Employment lawyer on employees wearing proper PPE at work

Interview Summary

A Canada Post employee was recently sent home as he failed to wear the mask deemed appropriate and provided to him by the postal service. The employee in question argued that his own personal mask was of superior quality. What can employees do in this situation? Are employers obligated to enforce certain PPE and public health regulations?

A Toronto employment lawyer and Senior Associate at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP spoke with Mike Stubbs on Global News Radio 980 CFPL to answer these questions and more.

Interview Notes

Why did Canada Post send home an employee if they were still wearing a mask?

Canada Post decided to send an employee home after it was discovered they were not wearing the mask provided to them by the postal service. The employee in question argued that the mask they were wearing was superior in quality and protection. Employees are obligated to comply with the regulations set by the government and their employer.

Can employees legally choose to wear their own PPE if it provides better protection?

Ultimately employees in this situation are deviating from a policy established by their employer. If employees are allowed to wear masks of their own choosing, some could don PPE that is substandard with less protection. Employers could implement a change in policy and should speak to their employees as public health regulations change. The size and scale of a company and employer do factor into setting policies and parameters for employees. A large company will have more difficulty in monitoring the PPE employees choose to wear.

Safety in the workplace during COVID-19

Are workplace policies more noteworthy and discussed as a result of COVID-19?

Decisions by employers and employees have received more attention from the public as a result of the pandemic or if the reason behind the policy change is due to COVID-19. Workplace policies have largely shifted or had to institute changes purely as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

Will employers be able to enforce specific PPE regulations or will it be determined on a case-by-case basis?

Canada Post employees are largely unionized and so the collective bargaining agreement will determine how best to move forward. For non-unionized employees, regulations might have to be determined based on the sector in which the employee works and the policies in place for varying workplaces.

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