Firing innocent spouse expensive

News Aug 06, 2022 by Ed Canning Hamilton Spectator

Jack and Jill lived together. Jack owned one-third of a landscaping company with Sonny and Cher, who were also a couple. Jill worked for the company performing administrative duties from home. Cher always gave Jill positive feedback about her contribution to the company and never had any complaints.

One day Jack had a heated argument with Cher and resigned, giving one month’s notice. Two days later, Jill got an email from Cher indicating that the company could no longer employ her because it was a “high conflict of interest.” If Jill wanted to stay on she would have to work out in the field as a landscaper rather than performing her usual administrative duties. Jill believed the conflict of interest referred to was Cher’s fear that Jack would be able to see confidential information belonging to the company on the computer she used at home. Jill went off sick for two weeks, but before that ended the company sent a letter terminating her for cause.

When Jill brought a claim for discrimination on the basis of her marital status, Sonny and Cher started to scrape the barrel. They alleged she had used the company credit card without reimbursing them. That was false. In all the years she worked there she had only used it twice when she forgot her wallet and promptly reimbursed the company. The company tried to allege poor performance notwithstanding that it had never had any complaints while she worked there. The list goes on and all the grounds were silly.

Before I lost a case in the Supreme Court of Canada in 2001, most people would have argued that discrimination on the basis of marital status meant doing something bad to somebody because they were married or not married. Most people would have said that firing Jill because they don’t like Jack was unfair, but not discrimination. At least that’s what I argued. The Supreme Court of Canada decided, however, that the problem was in the act of stereotyping someone like Jill because of something Jack did or said. To assume that Jill would suddenly become disloyal or share confidential information is discriminatory because it stereotypes Jill’s expected behaviour based on her marital status. It does not take into account her individual merit or capabilities.

Despite all of the employer’s backtracking in this case and attempts to claim that the reasons were unrelated to the fight Jack and Cher had, they were not believed. It was clear Jill lost her job because her common-law husband got into an argument with a co-owner and quit. The employer was found to have discriminated and ordered to pay some lost wages and $30,000 in general damages.

People often meet and fall in love at work or end up working at the same place because of their already existing relationship. Employers must always treat those two people as completely distinct and separate entities, as if they had no relationship at all. Stereotyping somebody’s expected behaviour or attitude based on how their spouse thinks is discriminatory. People who have been married a long time would probably agree that it’s not only discriminatory but silly given how often people in long-term relationships disagree.

Ed Canning practises employment and human rights law with Ross & McBride LLP, in Hamilton, representing both employers and employees. Email him at ecanning@rossmcbride.com.For more employment law information: hamiltonemploymentlaw.com.

Firing innocent spouse expensive

Stereotyping somebody’s expected behaviour or attitude based on how their spouse thinks is discriminatory, writes Ed Canning.

News Aug 06, 2022 by Ed Canning Hamilton Spectator

Jack and Jill lived together. Jack owned one-third of a landscaping company with Sonny and Cher, who were also a couple. Jill worked for the company performing administrative duties from home. Cher always gave Jill positive feedback about her contribution to the company and never had any complaints.

One day Jack had a heated argument with Cher and resigned, giving one month’s notice. Two days later, Jill got an email from Cher indicating that the company could no longer employ her because it was a “high conflict of interest.” If Jill wanted to stay on she would have to work out in the field as a landscaper rather than performing her usual administrative duties. Jill believed the conflict of interest referred to was Cher’s fear that Jack would be able to see confidential information belonging to the company on the computer she used at home. Jill went off sick for two weeks, but before that ended the company sent a letter terminating her for cause.

When Jill brought a claim for discrimination on the basis of her marital status, Sonny and Cher started to scrape the barrel. They alleged she had used the company credit card without reimbursing them. That was false. In all the years she worked there she had only used it twice when she forgot her wallet and promptly reimbursed the company. The company tried to allege poor performance notwithstanding that it had never had any complaints while she worked there. The list goes on and all the grounds were silly.

