Despite that many employees do not take their contractual or statutory vacation time each year, increasingly “vacation shaming” pervades our workplaces.

Vacation shaming has been defined as, “where co-workers and bosses use peer pressure and guilt trips to discourage employees from taking time off.”

It can be insidious, subtle and indirect – often inducing more stress into the workplace.

Employers must be vigilant to monitor their workplace and ensure a strict prohibition against this practice.

It seems odd for this to be trending in workplaces, considering that recently more than 1,200 full-time U.S. employees were surveyed to gauge their habits regarding taking paid time off of work. According to the survey, an alarming number of the employees were unwilling generally to take their contractual or statutory paid time off work, mostly attributable to management, workload and other cultural pressures.

This Machiavellian practice, whether intentionally undertaken or otherwise, creates more stress in the workplace and irrevocably and inversely reduces productivity.

It benefits neither the employee nor the employer, ultimately.

So, don’t be vacation shamed. Firstly, it is unlawful for your employer to engage in this type of behaviour, however subtle it may be, and secondly, you will be less productive and certainly not as content in your workplace by not taking your paid time away.   


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I’m loathe to be Grinchy, but here are some tips for your workplace holiday party or event this year:

Location and Driving:

●    consider holding the event off-site at a licensed event venue

●    pre-arrange designated drivers;

●    provide taxi chits or a credit system with a local taxi service

●    hire a local transportation service, if not a taxi service

●    inform all employees not to personally drive to and from the event, unless that employee will consume no festive cheer at the event

●    arrange for a door supervisor to monitor if anyone leaves the event, after consuming any alcohol, and intends to operate a vehicle and, if there is a concern, for that supervisor to speak to a designated manager on site to intervene


●    set a fixed time period when alcohol will be available or served

●    provide a set/controlled number of drink chits or tickets per guest

●    hire or use experienced, independent bartender(s) or server(s), with appropriate SMARTserve and training to identify, prevent and help manage over consumption

●    designate non-drinking employees or managers to monitor consumption at the event and identify any potential issues or concerns

●    offer and serve food and non-alcoholic options

Prevention – Discrimination and Harassment:

●    make sure the event is non-denominational

●    offer non-alcoholic alternatives and options to avoid any perception that the event is exclusionary or intended to apply only to certain staff/employees

●    consider setting a dress code for the event and communicating that to all employees/staff in advance

●    circulate your expectations about conduct in advance, in an effective way (mutual respect, professional workplace conduct, treatment of others)

●    ensure your discrimination and harassment policies are posted in the workplace in a common area and at the event

●    consider circulating your workplace discrimination and harassment policies in advance to all invited guests (employees/staff)

●    arrange for designated employee(s) to monitor the event and bring to your attention any concerns, so they can be addressed promptly, discretely and properly before any harm or embarrassment is caused

Happy holidays!


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It's that time again - holiday party!!!!!!!

With the fun comes the responsibility (and potential liability to employers and co-employees).

Benjamin T. Aberant and Shana Wolch, lawyers at McCarthy Tetrault LLP offer this very helpful blog about tips for office holiday parties:

"The holiday season is a jolly-busy time to be an employment lawyer. Not only do we get to spend time with our friends and families, but we are also often asked to help our clients deal with the fallout of the infamous alcohol induced holiday party incident.  Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and here are some tips to planning and hosting a successful and (hopefully) incident free holiday party.

1.    Alcohol Consumption

The over-consumption of alcohol can lead to a number of unfavourable outcomes. Consider limiting the in-take of alcohol by guests by: setting a fixed period of time where alcohol will be served; restricting the types of alcohol that are served (e.g. serving wine and beer options, excluding spirits or hard liquor); providing a controlled number of drink tickets per guest; hiring an independent bartender; and, serving lots of delicious food so guests don’t only drink.

2.    Location & Transportation

Consider holding the party offsite. Consider safe transportation options that are available for employees when leaving the party. Pre-arrange designated drivers or transportation with a local company; ensure that there are taxis on standby and/or provide taxi chits to employees; or use a licensed operator to drive the individual and his/her vehicle home.

3.    Discrimination

Given the abundance of faiths, religious denominations and practices with which employees may affiliate themselves, ensure that holiday parties remain non-denominational in nature. Consider the possibility that alcoholics or those recovering might be attending and ensure that there are tasty non-alcoholic alternatives.  Ensure that employees don’t feel excluded and eliminate the likelihood of a human rights violation.

4.    Harassment

Where alcohol is being consumed, there is an increased risk of inappropriate behaviour. In order to remind employees of expectations regarding mutual respect, it is good practice to distribute a copy of the organization’s anti-harassment policy well in advance of the holiday party.  Ensure that employees are mindful of their actions toward others while in attendance. Including a copy of the organization’s dress code may also be worthwhile, reminding employees that expectations for appropriate attire in the workplace remain unchanged.  Consider inviting spouses/partners – it might help keep behaviour in line.

5.    Communication & Monitoring

Transparent and consistent communication of expectations surrounding alcohol consumption, appropriate behaviour and suitable attire, well in advance of the holiday party, will ensure that employees are aware of their responsibilities.

Providing details about transportation options prior to the holiday party, will afford employees with the opportunity to arrange their journey home safely and without setback.

