Free Legal Information in Ontario, from the Durham Community Legal Clinic

Free Legal Information in Ontario, from the Durham Community Legal ClinicFree Legal Information in Ontario, from the Durham Community Legal ClinicFree Legal Information in Ontario, from the Durham Community Legal Clinic

Legal Information

Housing Issues

Stability at Work

Stability at Work

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How does COVID-19 affect my relationship with my landlord?

Stability at Work

Stability at Work

Stability at Work

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What rights do I have at work? Is my workplace safe?

Income Stability

Stability at Work

Income Stability

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Do I still continue to receive my benefits?

Human Rights Questions During COVID-19

  

What does the Human Rights Code say about COVID-19?

The OHRC has announced its position that COVID-19 engages the disability ground under the Code. Meaning that those facing discrimination as a result of their COVID-19 status, or perceived status could be afforded code protection. 

I am not allowed to go to work because of where I have travelled! Is this discrimination? 


This may be reasonable given the circumstances. Your employer asking you to stay home because of your recent travel history is probably not discrimination. However if any workplace restriction is based on your place of origin, race, or ethnic origin, then this may constitute discrimination. 


Can my boss fire me if I miss work because I have COVID-19?

No. you cannot be disciplined or terminated if you miss work due to being in isolation or quarantine as a result of COVID-19. 


I’m not sick, or under quarantine, but I want to stay home due to my compromised immune system. What should my employer do? 

Your employer should offer you flexible options if it is feasible to do so, such as working from home, and should take all requests for accommodation seriously. They should treat your request for accommodation in good faith. Your employer should be cognizant of the strain on the Canadian healthcare system and should not be asking for a doctors note at this time. 


I need to work from home to take care of my children due to COVID-19 and school closures. Does my employer have to let me work remotely? 

Your employer has to accommodate you up to the point of undue hardship. In some cases this accommodation may include allowing you to work from home. 


I think I’m being discriminated against due to COVID-19! What should I do? 

You should seek independent legal advice as soon as possible. Depending on your income you may qualify for free services offered by the Durham Community Legal Clinic or other Legal Clinic’s throughout Ontario. 

Each situation is unique and a legal professional should be consulted to provide you with the best possible advice for your personal circumstances. 


If you want to file a Human Rights Claim you should be aware that the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has postponed in-person hearings, and applicants may see significant delays going forward as a result of COVID-19 closures and ripple effects. 

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What are My Rights at Work?

  

What are My Rights at Work?  

You should look to several different sources in order to determine your rights and entitlements at work during the pandemic, these include:


Legislation: 

The Provincial and Federal governments are continuing to update workplace legislation to provide support for workers as the situation evolves. The Ontario government has recently announced that it will be drafting legislation to protect workers who are forced to miss time from work due to Covid-19.


Company Policies: 

You may be eligible to claim benefits under your employer’s sick leave policy. Many employers are also expanding their sick leave policies and introducing more flexibility in light of the growing global pandemic. 


Employment Insurance Sick Leave Benefits: 

Employees who become sick and have used any sick leave offered by their employer, or who work for an employer sick leave benefits may be entitled to sickness benefits under the Employment Insurance Act (Act).


More Information can be found here: 

https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-sickness.html 


Regular Employment Insurance Benefits: 

Employees who are out of work due to office closures and temporary layoffs may apply for Regular Employment Insurance (EI) Benefits. You can find more information about this by visiting: 

https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei.html 


What are Employers doing?

At this time, employers are taking a variety of approaches to the situation depending on their industry and operating policy. Some businesses are shutting down or reducing hours, still other are encouraging employees to work from home while some few are continuing business as usual. 

Many employers are looking to Government for direction and it is likely that your employer’s policies will change as the situation evolves, and further directions are received from all levels of government. 


Can I take time off if I get sick or have to quarantine? 

Most employees in Ontario have the right to take up to three days of unpaid job-protected leave each calendar year due to a personal illness, injury or medical

Your employer cannot threaten, fire, or penalize you in any way if you take or plan to take this leave.


