August 8, 2022
Carbert Waite LLP Partner, Melissa Rico was recently asked to comment in The Globe and Mail for their Nine to Five section.
The question posed to Melissa for the column involved whether a remote employee is obligated to take an unplanned vacation day due to the Rogers internet outage in July.
“Can my employer force me to take a vacation day because of the Rogers internet outage? Our team is all remote and many of us weren’t able to get online, myself included. The company is requiring people who weren’t able to work that day to take a vacation day or unpaid sick day. Is this legal?”
Melissa’s answer noted that while an employee earns wages only when they perform work, it’s legally challenging to force employees to take a vacation day or a sick day in this situation.
“Typically, vacation is mutually agreed upon between the employer and employee. The employment laws in each province govern when an employer can unilaterally tell an employee when vacation will be taken. In Alberta, the Employment Standards Code states that with two weeks’ written notice the employer can set an employee’s vacation. Absent this notice, employers would be in contravention of the law and at risk of liability.
Another factor to consider is the implied legal obligation employers have in the employment relationship, namely the obligations of good faith and fair dealings. An employer who forces an employee to take vacation retroactively would likely be viewed as acting in bad faith. Furthermore, it is important to remember that the employment relationship is ongoing. Any monetary value gained by the employer in forcing its employees to take a vacation or unpaid sick day would be offset by the detrimental impact on the relationship.”
The rest of the column is behind a paywall, but if you are a subscriber of The Globe and Mail, you can read it here.