive employment contracts
  • Drawing impartiality contracts
  • Draught of harassment, prejudice, health and security and work stead violence policies.

 

Labour Lawyers

Labour lawyers can be distinguished from Employment Lawyers as counsel who either works for unions, members in a union, or for the employer. In Alberta, the Labour Relations Code operates to define the employment relationship, and law, for union-employees and union-employers. Union employment relationships are often fact-specific and operate typically under a collective bargain (which is simply explained as an employment agreement for a group, negotiated by that group and the employer from time to time).

 

For Union Employers, Chapman Riebeek LLP can provide employers proactive advice and assistance in negotiating to draft and implementing formal collective bargains, including following policies and procedures manuals. We also provide reactive enforcement and representation when an employee grievance arises and needs resolving.

For Union Employees, Chapman Riebeek LLP can provide union members advice and assistance in understanding what their collective bargain means, what changes to their workplace are enforceable, and what their collective bargain says, (or does not say) in circumstances where they find themselves in a grievance situation.

Employment Contracts for Alberta Companies

Employment Agreements create certainty for employers, and their employees prior to hiring. That certainty can save both employers and the employees from litigation risk, time, money and stress, following the end of the employment relationship.

 

A well-drafted employment agreement will set terms for the employment relationship between the employer and the employee, – the critical terms include:

  • The duties of the employee;
  • The compensation arrangement;
  • Benefits – including health, dental, wellness accounts, holidays and other industry perks;
  • Termination agreements;
  • Layoff conditions;
  • Location of work;
  • Policies and procedures of the Employer and the employer workplace;

 

In an employment dispute, failing to have such terms set out in the initial employment agreement could lead to a lawsuit. Sometimes Courts do not recognize modifications to an employment agreement if the modification was not in writing, or implemented without notice or consideration.

 

It is typically understood that a Court will not interfere with a bargain fairly made by two parties, there are exceptions to that rule. The law requires that an employment contract comply with the legislated Employment Standards Code

 

For Employers, Chapman Riebeek LLP can provide employers proactive advice and assistance in drafting and implementing formal employment agreements, policies and procedures manuals. We also provide reactive enforcement and representation when an employment dispute arises and needs resolving.

For Employees, Chapman Riebeek LLP can provide employees advice and assistance in understanding what their employment agreement means, what changes to their workplace are enforceable, and what their contract says, (or does not say) in circumstances where they find themselves laid off, or fired.

What Skills Are Required of An Employment Lawyer?

Chapman Riebeek LLP possesses the effective skills required of Employment lawyers some of which are:

– Communication skills: there will always be the need to be able to explain legal matters and then give advice to clients distinctly and succinct. There will also be the need to have appealing confidence to represent a client in court.

–  Documented communication skills: An impressive standard of written English is necessary for preparing legal documents and drawing contracts.

 

–  Attention to detail: A high level of exactness is important for research and also in the setting up and of documents.

–  Negotiating skills: it is very important for reaching the very best outcome for your clients.

–  Perusal skills: Important for exploring certain parts of employment law further and finding examples from previous cases.

–  Organization: there will always be the need to be able to bewiled a heavy workload.

– Problem-solving skills: A logical point of view is essential in the creation of strong legal propositions (arguments).

–  Diligence: The need for self-motivation and commitment to your occupation path as the modification route is difficult and could take numerous years to accomplish.

Litigation

While minimum standards of employment conditions are typically enforced by the government, enforcing an employee’s common-law rights may require a lawsuit, complaint, or grievance – depending on the employment relationship, and the matter complained of.

Chapman Riebeek has represented employees and employers in the following jurisdictions:

  • Court of Queen’s Bench (heard by Justices of the Court of Queen’s Bench)– for wrongful dismissal or severance claims valued over $50,000.00;
  • Provincial Court of Alberta (Civil) (heard by Provincial Court Judges) for wrongful dismissal or severance claims under $50,000.00;
  • The Alberta Human Rights Commission – (heard by Provincially appointed Commissions) when an employee claims they have been discriminated against under a protected ground of the Alberta Human Rights Act (for example, age, gender, race, stress leave, physical disability);
  • Federal Unjust Dismissal Hearings (heard by Adjudicators appointed by the Federal Government) when a Federally regulated employee has a complaint under the Canada Labour Code (As Alberta is landlocked, these complaints are typically brought by employees in aviation, banking, railroad, radio & telecommunication or interprovincial shipping);
  • Federal Court of Canada (heard by Federal Justices) – for appeals of unjust dismissal hearings
  • Labour Board Arbitrations – heard by members of the Alberta Labour Board, these matters involve grievances brought by union employees or disagreements on a large scale between the union and the employer.