You can find more information on Ontario’s sick leave policy here:

https://www.ontario.ca/document/your-guide-employment-standards-act-0/sick-leave 


Many employers also have their own sick leave policies, and many employers are augmenting those with additional entitlements as this situation evolves. You should always consult your organisations sick leave policy or speak with Human Resources to determine what your entitlements are. 


What if I require additional sick leave or am forced to quarantine? 

The provincial government will be introducing legislation in the coming days which will provide additional protections for Ontario Workers during the pandemic. This legislation will ensure that anyone who is required to quarantine or self-isolate will not lose their job.

It will also protect those who have to care for a sick family member or take care of their children due to school closures. The legislation will also remove the need to provide a doctor’s note to your employer. This legislation, if passed will be retroactive to January 25, 2020. 


Do I have a Human Rights Claim if my Employer punishes me for having Coronavirus? 

Given the novelty of this situation, there is no case law or prior decision which have determined that coronavirus is a disability. 


However, discriminatory action because of the coronavirus may be prohibited by the Ontario Human Rights Code. The illness caused by the virus may be serious enough to constitute a disability. This means that your employer must accommodate you up to the point of undue hardship, and cannot terminate you for missing work due to the virus.


Due to the initial spread and origin of the virus, some employers and businesses may make assumptions about Covid-19 status based on your race or place of origin. If your employer is making these assumptions about you this may also constitute discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code


If you think your employer has discriminated against you, please visit: 

http://ohrc.on.ca/en/news_centre/ohrc-policy-statement-covid-19-pandemic


Who can I contact for help?

Residents of Durham Region: 

Durham Community Legal Clinic: 

https://www.durhamcommunitylegalclinic.ca/ 


Outside of Durham Region: 

Use this tool to find your local Community Legal Clinic 

https://www.legalaid.on.ca/legal-clinics/ 

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Worker Protection Legislation

Additional Information

  

A Closer Look at Upcoming Worker Protections 


On March 16, 2020, the Ontario Government announced planned legislation (a future law) which would provide increased rights to workers during the Covid-19 Pandemic. 


This Legislation has not yet passed Queens Park, meaning that it is not yet law, and as a result it may change slightly before it becomes law. If passed the new laws will provide job protected leave to workers who are unable to work.


Workers who take this protected leave cannot be required to provide a doctor’s note to their employer.


The Legislation will protect workers who: 

1. Are under medical investigation for Covid-19

2. Are under medical supervision or treatment

3. Need to take time off to care for their children due to school and daycare closures 

4. Have been told not to work by their employers 

5. Are in isolation

6. Are under quarantine

7. Are required to care for another person due to Covid-19  

The leave is intended to protect jobs for as long as Covid-19 persists. 


Does my employer have to pay me while I am off? 

No. Under the proposed legislation your employer will not be required to continue paying you for time that you miss from work due to Covid-19. In some cases your employer may have a sick leave policy which will apply to you, so that you will continue to be paid. 

If your employer does not pay you while you miss work you may qualify for Employment Insurance Benefits.


What happens if my employer Fires me for taking this leave? 

This is a job protected leave, which means that you should be able to return to your job once the leave is complete. If your employer terminates your employment for taking this leave you should immediately seek independent legal advice, as you may have legal recourse. 

More information can be found by visiting the government of Ontario’s website at: 

https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2020/03/job-protection-for-workers-during-the-covid-19-situation.html 

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Workplace Safety and Insurance Claims During COVID-19


Can I still report a workplace Injury during the Covid-19 pandemic? 

Yes. The WSIB still has staff accepting and adjudicating claims at this time. 


What will happen to my Loss of Earnings Benefits?

At this time the WSIB has indicated that it will continue to pay all loss of earnings benefits.


What If I can’t attend an appointment related to my WSIB claim? 

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board has advised that persons who are not able to attend, or who are uncomfortable attending a claim related appointment can cancel without compromising their entitlement to WSIB benefits. 


Claimants are asked to explore possible digital alternatives to attending appointments in person. 


