Law Times

March 3, 2014

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Recruiting? Great rates. Great reach. Great results. Contact Sandy Shutt at sandra.shutt@thomsonreuters.com for details. Post your position on JobsInLaw 1-8 pg 5X.indd 1 2/15/11 4:12:27 PM Heenan Blaikie's actions questioned Giving false hope 'a classic Employment Law 100 blunder' s Heenan Blaikie LLP closes its Toron- to offi ce, the way the fi rm has treated its support workers is an example of "lawyers doing everything they advise against," according to a prominent em- ployment lawyer. e fi rm closed down its Toronto offi ce on Feb. 28, a week a er support staff received information about their severance packages following a long wait and three weeks a er Heenan Blaikie announced its collapse. Support staff also told Law Times they attended a town hall meeting in January where Norman Bacal, the founding partner of the Toronto offi ce, told staff it was "time Heenan kicks butt again" and urged every- one "to stick with Heenan Blaikie." Employment lawyer Howard Levitt says if support workers take the issue to court, the fi rm could face the possibility of enhanced damages for providing a false sense of job security as doing so has "a devastating hu- man morale impact." "If you're not certain of what the status is, you don't give representation to employees saying, ' ings are great,' and give them representation of job security," he says. "I understand you don't want everyone abandoning ship if the rumour is already out there that things are diffi cult. I understand that psychologically," he adds. But there's a risk in creating unrealistic expectations, he continues. "First of all, it is disingenuous when it may or may not be the case. And secondly, the im- pact of being fi red is exacerbated by these unrealistic expectations you touted knowingly. ere is a real is- sue of misrepresentation if they knew at the time that things weren't as rosy as they suggested and they obvi- ously must have known that." Giving false hope to employees is "a classic Employ- ment Law 100 blunder," he notes. "It's lawyers doing everything they advise against," he suggests. According to Levitt, law fi rms have a higher fi du- ciary duty to their employees than other employers. "I think the courts will say that because fi rst of all, as lawyers, we have added duties under law society rules that the rest of the population doesn't. Second of all, we're deemed to be experts in this area and other em- ployers aren't. [Other employers] just get advice. We are the dispensers of advice." Levitt also notes Heenan Blaikie's reputation for its strong labour and employment practice group. " ey should know better, they should have known better," he says. In response to a Law Times request for comment about the support workers' concerns, Bacal suggest- ed speaking instead with another legal assistant who worked for the fi rm. When contacted by Law Times, the assistant had no comment. Former Heenan Blaikie partner Ken Kra , who's part of the fi rm's transition committee, and co-founder Peter Blaikie also didn't respond to requests for comment. Support staff members, who fi rst complained about delayed information about their severance packages, say they've at last received the details but are upset with the limits on their entitlements. Some employees Law school anti-discrimination motion approved hile they ultimately approved a reso- lution alluding to the debate over gay rights at the planned Trinity West- ern University law school, del- egates at the mid-winter meeting of the Canadian Bar Association in Ottawa last weekend managed to ensure a respectful debate on the issue. University of Manitoba Faculty of Law Prof. Melanie Bueckert spoke eloquently in favour of Trin- ity Western's planned law school and the rules it seeks to introduce. " e notion of a Christian law school is exciting to me," she said. e rules of the law school would mean, she added, "that because it is a Christian law school, you would have to hire Christian law teachers and it would be popular." Bueckert was among many people who debated a complex resolution alluding to the school at the meeting. Without specifi cally naming the Christian-based law school, the complex resolution asks the Federation of Law Societ- ies of Canada and provincial and territorial law societies to require that "all legal education programs recognized by the law societies for admission to the bar to provide equal opportunity without dis- crimination on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, gender iden- tity, age or mental or physical dis- ability or conduct that is integral to and inseparable from identity for all persons involved in legal education — including faculty, administrators, and employees (in hiring, continuation, promotion, and continuing faculty status), ap- plicants for admission, enrolled students, and graduates of those educations programs." It was tough talk, but anyone who came expecting an ugly bat- tle between religious elements and those advocating for young gay and lesbian lawyers would have been pleasantly surprised. e delegates behaved as sol- emnly as lawyers making their MAINTAINING TIES Business advice for the many lawyers switching firms P5 TRAGIC FIRES Negligence difficult to prove P7 FOCUS ON Immigration Law P8 'There is a real issue of misrepresentation if they knew at the time that things weren't as rosy as they suggested and they obviously must have known that,' says Howard Levitt. See Resolution, page 4 See Nothing, page 4 Daphne Dumont holds a sign indicating her support for the resolution alluding to Trinity Western University. Photo: Richard Cleroux PM #40762529 MAINTAINING TIES Business advice for the many lawyers switching firms & $#&!& j mmm$cYa[bbWh$Yec ntitled-4 1 12-03-20 10:44 AM L aw TIMes $4.00 • Vol. 25, No. 8 March 3, 2014 Follow LAW TIMES on www.twitter.com/lawtimes L aw TIMes L aw TIMes L aw TIMes BY RIcHARD cleROuX For Law Times W BY YAmRI tADDeSe Law Times A

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