2. How Employment Law Affects You

This video provides an overview of employment law in Ontario and outlines four key pieces of employment legislation in Ontario. The text below provides a summary of the video and includes more details about the Ontario Human Rights Code.

To read along, click here.

Employment Law: A Brief Introduction

One of the primary factors that regulates the workplace environment is employment law, and there are different types of law involved.

  • Provincial government laws (statutes and legislation) vary from province to province, and each province or territory’s laws apply to the people and businesses in that province. This course will focus on provincial employment laws, since the majority of businesses and industries in Canada are covered by provincial employment law.
  • Common law also sets down rules that have to be followed by employees and employers in the workplace. Common law, or judges’ decisions, create precedents or rules that become an accepted part of the law over time.
  • Federal employment laws (Government of Canada) apply to federally regulated businesses and industries and are not discussed in this course.

Other factors that affect employment are:

  • Collective bargaining agreements which set out terms and conditions related to employment and are negotiated between an employer and a union representing employees
  • Contracts between employers and employees
  • Independent contractor status

Employee or Independent Contractor?

Employment law applies to employees, not to independent contractors. Therefore, it is important to determine if you are hired as an employee or an independent contractor.

An employee is a person who engages in regular business activities set out by an employer in return for salary or wages.

An independent contractor provides services to a business, often on a contract basis. They are responsible for their own bookkeeping, tax filings, required licensing, insurance, and record keeping. Independent contractors are covered under contract law.

Ontario Employment Laws at a Glance

Since employment law is mainly provincial, it will differ depending on which province or territory you are in. The following four pieces of legislation are important when considering employment law in Ontario:

  1. The Employment Standards ActThis law sets out requirements to ensure employers treat workers fairly and covers standards related to a number of employment matters such as minimum wage, overtime work, leaves of absence, and termination of employment.
  2. The Ontario Human Rights CodeThis law sets out a number of prohibited grounds for discrimination and protects people from discrimination in many areas including employment.
  3. The Occupational Health and Safety ActThis law provides the structure and tools to make Ontario’s workplaces safe and healthy.
  4. The Workplace Safety and Insurance ActThis law ensures that employees who are injured or ill because of their job receive appropriate compensation.

In addition, employers have a duty to accommodate persons with disabilities. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) provides a framework for developing and implementing accessibility standards in organizations including: customer services standard, information and communications standard, transportation standard, employment standard, and design of public spaces standard. Visit the following links for more information: Government of Ontario: About Accessibility Laws and Accessible Workplaces

The following PDF provides a summary of four key employment laws in Ontario discussed in this course: Employment Laws at a Glance.

More About Discrimination and The Ontario Human Rights Code

What is discrimination? It means treating someone differently based on a prohibited ground—for example, asking about marital status during a job interview or refusing to hire someone based on race. The Ontario Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination in accommodation (housing); contracts; employment; goods, services and facilities; and membership in unions, trade or professional associations. Below is a list of the Ontario Human Rights Code prohibited grounds of discrimination. It is important to keep these in mind throughout the course as they apply to all stages of employment.

The Ontario Human Rights Code’s 16 Grounds of Discrimination

  • Race
  • Ancestry
  • Place of origin
  • Colour
  • Ethnic origin
  • Citizenship
  • Creed
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity
  • Gender expression
  • Age
  • Record of offences
  • Marital status
  • Family status
  • Disability

If an employee or prospective employee believes that their human rights have been violated, or that they have been discriminated against, they can file a human rights complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO)—their role is to resolve discrimination and harassment claims.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) is an excellent resource for more information on human rights in Ontario. They have open-access e-Learning modules on their website: OHRC eLearning Modules.

It is important to note that this course does not include a comprehensive list of legislation that impacts workplaces in Ontario. There is other legislation that impacts everyday employment practices and processes, but this course provides information about four key pieces of employment legislation in Ontario.

Knowledge Check: How Employment Law Affects You

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