Claimants who will be missing an appointment related to their claim can contact the other parties directly, and do not need to inform their case manager in advance of their decision to cancel. 


What if I have a hearing with the WSIB or WSIAT? 

WSIB offices have been closed to visitors. Workers who have an appeal scheduled before the WSIB Appeals Services Division can contact the WSIB at: 1-800-387-0750 for more information. 


The Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal has postponed all in person hearings. Some of these postponed hearings may be held as written or telephone hearings depending on practicality. 


Those hearings which are not conducted as a written hearing or teleconferences will be rescheduled

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Working Safe During COVID-19


What is unsafe work? 

Unsafe work is work that a worker believes endangers either themselves or a fellow worker’s health or safety. 

In Ontario the law that governs unsafe work and the right to refuse unsafe work is the Occupational Health and Safety Act, RSO 1991, c O1 (“Occupational Health and Safety Act”). 


How do I refuse unsafe work? 

You must tell your employer what work you are refusing and why. 

Your employer must then investigate the issue. At this point, your employer must try to resolve your health and safety concerns.

If you still believe the work is unsafe after your employer’s investigation, you can continue to refuse the work. Either you or your employer must notify the Ministry of Labour so they may assess the work and decide if it is safe. 

Your employer cannot discipline you for asserting your rights under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.


How does this apply to the Covid-19 pandemic?

If you believe that a condition in your workplace poses a danger to your health in relation to COVID-19 you have the right to refuse work. You must notify your employer of your refusal and the reasoning behind it. Your employer will then have to investigate your concerns and attempt to resolve them. If your concerns are not resolved the Ministry of Labour must be notified so that they can render a decision.


Workers should be aware that the current COVID-19 outbreak has impacted many government services. It is possible that disputes and refusals related to unsafe work will take longer to resolve while the outbreak is ongoing. 


Can anyone refuse unsafe work? 

Some workers may not refuse work under this legislation. This is because they are employed in occupations which have inherent risks associated with them. Meaning that these workers are often exposed to situations or work which may be unsafe as a regular part of their job duties. It would likely be impossible to perform the core functions of these jobs without some exposure to risk or unsafe working conditions. 


The following workers cannot refuse unsafe work:

- Police Officers

- Firefighters

- Correctional Officers 

- Hospital Workers.


If you are unsure whether you can refuse unsafe work you should contact a legal professional or the Ministry of Labour directly for more information and guidance. 

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Applying for WSIB Benefits Due to COVID-19

A Closer Look

There are three major categories of employers as far as WSIB coverage is concerned


1. Those who must have coverage 

2. Those who may elect to have coverage 

3. Those who cannot have coverage.


If your employer does not have WSIB coverage then you will not be eligible for WSIB benefits. If you are not sure which of these categories your employer falls into you are encouraged to file your WSIB claim anyway. Many workers in Ontario are covered. 


I have symptoms of COVID-19 and I think I got COVID-19 at work! Should I file a WSIB claim?

Yes. You should file a claim as soon as possible.


Will my claim be accepted? 

COVID-19 is being treated as an occupational disease. This means that in order for you to qualify for WSIB benefits your workplace exposure must be a “significant contributing factor” to your diagnosis. This does not mean that your workplace exposure must be the only factor, or even the primary one, but it must be more than trivial.

When assessing your claim The WSIB will consider whether your employment created a risk of contracting COVID-19 to which the general public is not exposed. 


What if I don’t have any symptoms, but I believe I was exposed to COVID-19 at work. Should I file a WSIB claim?

No. You should file an exposure incident form. If you later develop symptoms or discover you have COVID-19, you can then file a claim. 


My workplace has closed as a result of COVID-19, but I have not been infected or exposed. Should I file for WSIB Benefits?

No. You are not entitled to WSIB benefits if your workplace closes due to COVID-19. You should apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.


Do I need to have a confirmed case of COVID-19? It’s hard to get a test! 

The WSIB must be satisfied that the COVID-19 condition had been confirmed. If you believe that you have COVID-19 and would like to claim benefits, push for a test. 


Do I have to file right away? 

