What’s the HR Perspective?
Jason Beeho, LLB
According to Jason Beeho, Partner at Toronto employment law firm Levitt LLP, there are three HR law issues in-house counsel should be particularly mindful of: employment agreements, the duty to accommodate, and occupational health and safety considerations.
“General Counsel should understand the value of having a good employment agreement in place,” says Beeho. “Having an employment agreement signed off by new hires means you have enforceable terms to manage exposure in the event of termination—particularly around intellectual property confidentiality and non-solicitation.”
The duty to accommodate is another issue. “There are two things that are important to understand. One, [an employee being] denied short-term disability benefits doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have a medical issue that needs to be accommodated. And two, for people who have been on long-term disability for a lengthy period and you want to get them off the books—there is not a magic number in terms of length of absence where you can terminate them. You need to look at the individual circumstances.”
Finally, there’s occupational health and safety compliance—particularly in office settings not considered dangerous environments. “It’s not a construction site, but you still must consider OHS from a compliance perspective, particularly since Bill 168 made workplace violence and harassment part of the OHS regime. There are a lot of training obligations that go along with that and policy requirements that must be implemented.”
“While in-counsel often bring more of a transactional or corporate mindset, when you crossover into dealing with HR issues, these are fundamentally people issues,” says Beeho. “General Counsel and HR need to have an appreciation for each other’s mandates.”