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Fair or Foul: Do employees have an enforceable right to fairness at work?

Thursday, August 22, 2019, 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm EDT

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Colin Johnston



Ritu Mahil

Employer Counsel
Lawson Lundell
Christopher Rootham

Union Counsel
Nelligan O'Brien Payne


Equity, or fairness, in the workplace has long been identified as an important – or even primary – interest of employees. Is this interest in being treated fairly one that is legally protected? In this session, leading labour lawyers will discuss this question, identifying circumstances in which employees have a right to be treated fairly by their employers – defining what fairness means in these contexts – while noting circumstances in which employees' right to be treated fairly is less certain. Specific questions to be addressed include the following:

  • In a unionized workplace, is an employer generally required to exercise its right to manage in a fair and reasonable fashion in the absence of express language in the collective agreement requiring it to do so? Is the obligation to act in good faith in administering the collective agreement the same as – or comparable to – a duty to exercise management rights fairly and reasonably? Is there a difference between acting fairly and acting reasonably?
  • If there is collective agreement language requiring the employer to exercise its management rights fairly, does the requirement to act fairly extend beyond matters specifically covered by the collective agreement?
  • Must rules promulgated unilaterally by a unionized employer be "fair"? If so, what separates "fair" rules from "unfair" rules?
  • Leaving aside questions regarding the existence of a general duty of fairness, does an employer have an obligation to act fairly in disciplining or discharging employees in unionized workplaces? What about non-unionized workplaces? Does it matter whether the employer is a public or private organization?
  • What steps must an employer take to ensure that a workplace investigation is conducted fairly? Does it depend on the type of investigation? For example, are there specific requirements regarding procedural fairness in harassment investigations?
  • What is the scope of the union's obligation to represent bargaining unit members fairly? How can the union meet this duty when members are in conflict?
  • What are some best practices for ensuring fairness in the workplace? Do employers, unions, and employees have a shared interest in ensuring that workplaces are fair?

Additional Information

Valuable, up-to-date materials and case summaries will be available for downloading from our website. Each audio conference is accompanied by a PDF of concise summaries of the cases discussed.

Audio conference MP3 files are available for $260. Those who have purchased the live audio conference may purchase the corresponding downloadable audio MP3 file for the discounted price of $160.

The recorded MP3 file and materials are available for download one business day after the live audio conference. After purchasing, you will receive an e-mail with instructions on how to access and download the audio conference MP3 file and materials by visiting My Account and selecting Order History. For audio file purchases for upcoming audio conferences, once the MP3 file is available through our site, registrants will receive an update e-mail informing them that the links are now ready.

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