Assigning one or two individuals from the organization with the responsibility to monitor guests’ behaviour and alcohol consumption, and ensure that they obtain appropriate transportation home, will further safeguard employees and reduce the organization’s liabilities."

So, enjoy the blow out, but practice good pre-planning and management of your holiday party.


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Both real and fake Christmas trees can conflagrate in mere seconds, filling the room with smoke and fire that can spread relentlessly through your entire home.

Sorry, we don’t mean to be The Grinch, but many festive families do not give enough attention to these incendiary homages.

The record is rife with terrible stories about avoidable injury and damage. Even your alarms may not give enough advance warning to keep pace with the agility and speed of the flames.  

 This holiday season, consider taking these steps, if you do not already:

•    Look for a tree with vibrant green needles that are hard to pluck and don't break easily from its branches. The tree shouldn't be shedding its needles readily
•    Always place your tree away from heat sources like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights and keep the tree base filled with water to avoid a dry out
•    Double check your home alarms have fresh batteries and are working properly
•    Make sure all your indoor and outdoor Christmas lights are ESA approved (it should say on the box) and discard/recycle any damaged lights or bulbs
•    Any lights you use outdoors must be labeled suitable for exterior placement and be sure to plug into a ground-fault circuit interrupter protected receptacle
•    Keep all your holiday candles away from your Christmas tree, surrounding furniture and décor
•    Bedtime means lights off - don't forget to turn your Christmas tree light switch each night and, if you use an automated timer, double-check that it is working properly
•    When your tree begins to drop its needles profusely, it's time to say goodbye to your evergreen foliage until next year, even if your holidaying is not quite finished yet
•    If you buy a pre-cut tree, consider sawing off an inch or two from the stump of the tree so water can be easily absorbed

Happy holidays, from the GrinchWards!


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In Ontario, many of your rights as a consumer are proscribed primarily by Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act (the “CPA”).

Firstly, when you sign a contract in Ontario:

•    for a product or service you buy from a door-to-door salesperson (also called a direct agreement);
•    to pay in advance to join a fitness club or gym (also called a personal development contracts);
•    to buy a newly-built condo (under the Condominium Act);
•    to get a payday loan (under the Payday Loans Act); and
•    to purchase a time share,

you are statutorily entitled to a “cooling-off period”, being a specific number of days during which you can cancel the agreement without reason or penalty.

You can cancel the contract anytime within the cooling-off period by writing a cancellation letter to the business. Any agreements you made with the purchase, like financing plans, will also be cancelled.

You don’t need to give the business a reason for cancelling.

For most contracts, the company has fifteen days to return your money.

If the contract was for a product, the seller is also responsible for picking up the product or paying for it to be picked up if they want it back.

Secondly, for your holiday shopping, when you order a product, it must be delivered within thirty days of the promised delivery date, or you can ask for a refund.

However, if you choose to keep the item that was delivered late, you lose your right to get a refund for it.

You also cannot be charged for receiving an item or service that you did not request. You can use the item or throw it away.

For more information, contact us or check out ontario.ca by searching “consumer protection”.


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It will be here before you know it. Our (non-exhaustive) tips to you and your family for a safe, fun and legally-prudent Christmas Day for 2019:

1)       On Christmas Eve after early bed time, apply a liberal, but discreet, thin layer of baby powder on the floor outside each child’s room to discourage middle-of-the-night stocking snooping;

2)       When you retire on Christmas Eve to wait for Santa, fasten green painter’s tape plentifully between the newel posts at the top of the stairs to further discourage over-enthusiastic stocking visitation before Mom and Dad are up, dressed, coffeed-up and ready to go (enough to ensure a child cannot pass through the tape wall without sound and extensive effort);

3)       Turn over the toy gift and actually untie/unravel all of those annoying twist-ties holding your child’s toy in its excessive plastic packaging – don’t try to jam scissors or a sharp knife in to that tight space to try to cut the ties where they wrap around the toy itself; 

4)       Prevent your child (and husband/father) from testing the 9 volt battery for the new toy by pressing it on their tongue – this has actually caused injury and emergency room visits;

5)       Take out all of the pins from your new shirt before trying it on; 

6)       Avoid conveniently grabbing the sharp knife from the kitchen to cut open the hard plastic packaging for that toy – take the time to find and use the correct tool, like scissors or a utility knife with a guard;

7)       Pick up the broken pieces of the hard plastic wrapping from the floor after the gift unwrap – avoid the pieces getting lodged in a barefooted, housecoat-wearing, messy-haired family member;

8)       Read the Pot of Gold chocolate index before selecting – there are reported cases of severe allergic reaction caused by mistakenly believing your choice was the cherry-filled (i.e., avoid the marzipan one);

9)       Don’t carve the turkey after consuming three (3) alcohol drinks or more;

10)     Leave adequate space between you/your children and the Christmas tree branches when retrieving gifts under the tree – eye lacerations are a common Christmas morning accident;

11)     Remind your elderly family members at the Christmas dinner to chew their meat thoroughly – most Christmas mishaps often involve choking at X-Mas dinner;

12)     Ensure the zipper is drawn down before your enthusiastic child tries on that new jumper, coat or hoodie – a common source of eye injury on the holiest of mornings; and

13)     Pull the knife across the avocado and twist it (to remove the stone), rather than stabbing down and prying it out – there are recorded emergency room visits about this. 

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