Karen Tereposky on employee rights in Alberta post-COVID-19

Interview Summary

As more COVID-19 restrictions lift across the province and workplaces prepare for a return to normalcy, employers and employees across Alberta are questioning their responsibilities. Will employees have to return to a physical office? Can employers mandate vaccines?

Karen Tereposky, an employment lawyer and Associate at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP joins Global News at Noon Edmonton to answer these questions and more.

Interview Notes

Can an employer require proof of vaccination?

It is important to determine the purpose of an employer requesting proof of vaccination from an employee. Employers cannot penalize an employee based on their vaccination status however the information can be used in order to provide possible accommodations.

Do employees have to return to a physical workplace?

Employers have the right to request employees return to the workplace as COVID-19 was a unique and unforeseen situation. Employees who refuse to return to the workplace and do not have a medical condition or childcare obligations can be considered to have abandoned their jobs.

Employers do not have the right to make changes to a worker’s job (reduction in pay or hours, change in title or duties). Such modifications to the terms of employment are illegal. An employee faced with a significant change can treat it as a constructive dismissal and get full severance pay with help from an employment lawyer.

Can an employee refuse to work overtime?

Employees have to consider the terms of their employment agreement and whether or not they were required to work overtime hours prior to the pandemic. If an employee has not agreed to work overtime previously, they are within their rights to refuse.

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Overtime Pay in Canada

What rights do employees with medical conditions have as more businesses return to normal?

With their doctor’s confirmation, if an employee has a condition that needs accommodation, they are within their rights to ask for adjustments from their employer. Employers do have a duty to accommodate employees who are immuno-compromised or have a medical condition as much as possible, and a failure to do so is considered a human rights violation.

Will workplaces be returning to normal post-pandemic or will there be more changes?

While many are eager for a return to normalcy, some workplaces could see a shift as many have adapted to COVID-19 public health measures. Ultimately, it will be industry-dependent and employers and employees will have to decide for themselves how to proceed.

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