April 16, 2020

Employers have the right to manage their workplaces, including by creating and implementing rules with disciplinary consequences, but in a unionized environment, the rules must be reasonable, clear, and uniformly applied. When do employer rules go too far? Can employers enforce rules that infringe on their employees’ privacy, right to self-expression, or personal autonomy? In this session, legal experts will clarify the limits on employer rules and policies, with a focus on the following issues:

  • What are the general legal principles governing the validity of unilaterally imposed employer rules? Are all attempts to exercise management rights and create rules to govern the workplace subject to the test of reasonableness?
  • What do the latest cases say about an employer’s ability to implement rules and policies on using technology to monitor its employees, equipment, and premises? What balance are adjudicators striking between an employer’s right to manage the workplace and employees’ privacy interests in this context?
  • What types of health and safety concerns justify employer policies that infringe on employees’ privacy rights? Can an employer implement a policy that requires employees to disclose all drug or alcohol use? Can an employer mandate flu shots or other infection-control measures?
  • What restrictions are imposed on employer rules requiring medical information for the administration of sick leave, attendance management, or short- or long-term disability programs?
  • Are employers entitled to enforce a dress code or other rules governing employees’ personal appearance at work? Is an employer required to accommodate employees who express their cultural identity through the way they dress? When an employee’s religious dress conflicts with workplace health and safety, how do adjudicators strike an appropriate balance?
  • In what circumstances, if any, can an employer justify a rule that will limit employees’ freedom while off duty? Will arbitrators and courts uphold discipline based on policies that require abstinence from cannabis during off-duty hours or for prolonged periods before an employee has to report to work?
  • Must employees always “work now and grieve later” if they wish to challenge an employer rule? If not, what are the exceptions?