 

For Employers, Chapman Riebeek LLP can provide situation-specific litigation advice, including procedural advantages and strategic litigation steps. We are experienced in negotiating, and implementing formal resolutions within all of the jurisdictions set out above. When a reasonable settlement cannot be reached we also are experienced in running trials in all levels of Court in Alberta and have assisted clients in appealing decisions to the Court of Appeal.

For Employees, Chapman Riebeek LLP can provide a review of the facts and ensure the employee’s claim is brought to the right place. Each jurisdiction has its own timelines, rules, and scope of authority, Chapman Riebeek LLP is experienced in conducting hearings in all the jurisdictions set out above. Our Employment Lawyers provide expert advice and assist many employees with their employment claims on a timely basis and without the necessity of running a trial. 

Workplace Policies

An employer has the right to make rules and policies within the workplace. This is considered fair for both the employers and employees, that policies are put in writing when an employer wants to enforce a standard in the workplace (for example, attendance requirements, discipline procedures etc.). Having a policy and procedure manual ensures that both the employer and employee understand what is required of themselves.

It is a prudent policy to have employees review the policy and procedure manual, both signing off on understanding it, having the opportunity to ask the employer about matters that may not be clear to them, and to recognize, in writing, that the manual applies to their employment. Certain manuals have expressly stated that they are not contracts. In that type of situation, Courts have ruled that the manual was not a part of the employment contract. This may be a disappointing surprise for an employer to rely upon a manual only to find out it cannot be enforced against employees.

Prior to issuing serious discipline, it is recommended that an employer have an employment lawyer review the unwanted conduct and considered discipline. If an employer disciplines an employee for breaching an unenforceable term of a policy manual, or for conduct that was not clearly set out as contrary to the terms of employment, it may create a situation of unfair discipline, which can lead to damages, or constructive dismissal. An employment lawyer can advise employers of their opinion on the appropriateness of discipline and advise how to ensure the manual is enforceable by the employer, and binding on the employee.

Some employment manuals attempt to implement limits on severance in situations of wrongful dismissals. It is recommended that before relying on such a term, and before a considered termination, an employer review with their employment lawyer, the enforceability of such a term. Several common situations have been ruled to find such severance limits unenforceable:

  • Where the limiting term is considered both harsh and hidden;
  • Where the limiting term is included in a document that is not referenced within the employment agreement;
  • Where the limiting term is included in a policy manual that expressly states it is not a contract; and
  • Where the limiting term is implemented after the employee is hired and working (this has been found to occur where the policy manual was provided a day after the employee signed the employment agreement – but the employment agreement was silent on the manual.

For Employers, Chapman Riebeek LLP can provide employers with industry and workplace-specific policy and procedure advice that is fair and enforceable. The goal of a policy manual is to ensure that the employees in a group understand what is expected by them of their employer, and the consequences of failing to meet (or breach) those expectations. We are experienced in updating policy and procedure manuals to ensure they comply with legislated standards and are enforceable. If you are an employer and have a concern that your policy is not currently enforceable, we are experienced in ensuring that you can roll out and implement the policy and procedure manual to all staff with a paper trail that ensures it will be enforceable.

For Employees, Chapman Riebeek LLP can assist employees with understanding how and why employment manuals apply to their job. Certain terms of employment manuals are unduly restrictive or unenforceable, while other terms may be against an employee’s interests, but enforceable. All employee manuals are in fact specific. In situations of contested discipline over a breach of policy, a careful review to confirm whether the policy in question can be enforced can be conducted by Chapman Riebeek’s employment lawyers on your behalf.

Benefits, Short and Long Term Disability Claims

Benefits should be clear and understood;

Employers typically provide benefit packages to their employees as part of their compensation structure. It is critical that employers properly and accurately represent to their staff the fine print of those agreements. Employers have been found liable to employees in situations where the booklet overstates or miscommunicates the value of a benefit plan in a situation where it is required, or where extra steps are necessary to trigger the coverage which is not plainly set out in the benefit plan itself.

