It has been 3 years since the COVID-19 pandemic officially started in March of 2020. During this time, many companies allowed employees to work remotely. More recently, as the pandemic ends, companies like Amazon, General Motors, Starbucks, and Disney have started to recall their remote workers to return to the office. However, many employees want to keep flexibility in their employment. For instance, Disney employees recently tried to push back on the “return-to-office” mandate, which required workers to show up in person in the workplace four days per week. 2,300 Disney employees signed a petition asking for the mandate to be reconsidered.
Remote work continues to be the norm
Do workers have the legal right to say no to “return-to-office” mandates? Since the pandemic, it is reasonable to say that remote work has become a new norm. According to recent case law in Ontario, if your employer has continued to allow you to work remotely for an extended time after provincial restrictions related to covid-19 were lifted, remote work may have become an implied term of your employment contract. If that is the case, you could have a right to decline to return to the office; an employer’s “return-to-office” mandate could then amount to constructive dismissal.
On another note, if you have a reason to work remotely protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code, such as disability or family obligations, then your employer should accommodate your medical or family-status-based needs to the point of undue hardship.
To learn more about workers’ rights regarding remote work and employers’ duty to accommodate, please contact us online or by phone at (416) 640-2667 today. We at Whitten & Lublin are happy to provide insight and advice into your specific circumstances.
Author: Luna Li