Vancouver lawyer talks Translink, mass firings over vaccine refusal

Interview Summary

As the weeks pass, more companies and businesses in British Columbia have announced vaccine policies. Employees who are not vaccinated by a certain date will be terminated. What can these employees do to pursue their rights? Will mandatory vaccine policies in workplaces lead to mass terminations?

Dan Balkaran, a Vancouver employment lawyer and Associate at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP joins Stirling Faux on Global News Radio 980 CKNW to discuss terminations due to vaccination status and more.

Interview Notes

What can Translink employees do if they do not want to be vaccinated?

All Translink employees for the most part are unionized and will have to talk to their union representative about their rights. Union employees are governed by a collective agreement. Many unions appear to be upholding vaccine mandates in many workplaces. Most contracts, both for union and non-unionized employees were drafted prior to the pandemic and will not have any terms referring to employee rights regarding pandemics and vaccination.

Why do some employers, like restaurant owners, not have the right to ask their employees if they have been vaccinated?

The provincial health orders in B.C do not permit employers to question their employees about their vaccination status possibly to prevent mass terminations and further financial difficulties for employees. Certain sectors are at times more prone to have unvaccinated employees and employers will have to maintain the health and safety of the workplace by following public health measures.

Can employers request all new hires are vaccinated?

Currently, there have been no cases that have gone through the Human Rights Tribunal in B.C so it is unclear whether or not employers can make vaccination as a condition of employment. It is possible that hiring based on vaccination status can be seen as discriminatory. Employees who are already employed cannot be forced to be vaccinated by their employer if it was not a previous term of employment. Employers and employees should try and determine their priorities and the reality of likely future employment.

Are there backlogs at the Human Rights Tribunal currently due to vaccine-related cases?

There are currently backlogs in most court systems with the Tribunal, as well as the Employment Standards Branch as courts were closed due to the pandemic. Matters that are brought before the courts are going to be delayed and employees should be prepared for a long wait for issues to be resolved.

How has severance been affected by the pandemic and new policies?

B.C and Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccine Policies
Severance Pay in BC

Severance is owed to all non-unionized employees upon termination without cause. Before accepting an initial severance offer employees should speak to an employment lawyer. Government mandates can extinguish rights to severance for employees who work in sectors in which a government mandate is in place, such as long-term care workers in British Columbia.

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