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  • HR Heartbeat: Workplace investigation blunders, public pocket raiders and…

HR Heartbeat: Workplace investigation blunders, public pocket raiders and…

This week’s HR Heartbeat explores why proper workplace investigations are vital when you suspect employee misconduct. Plus, find out why employers should be prepared for minimum wage increases.

First published on Tuesday, Sep 05, 2023

Last updated on Tuesday, Sep 05, 2023

3 min read

Have you heard the latest news?

Welcome to HR Heartbeat, where we give you a rundown of the week's top employment law stories. Stay on the pulse of current trends impacting your business. Plus get up-to-the-minute commentary on all things HR and legal.

So, let's check out this week's headlines..

Workplace investigation blunders

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice recently awarded a wrongfully terminated employee $50,000.00 in bad faith and moral damages partly because of an improper workplace investigation.

Investigations began after the employer received anonymous complaints that a certain worker received a promotion due to their romantic relationship with the business’s Executive Director, presenting a conflict of interest.

The Court found that the employer failed to conduct the investigation with fairness and impartially by hiring a third-party investigator with links to the employer’s own in-house counsel.

Further hammering the nail in their coffin, the employer also started the investigations before notifying the employee in writing, failed to conduct interviews confidentially, and used coercion and intimidation when it became evident there was no basis for a just cause termination.

Workplace investigations can be a challenge, but they must always be done with diligence, or you risk facing costly consequences and other negative outcomes.

Need help navigating a workplace investigation? Speak to our team of employment relations experts for guidance on how to go about it compliantly.

Bigger bucks for minimum wage

Time to adjust your payroll! Starting October 1, 2023, Ontario will increase the general minimum wage to $16.55 an hour from $15.50 an hour, representing an approximate 6.8% increase.

The wage guide for the hunting, fishing, and wilderness sectors will increase to $82.85 per day from $77.60 when working less than five consecutive hours in a day, and to $165.75 from $155.25 per day when working five or more hours a day.

This comes as good news for many employees as inflation and the cost of living continue to rise. The minimum wage is set to go up in a few other provinces too, so all employers must make sure they factor this development into their business processes.

It's important to keep accurate records that you pay your employees the correct wages or you could risk miscalculating pay resulting in dissatisfied employees or worse, landing in legal trouble.

Need support getting your payroll right? Having a handy and compliant payroll tool can help you give accurate information to the CRA and keep track.

Public pocket raiders

The Canada Revenue Agency recently had to fire over 100 employees for inappropriately claiming the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) during the pandemic.

The CRA distributed around $2,000 to workers who couldn’t earn a living during the COVID-19 lockdowns, and it appears some of their own employees dipped their hands into the pot. The agency initially fired 20 employees earlier in the year and after conducting workplace investigations found even more employees had engaged in the same misconduct.

Theft, willful misconduct, and or misappropriating company funds is grounds for just cause dismissals, but you should take care not to rush into firing an employee when you suspect they’ve engaged in theft. Make sure you conduct a thorough workplace investigation and gather enough evidence to prove your case, or you could be hit with a wrongful dismissal claim.

That's it for today! Come back next week for more HR news so you stay ahead of major employment law changes.

Have more questions on similar topics and more? We’ve got thousands of answers to all your HR and health & safety dilemmas.

Ask BrightLightning:

What can I do if I don't have any evidence of alleged misconduct?

Check whether you have carried out as full an investigation as you can. It will be difficult to get a fair dismissal if there is no evidence.

Is there anything wrong with not paying the provincial minimum wage?

Failure to pay employees the statutory minimum wage rate breaches employment standards legislation and, consequently, would be the basis for an employment standards claim. If employers have not been paying the applicable minimum wage rate, they should immediately raise wages to meet it and provide retroactive compensation for past wage irregularities.

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