Before I lost a case in the Supreme Court of Canada in 2001, most people would have argued that discrimination on the basis of marital status meant doing something bad to somebody because they were married or not married. Most people would have said that firing Jill because they don’t like Jack was unfair, but not discrimination. At least that’s what I argued. The Supreme Court of Canada decided, however, that the problem was in the act of stereotyping someone like Jill because of something Jack did or said. To assume that Jill would suddenly become disloyal or share confidential information is discriminatory because it stereotypes Jill’s expected behaviour based on her marital status. It does not take into account her individual merit or capabilities.

Despite all of the employer’s backtracking in this case and attempts to claim that the reasons were unrelated to the fight Jack and Cher had, they were not believed. It was clear Jill lost her job because her common-law husband got into an argument with a co-owner and quit. The employer was found to have discriminated and ordered to pay some lost wages and $30,000 in general damages.

People often meet and fall in love at work or end up working at the same place because of their already existing relationship. Employers must always treat those two people as completely distinct and separate entities, as if they had no relationship at all. Stereotyping somebody’s expected behaviour or attitude based on how their spouse thinks is discriminatory. People who have been married a long time would probably agree that it’s not only discriminatory but silly given how often people in long-term relationships disagree.

Ed Canning practises employment and human rights law with Ross & McBride LLP, in Hamilton, representing both employers and employees. Email him at ecanning@rossmcbride.com.For more employment law information: hamiltonemploymentlaw.com.

Firing innocent spouse expensive

Stereotyping somebody’s expected behaviour or attitude based on how their spouse thinks is discriminatory, writes Ed Canning.

News Aug 06, 2022 by Ed Canning Hamilton Spectator

Jack and Jill lived together. Jack owned one-third of a landscaping company with Sonny and Cher, who were also a couple. Jill worked for the company performing administrative duties from home. Cher always gave Jill positive feedback about her contribution to the company and never had any complaints.

One day Jack had a heated argument with Cher and resigned, giving one month’s notice. Two days later, Jill got an email from Cher indicating that the company could no longer employ her because it was a “high conflict of interest.” If Jill wanted to stay on she would have to work out in the field as a landscaper rather than performing her usual administrative duties. Jill believed the conflict of interest referred to was Cher’s fear that Jack would be able to see confidential information belonging to the company on the computer she used at home. Jill went off sick for two weeks, but before that ended the company sent a letter terminating her for cause.

When Jill brought a claim for discrimination on the basis of her marital status, Sonny and Cher started to scrape the barrel. They alleged she had used the company credit card without reimbursing them. That was false. In all the years she worked there she had only used it twice when she forgot her wallet and promptly reimbursed the company. The company tried to allege poor performance notwithstanding that it had never had any complaints while she worked there. The list goes on and all the grounds were silly.

Before I lost a case in the Supreme Court of Canada in 2001, most people would have argued that discrimination on the basis of marital status meant doing something bad to somebody because they were married or not married. Most people would have said that firing Jill because they don’t like Jack was unfair, but not discrimination. At least that’s what I argued. The Supreme Court of Canada decided, however, that the problem was in the act of stereotyping someone like Jill because of something Jack did or said. To assume that Jill would suddenly become disloyal or share confidential information is discriminatory because it stereotypes Jill’s expected behaviour based on her marital status. It does not take into account her individual merit or capabilities.

Despite all of the employer’s backtracking in this case and attempts to claim that the reasons were unrelated to the fight Jack and Cher had, they were not believed. It was clear Jill lost her job because her common-law husband got into an argument with a co-owner and quit. The employer was found to have discriminated and ordered to pay some lost wages and $30,000 in general damages.

People often meet and fall in love at work or end up working at the same place because of their already existing relationship. Employers must always treat those two people as completely distinct and separate entities, as if they had no relationship at all. Stereotyping somebody’s expected behaviour or attitude based on how their spouse thinks is discriminatory. People who have been married a long time would probably agree that it’s not only discriminatory but silly given how often people in long-term relationships disagree.

Ed Canning practises employment and human rights law with Ross & McBride LLP, in Hamilton, representing both employers and employees. Email him at ecanning@rossmcbride.com.For more employment law information: hamiltonemploymentlaw.com.