The WSIB has waived the requirement to file in 6 months. This may change as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses and claimants are encouraged to file for benefits as soon as possible. 

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Resources for Victims of Violence During COVID-19

Some of Durham Region’s most vulnerable citizens, victims of violence, still require assistance during this extraordinary time.  


Services are still available. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to emerge, situations and services mychange on a daily basis. As of today, the following services are still available albeit with some changes in how services are accessed. 

Catholic Family Services of Durham

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, we will close our walk-in intake until Thursday April 9, 2020 for precautionary reasons. As able, we will be offering phone sessions instead. Please call reception for more information.

Contact 905-725-3513 or Toll Free: 1-877-282-8932


DRIVEN 

In order to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus (Coronavirus), DRIVEN will be closing its Monday walk-in from Monday March 16yh, 2020 to Monday March 30, 2020. At this time, we will re-assesand hope to re-open our walk-in on April 6th, 2020. 


Staff will be available to provide support over the phone during this time. Community members and women seeking support are still encouraged to call at 905-432-7233 or email info@durhamdriven.com.


Durham Region Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Care Centre – Lakeridge Health, Oshawa, thru Emergency Department. 

Additional screenings for COVID-19 will be done prior to entrance to the hospital. Access to nurses is still, as of today (March 19, 2020) operational. 

https://www.lakeridgehealth.on.ca/en/patientsandvisitors/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov.asp

  

Shelters


Bethesda House (Bowmanville)

905-623-6050

1-800-338-3397

http://www.bethesdahouse.ca

Not offering in-person counselling but still provide outreach worker counselling over the phone. Contact Support Line: 905-623-6050 or 1-800-338-3397.


Herizon House (Ajax)

905-426-1064

1-866-437-4066

herizonhouse.com

Not accepting in-person at this time but are available by phone for crisis assistance. 


JoAnne’s House (youth co-ed)

905-239-9477

http://www.durhamyouth.com

Open all day now instead of closing from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm. The residents can leave without restrictions at this time. There are no school programs operating. An assessment is done for new and for anyone that has not been seen for 14 days. Advising youth to try have them stay other places if they can. Case management workers haven’t changed their services. 


Muslim Welfare Home (for women and children)

905-665-0424

1-866-666-1115

http://www.muslimwelfarecentre.com

No walk-ins at this time. Call or visit the website for more information. 

Funding to get to families is done over phone and the pick-up of funds in-person with an appointment. All residents are provided with wipes to reduce risks, 35 residents, and small areas. Current residents’ phone meetings only. The shelter houses 4-6 women per room. 


The Denise House (Oshawa)

905-728-7311

1-800-263-3725

Not accepting in-person at this time but are available by phone for crisis assistance. 


Y’s Wish (Oshawa)

905-576-2997

1-888-576-2997

ywcadurham.org

Not accepting in-person at this time but are available by phone for crisis assistance. 

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CERB Exemptions for OW and ODSP Recipients

Since the introduction of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, claimants have been concerned about the way this payment will interact with other social programs and benefits. 

We have now received clarification as to how CERB income will be treated for the purposes of Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program. The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services has announced that CERB is being viewed as an income replacement program and considered accordingly. This means that there will be deductions for recipients. They have also indicated that Ontario Works and ODSP clients who were on their program prior to COVID-19 will receive a partial exemption on any CERB income. 


How much of an exemption will I receive? 

The degree of your exemption will vary based on your program and when your benefits were granted.


Ontario Works Recipients granted before March 1st, 2020:


  • Per Month: First $200 fully exempt. 50% of each additional dollar exempt.


Ontario Works Recipients granted on or after March 1st, 2020:


  • No Exemption. Deducted dollar for dollar. 


All Ontario Disability Support Program Recipients:


  • Per Month: First $200 fully exempt. 50% of each additional dollar exempt.


What if I still don’t have enough money?

There are emergency benefits available to Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program recipients. This emergency support is up to $100 for single persons and $200 for families. You can call your case worker for further details and help accessing this emergency benefit. 

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Brief Updates