Canada’s “Big Five” banks have all either suspended or removed their mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies. As of Spring 2022, COVID-19 infection and death rates have declined across the country, and Canadian banks have now dropped their vaccine mandates as a result. This raises the question: what happens to unvaccinated employees who were put on unpaid leave of absence or terminated with cause because of their employer’s vaccine mandate?
In Fall 2021, many employers implemented mandatory vaccination policies in their workplaces, which often resulted in unvaccinated employees being terminated with cause or put on indefinite unpaid leaves of absence. At the time, employers sought to justify these policies as being reasonable and necessary in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated health and safety risks. However, these policies have no longer been deemed necessary by Canada’s Big Five banks and several other employers due to improvements in Canada’s COVID-19 situation.
Many employees who were put on COVID-19 unpaid leaves or were terminated with cause have sought severance packages from their employers, and this new change in vaccine policies from the banks may lead such employees to believe that their cases have become much stronger. However, employees should note that a court would look at whether the termination and/or unpaid leave of absence was reasonable at the time it was effected, so their argument may not be quite the sure thing it first appears to be. The fact that employers are doing away with their vaccine policies a mere six months after terminating employees and putting employees on unpaid leaves may help the employee argument that the policies were never reasonable or necessary to begin with.
If you are an employee who was put on an unpaid leave of absence or terminated with cause due to your employer’s vaccination policy, you should seek legal advice to better understand your rights as the vaccination mandate landscape shifts heading into Summer 2022. We at Whitten & Lublin are happy to provide insight and advice into your specific circumstances. If you are looking for employment lawyers and would like more information about what Whitten & Lublin can do for you, please contact us online or by phone at (416) 640-2667 today.
Author: Nasyr Asmi