On Jan. 14, the government of Ontario, Canada, announced the start of a workplace health and safety inspection blitz of big-box stores in Toronto, Hamilton, Peel, York and Durham. A week later, Ontario announced it had expanded this program to additional business sectors.
Initial Inspection Blitz
Initially, approximately 50 ministry inspectors and local bylaw and police officers started visiting big-box stores to ensure that workers and patrons were:
- Wearing masks.
- Maintaining physical distance.
- Following health and safety measures.
- Ticket supervisors, employees and patrons who were not in compliance with COVID-19 safety requirements.
- Temporarily close premises.
- Disperse groups of more than five people.
On Jan. 20, Ontario announced that, starting immediately and with the support of 300 officers, it was expanding its workplace inspection campaign and would be visiting a variety of workplaces allowed to open during the provincial shutdown, including:
- Retail establishments, including big-box stores.
- Restaurants providing take-out meals.
- Essential service-sector establishments (e.g., gas stations).
- Farming operations.
Ontario indicated that the inspection efforts announced on both Jan. 14 and Jan. 20, build on its “Stay Safe All Day” campaign announced on Jan. 12.
Penalties for Violations
There are penalties for corporations and individuals.
Corporations. Corporations can be fined $1,000 (approximately USD $780.60) for failing to comply with orders under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act and the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.
Individuals. Individuals, including employees and patrons, can be fined $750 (approximately USD $585.45) for failing to comply with orders under the acts.
More Serious Violations
If a violation is more serious, a person can be charged with failing to comply with an order under the acts. If the person is convicted, the court can impose fines up to:
- $100,000 (approximately USD $78,063) for individuals.
- $500,000 (approximately USD $390,315) for directors and officers of a corporation.
Individuals and directors and officers of a corporation can also be imprisoned for up to one year.
Corporations convicted of an offense can be fined up to $10,000,000 (approximately USD $7.81 million).
Bottom Line for Employers
Retail establishments (including big-box stores), restaurants providing take-out meals, essential service-sector establishments, and farming operations in Toronto, Hamilton, Peel, York and Durham are on notice that they will be inspected. The penalties for noncompliance with orders under the acts are significant for workers, patrons, directors and officers of a corporation, and the corporation, especially for more serious violations. Employers are strongly encouraged to ensure that they are in compliance with all orders under the acts so that when inspected there will be no penalties for violations.
Rhonda B. Levy and Barry Kuretzky are attorneys with Littler in Toronto. © 2021 Littler. All rights reserved. Reposted with permission of Lexology.