Pandemic Justice: Employment Lawyers Have Been Kept Busy During COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the international economy, as the lawyers listed in our employment lawyer directory know well. In Canada, the impact has been felt differently across industries. Restaurants, hospitality, tourism, and retail are all suffering acutely, as are the businesses that supply them. Other businesses have been less severely affected; some have even seen more activity in the wake of the pandemic.
Employment law is one of the areas that has seen an uptick in business. According to a September 21 article in the Globe and Mail, March, April, and the months following the lockdowns were among the busiest on record. And even though ‘peak chaos and uncertainty has passed,’ top employment lawyers in Toronto are expecting the surge to continue as businesses grapple with ongoing challenges and shifting dynamics.
“We are projecting lawyer billable hours to increase substantially this fall,” Craig Rix of employment law firm Hicks Morely told the Globe.
In the spring, businesses sought legal advice on a range of complex issues. How could they accommodate a sudden shift to working from home? How could they move forward with necessary layoffs or wage cuts without resulting wrongful dismissal lawsuits? What were the options for temporarily or permanently shutting down a business?
Today, priorities have changed. Businesses are now mulling the health and safety implications of permanent work-from-home measures and weighing the labour law impacts of corporate restructuring and insolvency.
Businesses are also struggling to grapple with a volatile and contentious social-political landscape. In particular, they are looking for advice on how to improve diversity and equality within their organizations.
“Anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination are not new issues, but there’s obviously been a renewed emphasis or spotlight on the issue,” Rix said. “We’ve got a lot of clients who are responding to that.”
Complicating issues further is the reopening of the courts and resumption of private arbitration. In March, most legal proceedings were put on hold in accordance with province-wide lockdowns. The same was true of negotiations and dispute resolution processes within and between companies. Now, lawyers are confronting a flood of litigation relating to new and delayed cases.
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