Sep 14

Hello everyone.  Welcome to MHRM 6700, Workplace Law,  Practice, and Policy.

This class explores the Three Regimes of Work Law: (1)  The Common Law;  (2)  Employment Regulation (Employment Standards and Human Rights); and (3)  Collective Bargaining Law.

The course objective is to familiarize you with key issues and policy debates that shape the law of the workplace.  You will learn key legal rules relevant to HR managers, and you will engage the key ‘big’ debates that shape all labour policy and the role of law in trying to influence employment conditions.  Thus, the course is a mix of practical law and theoretical and policy debate.

Course Blogs

This is the course blog, where all course related information will be posted.  You should also check out my main blog, Law of Work Blog, for stories that relate directly to the material that will be discussed in this course.  You can find the link to this course blog on my main blog, under the tab at the top called “Current Courses”.  You will need a password to access some of the MHRM6700 course blog.  I will give it to you via email.

The outline is posted above under the Outline tab. You need to enter the password, which I will send to you via email.  I understand that the textbook has been mailed out.

County Beer Company Case Study

We will do some of the exercises from the County Bay Beer Company case study as a group exercise each week, under the tab Case Study on top of this page. In groups, you will discuss one or more of the exercises in the case study.  However, please read and think about all of the exercises ahead of the class.  In most instances, the ‘answers’ to the questions raised in the exercises are found in the readings you’ve been assigned for the week.  Make notes about how you would answer the questions so you are able to participate in a discussion in class.

Please let me know if you have any questions about the first assignment or anything else, and otherwise I will see you on September 29.   Cheers, David

Aug 12

You will need to access case law and law texts in this class.  Here is a quick guide to finding material on-line.

1. Free Internet Case Law

A lot of cases (not all) are now available for free on CanLII.  You need to use CanLII for your first 3 Minute Lawyer exercise.  It uses a simple search engine.  You can access statutes and case law decisions.

You can search nationally or by province.  If you click on Ontario, for example, your searches will be confined to Ontario.  You’ll see when you click on a province that specific courts and tribunals are listed. For example, if you click Ontario you will find a list of Boards and Tribunals.  In that list is the Ontario Labour Relations Board, the Human Rights Tribunals, and Labour Arbitration Awards.  These are tribunals that are important in the Law of Work.

2.    Quicklaw

Quicklaw is the main case law database used by lawyers.  It’s expensive, but you have free access to it while you are a student.  Just search Quicklaw in e-resouces, and then “click on access this resource”.  On the next page, click “Register Later”.  Then on the next page click “Accept”.    That gives you access to the database.  You can search by topic or case name.  Quicklaw includes all courts and tribunals in Canada.  It has more cases than CanLII, since not every case makes it onto CanLII.

3.Law of Work E-Texts

There are several good e-texts available using York University’s library e-resources database.   You will need to enter your passport York information.

For the Collective Bargaining Regime [often referred to as Labour Law]

On E-Resources, search for ‘Labour Source”. Follow the link to the database, where you can find several labour law texts, including:

Canadian Labour Arbitration (known in the field as “Brown & Beatty” after the names of the authors).  This book is the leading textbook on labour arbitration in Canada, which is the litigation of grievances in unionized environment.  The book explains the law and links to arbitration decisions.

Canadian Labour Law  by George Adams.  This is a leading text that explains all aspects of collective bargaining law (unionization, collective bargaining, labour arbitration, strikes and lockouts).

Labour Arbitration Cases (L.A.C.), is the leading case law reporter for arbitration decisions.

For the Common Law and Regulatory Standards Regimes [often referred to as “Employment Law”]

On E-Resources, search for “Employment Source”.  Follow the link to the database of that name by WestLawNext Canada.  There you can ask several Employment Law texts, including:

S. Ball, Canadian Employment Law

H. Levitt, The Law of Dismissal in Canada




Nov 1

Hi all. We will be discussing the third regime of workplace law starting this weekend: Collective Bargaining Law.

I used to show two videos in this class.  One is a history documentary following the development of the Canadian labour movement and labour laws. The other is a documentary of a particularly difficult round of collective bargaining at Bombardier near the Toronto airport in the mid-1990s.  I decided that it wasn’t the best use of classroom time to show these videos, but after some lobbying, I’ve managed to get York librarians to obtain the streaming rights to the videos. That means you can watch the videos from your home computer if you have time and interest.  If you use a Mac, I suggest you use Firefox instead of Safari to view these movies.

The Labour History Videos

There is a series of 4 short documentaries of about 20 minutes each.  I used to show Part 2 (Hard Times, High Hopes, 1929-1945), because it shows the origins of our modern labour law model (P.C. 1003, which we learn about in Class 3).  If you want to watch it, or any of the other 3 videos, follow the links here, stroll to the bottom where it says Click to Access this Resource, and enter your York library passwords:

Brave Beginnings, 1900-1925

Hard Times, Brave Beginnings (1929-1945)

The New Militancy (1965-1984)

Holding the Line (1984-New Millennium)

The Bombardier – CAW Strike and Bargaining Documentary

This is a pretty fascinating film, because it follows the back room in-fighting within a divided CAW bargaining team.

