Ministry of Labour
- Location: Toronto
- Lawyers: 38
- Articling Students: 3
- Summer Law Students: 3
- Types of Law: Regulatory prosecutions; Administrative; Labour & Employment; Workers Compensation; Contracts; Access & Privacy; Constitutional; Human Rights.
Who we are
The Legal Services Branch of the Ministry of Labour (MOL) is the centre of legal excellence in the areas of occupational health and safety, employment standards, labour relations, workplace insurance, consumer protection, and pay equity law. We provide strategic, practical and high quality legal advice, advocacy, and legislative drafting services to the Ministry of Labour. We are also frequently called upon to provide legal advice in our areas of expertise to other government ministries.
What we do
The work of the litigation practice is considered key to advancing MOL’s goal of reducing workplace injuries and deaths ensuring compliance with minimum employment standards, and compliance with consumer protection legislation.
The litigation practice provides legal advice to MOL’s officers and inspectors, reviews recommendations to prosecute and conducts prosecutions under the Provincial Offences Act (POA) for violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA, 2000), and the Consumer Protection Act. The litigators travel throughout the province to conduct the prosecutions in the districts in which the offence took place. The litigation practice also initiates and responds to appeals to the higher courts.
In addition, the lawyers represent MOL in defending administrative compliance orders, issued by ministry officers under the ESA, 2000 and inspectors under the OHSA, in appeals to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB). They also represent the Ministry in judicial review proceedings involving decisions of the OLRB.
Finally, our lawyers represent the Ministry's interest, as required, at Coroner's Inquests involving the death of workers.
The solicitor practice has significant expertise in the areas of occupational health and safety, employment standards, labour relations, workplace insurance, pay equity law and administrative law. The solicitors provide strategic, practical and high quality legal advice and support on legislative, regulatory, operational, policy and corporate initiatives in all of the Ministry of Labour's key program areas. Our solicitors are also frequently called upon to provide legal advice in our areas of expertise to other ministries.
In addition, the solicitors provide legal advice on matters of general relevance to public law, including agency governance and accountability, procurement, contracts, freedom of information, privacy and conflict of interest. The solicitors are also responsible for the preparation of government legal documents respecting appointments to government agencies and agreements between ministries or other governments.
One of the key roles for a solicitor is to work with Ministry staff and Legislative Counsel to prepare legislation and regulations. Recently, solicitors have been involved in drafting legislation with respect to workplace violence and harassment, employment protections for foreign nationals, protecting employees’ tips, job protected leaves of absences, labour relations in the broader public sector and workplace safety and insurance coverage related to posttraumatic stress disorder.
Our major cases
- Ontario (Ministry of Labour) v. Flex-N-Gate Canada Co. (2014 – Court of Appeal for Ontario): A Ministry of Labour Inspector imposed 2 orders on the employer after a worker was injured at work. The employer complied with the orders, and upon sentencing, the Court considered compliance with the orders as mitigating factors and lowered the fines. The Crown appealed, and the Court of Appeal held the Court should not have discretion to treat an employer’s post-offence conduct as a mitigating factor on sentence. Rewarding an employer for complying with an inspector’s orders both reduces the incentive to comply with health and safety requirements before an accident occurs, and also reduces the effect of deterrence, the paramount sentencing principle for OHSA offences. The employer’s actions in promoting health and safety before the incident may be taken into account, as well as the employer’s post-offence conduct should it go beyond simple compliance with the inspector’s order(s).
- Blue Mountain Resorts Ltd. v. Bok (2013 – Court of Appeal for Ontario): A member of the public died after drowning in the resort’s unsupervised swimming pool. The employer did not report the death to the Ministry of Labour as required by s. 51(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act because the deceased was not an employee. The Court held that the interpretation of s. 51(1) requires the Ministry of Labour be notified of a death or critical injury at a site where there is a reasonable nexus between the hazard giving rise to the death or critical injury, and a realistic risk to worker safety at a workplace. The Court held that a workplace is where a worker conducts his or her employment duties at the time of the incident, or where a worker could reasonably be expected to be carrying out duties of their ordinary course of work.
- Ontario (Ministry of Labour) v. Sheehan's Truck Centre Inc. (2011 – Court of Appeal for Ontario): Sheehan employees were moving trucks marked for sale from one area of the parking lot to another. A worker was moving a truck with no rear window, and subsequently drove over another worker causing a serious injury. At issue was s. 56 of industrial workplace regulations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (Industrial Establishments, R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 851), which requires a signaller where the operator of a vehicle, mobile equipment, crane or similar material handling equipment does not have “a full view of the intended path of travel. The Court held that this requirement does not apply to road vehicles that are not actually or typically engaged in the handling of materials. The trucks being operated were intended for sale to the public and were not engaged in the handling of materials, and therefore did not trigger the application of s. 56.
What students do
Our articling students are given a broad range of experience within the branch, including:
- Full carriage of prosecutions under Part I of the POA with respect to violations of the OHSA and ESA, 2000
- Assisting Crown counsel with the preparation and presentation of prosecutions under Part III of the POA with respect to violations of the OHSA and ESA, 2000, the CPA
- Assisting Counsel with the preparation of Coroner’s Inquests
- Appearing before the Ontario Court of Justice to handle guilty pleas and routine court appearances on prosecutions under Part III of the POA
- Drafting facta for trial and appeal matters
- Preparing legal memoranda
- Providing research assistance to the litigators and solicitors
An articling placement with the branch may include a rotation at the OLRB where students are exposed to labour relations issues including grievances, collective bargaining disputes, etc.
Our summer law students are given the opportunity to be involved in a broad range of activities including:
- Appearing before the Ontario Court of Justice to handle routine court appearances (i.e. adjournments, consent motions etc.)
- Providing research assistance to the litigators and solicitors of the branch.
Why choose us
Articling and summer law students who work with us have a direct impact on the safety and fairness of workplaces throughout Ontario.
Our students gain practical experience in the area of quasi-criminal prosecutions and appeals, administrative hearings and judicial reviews, and legislative development. Our students also receive a first hand look at how the Ministry of Labour and its Boards and/or Agencies operate. It is an experience that is unmatched in private practice.
Our workplace is collegial and welcoming. We work hard to foster an inclusive and respectful environment that reflects the diversity of the people we serve. Our staff are proud to be associated with the branch.
Many of the students that have participated in the articling and summer law student program with our branch have continued to serve the people of Ontario at either the Ministry of Labour or other ministries.
Counsel & Chair, Ministry of Labour, Legal Services Branch