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September 2008

The Blackberry Dilemma: Paying for the 24/7 Work Culture

By Gwendoline Allison

The arrival of BlackBerrys, PDAs and other forms of remote access has been hailed as a godsend for those looking for additional flexibility and options to keep in touch with our work. They provide more freedom to stay connected with work when away from the workplace and mean we are free to accept and handle work projects anytime and anywhere. While that prospect is attractive to many employers and employees, it raises difficult issues.

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Supreme Court of Canada Breathes New Life Into Fight Over Closure of Wal-Mart's (Unionized) Quebec Store

By Pratibha Sharma & Nicole Byres

Citing "financial reasons", on February 9, 2005 Wal-Mart announced it would close its Jonquière store less than 6 months after the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 503 was certified to represent the employees of that store, and the same day that the Quebec Ministry of Labour referred the union and Wal-Mart to arbitration in order to establish the first collective agreement. As a result of the closure of the store, 79 employees filed complaints that they had lost their jobs because of their union activities, contrary to section 15 of the Quebec's Labour Code. The complaints of four employees, represented by 2 claims (Gaetan Plourde v. Wal-Mart Canada Corp. et Commission des relations du travail and Johanne Desbiens, Ingrid Ratté and Claudine Beaumont v. Wal-Mart Canada Corporation et Commission des relations du travail) were then selected to proceed to hearing. After a series of rulings mostly in favour of Wal-Mart, on August 7, 2008 the Supreme Court of Canada has now granted the employees' applications for leave to appeal the two decisions, thereby setting the stage for one last attempt by the employees to demonstrate that they were dismissed because of their union activities, as opposed to Wal-Mart's position that the Jonquière store was closed for "good and sufficient reason", namely, the real and permanent closure of the store for financial reasons.

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Has the Business Case for Employment Practices Liability Insurance Been Undermined by the Effect of the Honda v. Keays Decision?

Until very recently, the extent to which courts were willing to punish an employer for bad behaviour in the course of termination of an employee was relatively unknown. The spectre of significant punitive damages has led some employers to purchase employment practices liability ("EPL") insurance coverage, designed to provide protection against damages arising out of an employer's wrongful acts such as sexual harassment, discrimination and wrongful dismissal. However, the Supreme Court of Canada's recent decision in Honda Canada Inc. v. Keays, 2008 SCC 39, which significantly reduced the lower courts' damage awards, may have a chilling effect on the popularity and necessity of this type of insurance.

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CW Lawyers to Argue Important Case Before the Supreme Court of Canada

Valerie Dixon, from the Labour & Employment Group will appear before the Supreme Court of Canada on October 16, 2008 arguing the case of KRG Insurance Brokers (Western) Inc. v. Shafron. The case concerns the issue of whether a Court may alter a vague or ambiguous non-competition clause in an employment agreement so as to render it enforceable.

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Dismissal of Addicted Employee for Theft Ruled Not Discriminatory

By Gwendoline Allison

It is well-known that employers must not discriminate against an employee on the basis of an employee's disability. It is equally well-known that alcoholism and drug addiction are disabilities. A challenge arises for employers when alcoholic or drug-dependent employees steal to feed their addictions: is it discrimination to terminate the employment?

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