Safeguarding the Post-COVID Workplace Against Toxic Employees

With COVID-19 vaccination rates climbing and infections rates dropping in some geographies, many employers are preparing plans to recall employees who have been telecommuting, or on temporary layoff and infectious disease emergency leave (IDEL).

News outlets have recently warned that the end of statutorily-protected IDEL may trigger a wave of resignations especially from women (see, for example, this story from Global News). Keeping good employees will require employers to consider significant changes, including “hybrid” telecommuting/attendance policies, paid sick leave, and rigorous infection control practices. In addition to enhancing sanitation and social distancing protocols, employers should not overlook an important strategy for ensuring the safety of the post-COVID workplace: containing COVID-denying and/or otherwise toxic employees.

We have heard that during the pandemic, some employers have simply put off dealing with problem employees while they hang out on IDEL or layoff. And as we count down the months and weeks to the post-COVID return to work, employers should consider providing those employees with notice of termination. The cost of a severance package is, in our experience, almost always outweighed by the human and financial damage caused by toxic employees in the workplace.

Employers should also feel assured that employee challenges to workplace infection control protocols will not succeed. For example, Human Rights Tribunals in British Columbia and Ontario have issued decisions making it clear that there is no obligation on the part of employers to accommodate the views of employees who may object to wearing masks on the basis of their personal belief systems. See Worker v. The District Managers, 2021 BCHRT 41, and Sharma v. Toronto (City), 2020 HRTO 949. And while Canadian employers wring their hands over vaccination policies, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued a statement indicating that COVID-19 vaccination is a bona fide occupational requirement (see the EEOC’s guidance document online). Employees returning to the workplace should feel confident that employers are doing everything reasonably possible to ensure their safety on the job. This means that not only must employers enact and enforce infection control policies, they should not tolerate challenges or defiance of those policies.

This pandemic will eventually come to an end. The post-COVID workplace should be a safer, healthier place for workers, which means much more than simply installing hand sanitizer stations and sneeze guards. Employers should also plan to inoculate the workplace against harassment and discrimination – and not recalling toxic employees is a good start. Contact Bridge Legal and HR Solutions for assistance with planning severance packages for employees who are not part of your company’s future.

Latest Posts

The Future of Remote Work

As organizations begin to plan for employees returning to the office, they should look at their employee location strategy and consider implementing hybrid workplaces. 94 percent of 800 employers surveyed by Mercer (an HR and workplace benefits consulting firm) said that productivity was the same as or higher than it was before the pandemic, even with employees working remotely. Creating a hybrid workforce enables a flexible workforce which increases engagement may be an attractive recruitment marketing tool.

Read More »
Logo

Superior Match-Up: Same Facts, Different Results

Employees laid off during the COVID-19 period are deemed to be on infectious disease emergency leave and are not actually laid off – or so says an Ontario regulation. However, the Ontario Superior Court has come up both heads and tails on the issue. Hansard records indicate that MPPs believe the regulation is stymying terminations and keeping businesses afloat. Who’s right? It may be too soon to tell.

Read More »

Sexual Discrimination in Ontario

Employers need to stay current and compliant when it comes to sexual discrimination and harassment laws in Ontario. Expected and continual changes in the law will require employers to take concrete steps for ensuring their workplace is free of sexual discrimination. Employers must also address any sexual discrimination and harassment issues promptly when they arise. Call Bridge Legal & HR Solutions today to protect your organization.

Read More »