 

The market for benefit plan providers has many different options for employers, however by including a benefit plan as a part of an employee’s compensation package, making changes to the benefit plan may require impacted employee’s consent, notice, or compensation.

 

It is a best practice to ensure whoever is communicating the benefits package to new hires be trained and use a checklist to confirm the benefits package is properly and accurately explained.

 

Disability Coverage

As employees, short and long-term disability coverage provides a financial cushion while an injury, illness or accident stops you from being able to perform your job. In situations where a long-term disability coverage is granted, it is important to ensure that your obligations to your employer are still being met. Typically this includes keeping the employer informed of your health status and improvements through treatment. Often an employer may request a second opinion from a doctor.

 

While on short-term disability employees may have medical prescriptions to take time off work, which are accepted, or not by a benefit provider on the terms of the benefits package. In some situations, an accommodation of the work duties/environment or another factor in the workplace may be requested by the employee. An employer in Alberta is subject to accommodate some disabilities, though if the accommodation becomes an undue hardship, it may be legally permitted to not accommodate that employee.

 

It is critical to be aware of your rights while employed but on long-term disability. In some cases, employers can terminate the employment contract it has with an employee on long-term disability, on the basis of frustration [Frustration occurs when a situation has arisen for which the parties made no provision in the contract and performance of the contract becomes “a thing radically different from that which was undertaken by the contract… and a court is asked to intervene to relieve the parties of their bargain because a supervening event has occurred without the fault of either party]. Typically, the Courts will uphold the frustration of an employment agreement when an employee stops communicating his or her progress to the employer.

 

For Employers, Chapman Riebeek LLP can provide employers with benefits and disability advice that is accurate and fair to both the employer, insurer and employee. If you are concerned about making a decision to discontinue employment or considering your obligation to accommodate someone under an advised disability, Chapman Riebeek will assist you in understanding the legality of such decisions.

 

For Employees, the purpose of a benefit plan is to be there to help you when you need it. If your benefits do not provide you with the coverage you were told you would get, you may have a claim against your employer or the benefit provider. For employees on a disability coverage plan, it is prudent to ensure you understand your obligations and entitlements, to ensure your employment relationship stays intact.

 

Employee Immigration

Chapman Riebeek is proud to refer immigration questions to a local Alberta lawyer Karen Howley at https://www.crtlegal.ca/services.

 

Executive or Key Employees

Executive or Key Employees often hold duties of a critical nature to the employer, and their contracts typically reflect that. Employment Contracts for key employees often include terms not negotiated with operational or entry-level employees, such as:

  • Profit-sharing;
  • Bonuses
  • Retention perks;
  • Automobile or travel allowances;
  • Share or stock Vesting;
  • Favourable severance terms;

Key Employee Contracts and can also have employment agreements with more stringent terms than operational employees, or the role may carry personal liability, such as:

  • Non-competition agreements;
  • Confidentiality agreements;
  • Requirements for much longer notices of resignation;
  • Clawback provisions;
  • Director Insurance and risks

While Executive or Key Employees are often hired for their sophistication, ambiguous terms in employment contracts can be found in their favour if their employment agreement is solely drafted by the employer. Ambiguous or uncertain terms in executive agreements can lead to unintended, and often, expensive consequences when an Executive or Key Employee departs in a dispute.

For Employers, Chapman Riebeek LLP can provide employers with experience, foresight and advice when setting the groundwork for the next big hire. We assist you in ensuring that your next executive negotiation results in a fully understood and enforceable agreement. This type of advice is often provided in coordination with our corporate lawyers, to ensure the best interests of your business are in mind when hiring an outside executive or promoting a key employee.

For Executive Employees, Chapman Riebeek LLP understands that executive or key role careers are more competitive with respect to finding and holding. It is in a key employee’s advantage to negotiate terms that they would be willing to work under, prior to starting a next executive or key role career. Ensuring the clarity of terms when a contract links performance to compensation and responsibilities. It also protects you to understand how bonuses, stock options, or other perks operate in a wrongful dismissal situation. Chapman Riebeek LLP advises key executives in negotiating their way in, and out, of Key Roles with their Employers.

Human rights

Alberta Employers and businesses must comply with the Alberta Human Rights Act with respect to their employees.

 

Section 7(1)(b) of the Alberta Human Rights Act sets out protected grounds that cannot be relied upon or discriminated against in stopping or refusing to employ someone, or by discriminating terms/conditions of employment.

