June 18, 2014

Overtime can be a desirable way for employees to earn extra income and an efficient way for employers to fill in gaps in work coverage. However, conflicts can arise when employers need overtime work performed while employees cannot or do not want to work overtime for various reasons, including work-life balance. Moreover, issues can result from the method of allocating overtime to ensure equitable distribution. These and other critical issues relating to the law of overtime will be addressed by Lancaster’s panel of experts in this audio session, including:

  • Assigning overtime: Can an employer assign compulsory overtime to employees if the collective agreement is silent on the issue? What will be considered a “reasonable personal excuse” to exempt an employee from overtime work? Where a collective agreement provides that working overtime is voluntary, can a union counsel employees to refuse overtime? Can a union discipline a member for failing to comply with a ban on working overtime?
  • Distributing overtime: Do employers have a duty to act fairly and reasonably in distributing overtime? How do job descriptions of employees affect the determination of who has to be called in when the employer requires someone to work overtime hours? What remedy do employees have who have been improperly denied an overtime opportunity? Can employers rearrange schedules to avoid the payment of overtime? What type of activity outside of regularly scheduled working hours will constitute compensable “work” for the purpose of determining overtime?
  • Statutory limitations: Can an employment contract set a monthly salary that is fixed, regardless of the hours worked? What approach do arbitrators take to determine whether employment standards legislation does not apply because the contract provides a better benefit? What is the maximum number of consecutive hours an employee may work in each Canadian jurisdiction? In what circumstances can an employer demand that an employee work more than the maximum statutory limit? Is an employer obliged to pay overtime when it refuses to authorize it but the work requires it?
  • Human rights limitations: When will the employer’s right to schedule hours of work be restricted by its obligations under human rights legislation? For example, if an employer’s assignment of overtime interferes with an employee’s childcare or religious obligations, does this constitute discrimination?
  • Social, psychological, and health and safety considerations: What is the difference between the stress that is inherent in any job, and stress that is harmful to an employee’s health? What are some signs that an employee is experiencing harmful levels of stress? What do people mean when they talk about burnout, and what are the common signs of burnout? What are the employer’s obligations when overtime can lead to occupational injury, and negative effects on performance, particularly in industries such as healthcare and transportation, where exhaustion or fatigue can lead to potential health and safety dangers? What kinds of overtime policies can employers implement to help to foster employees’ work-life balance and prevent stress and burnout? What can be done to minimize the adverse effects that shiftwork can have on family life and personal health? How can unions and employers assist employees in harmonizing work and family obligations?
  • Class actions: A number of class actions have been launched in Canada on behalf of groups of employees for alleged unpaid overtime. How have courts treated these cases? What lessons do these cases provide for employers and employees in terms of how to protect their interests in relation to claims for overtime compensation?