Background:  The CAW’s main people in the film are the CAW President (Buzz Hargrove) and the Head of the union bargaining committee (Merv Grey).  Grey is a worker in the factory who has been elected by the workers to represent them in bargaining.  Buzz runs the union.  The employer eventually tells the union that if the union does not agree to the employer’s proposal, it will close the factory and fire everyone.  Buzz thinks the threat is real, and advises Merv and the bargaining committee to accept the employer’s offer.   The workers and some on the committee think the employer is bluffing about the threat to move the work.  So in much of the movie, the union is engaged in in-fighting with one another.  Buzz disagrees with the strategy of the workers, and the workers are very angry with Buzz and the employer.  We don’t see the employer that often.

Watch how the union’s negotiators are always concerned about whether the workers will vote for the proposed agreement.  This bargaining is way more hostile than most, but you can see how collective bargaining is way different than individual bargaining.   If you have questions about the movie, use the Comment function.

Warning:  there is a lot of bad language, so I apologize for this.

Here is the link to the video. You will need to enter your York library information.

Jun 16

Protected: Muskoka Bay: Class 2

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Jun 16

Protected: Muskoka Bay: Class One

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May 22

Here are a bunch of possible essay topics off the top of my head in no particular order. If none of these interest you, and nothing else is coming to mind, I recommend you email me and tell me in a general way what interests you. We can then think about possible topics.

Possible Essay Topics

1.  The Ontario government is presently reviewing both employment standards and collective bargaining legislation in light of the “changing workplace”.  Examine what is meant by “the changing workplace”, and what are some of the proposals that have been submitted to address them?

2. The use and legality of ‘unpaid interns’ is getting a lot of attention in Canada today.  Explore how the law deals with unpaid interns and the policy challenges associated with dealing with their use.

3. In HRM literature, the shift to ‘flexible’ employment and ‘self-employment’ is often described as beneficial for both business and workers.  However, the OECD has said that the move to more ‘self-employment’ is a major cause of growing income inequality in Canada. Should governments be concerned about the trend towards more self-employment and if so what might they do about it?

4. Canadian judges long ago implied a term into employment contracts requiring that ‘reasonable notice’ be given of the termination of the contract. That requirement was later adopted by governments and incorporated into statutory ‘minimum notice’ provisions. However, in the U.S., the courts went another direction completely. They decided that employment contracts are ‘at will’. This means that either side can terminate the contract at any time without giving notice. Examine the origins of the divergent approaches and the philosophies used to justify them. Which model do you believe is ‘preferable’?

5. “It is true that unions have measurable effects on wages and benefits, which usually benefit workers, but they also impose considerable restraints on the ability of employers to implement progressive HR policies and strategies.” Evaluate this comment, with reference to the academic literature on union effects and labour arbitration law relating to management rights.

6.  Explore the debates about the impacts of unions on such things as productivity, profitability, and employment levels.

7. While the Canadian collective bargaining model that began with P.C. 1003 did a lot to build a middle-class in Canada, it was principally men (mostly white men) that benefited. The model was never designed to influence working conditions in the sorts of jobs where most women were employed. Yet today over 50 percent of union members are women. What explains this dramatic turnaround, and does it mean that women are in a position to take the leadership role in the Canadian labour movement?

8. The question of how far the ‘right to strike’ should go has been a topic of debate in recent years because of strikes at universities and high schools and in public transit and garbage collection. The TTC was recently declared an ‘essential service’, and the Harper government prohibited strikes at Air Canada and Canada Post. Last year, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects a right to strike.  Explore the debates in Canada about the ‘right to strike’ and the possible affects of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

10. Select a subject related to HR and examine in depth how that subject is governed by the law.

11. Compare a feature of Canadian labour and employment law to the laws of another country dealing with the same subject matter. Or, compare and contrast how different Canadian jurisdictions deal with the same or similar issues related to employment. (you can talk to me about possible subjects where there are differences).

13.   Explore the law that governs an HR issue that you or your organization has had deal with.  Do you think that law strikes an appropriate balance between the employer’s interests and the employees’ interest?

14.  Choose an academic in the field of industrial relations or employment/labour law and explore themes and ideas in their work.

15.  Explore the debates about whether the minimum wage laws reduce poverty.

16.   Explore the literature that explains why workers join unions, and assess the potential for workers in your workplace or industry to look to unions in light of those findings.

17.    Examine and evaluate  the various studies that have looked at the “demand for unionization” in Canada and the U.S. (the assessment of whether workers would like to belong to unions if given the opportunity).  What issues do these studies raise for public policy reform, if any.

19.   The HRPA is implementing a new ‘jurisprudence’ exam.  This suggests a new concern that HRM professionals be well versed in the law.  For example, “employment law” was never a required course in the certification program.  However, a little legal knowledge can be dangerous because the risk and exposure to an employer of misinterpreting or misapplying the law can be very high.  Discuss the relationship between the HR role and the law, and assess the decision of the HRPA to test legal knowledge.

20.   The Ontario government recently enacted Bill 32, An Act respecting the Human Resources Professionals Association.  Explain the background of this Bill and assess its likely impact.

21.  How does the Human Rights Code deal with employees with addictions and what is the extent of an employer’s duty to accommodate those employees?