Discrimination re-employment practices

7             (1)  No employer shall

                           (a)    refuse to employ or refuse to continue to employ any person, or

                           (b)    discriminate against any person with regard to employment or any term or condition of employment,

 

because of the race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, gender identity, gender expression, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status or sexual orientation of that person or of any other person.

For example, if you have been fired for having to deal with stress leave – A complaint should be  made as that would qualify as discrimination contrary to section 7 of the AHRA:

No employ shall refuse to continue to employ any person because of the mental disability of that person.”

The same protection and analysis would apply to discrimination for any of the factors set out in 7(1)(b) (race, colour, gender, physical disability etc.).

Human Rights Complaints in the employment context have an important remedy that employees fired for non-discriminatory reasons do not qualify for reinstatement. Simply put, in certain employment discrimination cases, the Commission has reinstated the discriminated employee with back-pay, where the employer was found to have contravened the Human Rights Act.

Terminating an employee after he or she advises you of a mental or physical disability to which they are seeking accommodation usually results in a lawsuit.

Finally, employers are ultimately responsible for the safety of their work environment. If a staff member is subject to bullying, harassment or discrimination from other workers and the employer (typically management) is aware of such wrongs acts, it must intervene. Unfortunately, workplace bullying and harassment, which are wrong on their own, can rightly be characterized as human rights discrimination. Failing to police a workplace can result in liability for the employer in a situation when one employee discriminates against another on a protected ground. In 2019 the City of Halifax was ordered to pay damages of $593,000.00 in such a case.  https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/human-rights-board-racist-discrimination-1.5136856

For Employers: compliance with the Alberta Human Rights Act is not optional, it is mandatory. If you are being informed of staff requests for accommodation on a protected ground, the obligation to accommodate must be investigated. In certain cases, if accommodation creates an undue hardship to the employer it may be not be required. Where accommodation can be done without undue hardship, (such factors vary on a case by case basis); the changes should be implemented. We represent employers in front of the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal.

For Employees: Human Rights Complaints may be made while employed if you are discriminated against at work, or if your employment was terminated and a protected ground is a factor in the termination. This can be proven against the Employer even if the protected ground is a partial factor, not the sole cause. If termination of employment occurred for discriminatory reasons, you may be entitled to damages on top of an award for wrongful dismissal.

Shareholder Disputes & Oppression Claims in Alberta

Some Albertans wear two hats at work – they are both shareholders of, and employees of, their employer.

In those situations, there is a cross-over of legal relationships which can create further complications in the case of a dispute, or termination of the said worker. This can arise in small closely held trade shops, family farm operations, or even large oil and gas companies.

In Alberta, the Business Corporations Act generally sets out the legal obligations of a corporation with respect to its shareholders. It also provides a remedy in which a shareholder can seek assistance from a court when she finds herself in a situation that other shareholders are abusing her reasonably held (and objectively) expectations. In some situations, shareholders reasonably expect that while they are shareholders, they will be employed by their Corporation. If someone holding such an expectation is removed from their employment by the Corporation (or more accurately, by the other shareholders in control of the Corporation.) then that dismissed employee can apply to Court for relief. In some circumstances, they can win their jobs back. In other circumstances or results, they can have their shares valued and sold.

It is generally advised for those who are going to be shareholders and employees of a corporation to negotiate and reach agreements about their relationships with the other shareholders. The Business Corporations Act allows shareholders to form agreements between them known as Unanimous Shareholder Agreements, which can set out dispute resolution processes without relying on a Court.

Further, in a situation where you are employed by a privately held company (that you in part own), it is good planning to establish an agreement between specific shareholder/workers and the corporation for matters that may wind up being sources of conflict, including responsibilities; work hours; wages; profit sharing versus debt paying and how to reimburse shareholders for expenses.

 

For Employers: Chapman Riebeek LLP has experience litigating, negotiating and suing in matters that deal with closely held family corporations. In these situations, there is a balance between fair negotiations when available, but also enforcement of rights under Unanimous Shareholder Agreements, employment contracts, or through the application of the oppression remedy with the Court of Queen’s Bench.

 

For Employees: Chapman Riebeek LLP has negotiated successful buyout packages and share redemption plans on behalf of clients who are departing their role from family-held, or closely held, corporations.

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