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Workplace PPE Policy: Can I Be Fired

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, employers have developed and implemented various policies designed to protect the health and safety of their employees as well as the general public. As with all other workplace policies, employees can be disciplined, up to and including termination, for failure to comply with a workplace PPE Policy.

What Is A Workplace PPE Policy?

All employers have the right to implement reasonable workplace policies. Employers also have the right to require their employees, as a condition of their employment, to comply with reasonable workplace policies.

However, employers cannot require employees to comply with a workplace PPE policy if doing so would be a violation of their rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”). Currently, the only grounds that employees have claimed exemption from PPE policies under are religious and medical grounds. Claims for PPE exemptions under medical grounds have generally been the only successful claims.

Can An Employer Fire An Employee At Any Time?

Employers have the right to terminate employees at any time, for any reason, as long as the reason is not a protected ground under the Code and as long as they provide the employee with their statutory or common law entitlements upon termination.

Under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the “Act”), employees who are terminated without cause are entitled to one week of pay in lieu of notice for every year of employment, up to a maximum of eight weeks of notice. Under the common law, employees can be entitled to up to a month of pay in lieu of notice per year of employment, up to a maximum of 24 months. Employees may also be entitled to severance pay, based on their length of employment and the size of their employer.

If an employee is told that they are being terminated without cause, even if they have reason to believe that they are being terminated due to failure to comply with their employer’s workplace PPE policy, the employer is obligated to provide the employee with their termination entitlements. If the employee is terminated without cause and is not provided with their legal entitlements upon termination, or they are given less they are legally entitled to, then the employee can claim wrongful dismissal.

If an employee is told that they are being terminated with cause for failure to comply with their employer’s PPE policy, they can claim that they have been wrongfully dismissed. In Ontario, termination for cause is a high standard to meet, and the Act only identifies three circumstances where such termination is justified: an employee must be guilty of willful misconduct, disobedience or willful neglect of duty that is not trivial and has not been condoned by the employer.

An employer who terminates an employee for cause for failure to follow their PPE policy may have sufficient grounds to justify such termination under the Act. At this point in the pandemic, it can be argued that failing to comply with a workplace PPE policy constitutes either willful misconduct or disobedience. If the employee’s workplace duties cannot be performed without proper PPE, an employer may likely have grounds to terminate the employee for willful neglect of duty that is not trivial and has not been condoned by the employer.

Employees should be aware that they will not be eligible for EI if they are terminated with cause for failure to comply with their employer’s PPE policy.

Contact Us

If you are an employer who requires assistance implementing a workplace PPE policy, or an employee who is wrongfully dismissed, our team of experienced employment and human rights lawyers at Achkar Law can help. Contact us by phone toll-free at +1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at [email protected] and we would be happy to assist.

If you are a small or medium-sized company looking for full-service support with a same-day response, visit our CLO Program page for our strategic solutions.

Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to serve as or should be construed as legal advice and is only to provide general information. It is in no way particular to your case and should not be relied on in any way. No portion or use of this blog will establish a lawyer-client relationship with the author or any related party. Should you require legal advice for your particular situation, fill out the contact form, call (800) 771-7882 or email [email protected]