Most Ontario employers know that the province has issued a number of emergency orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the closure of non-essential workplaces and prohibiting public events and social gatherings of five people or more (the “Emergency Orders”).
It is also important for employers to understand the potential penalties that they may face for failing to comply with the province’s Emergency Orders and other applicable municipal by-laws so that they can better navigate their legal obligations while coping with the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Penalties for Violating Ontario’s Emergency Orders
Violating any of the province’s various Emergency Orders—including those that require the closure of non-essential workplaces, discussed in more detail in our earlier posts, and the prohibition on gatherings of more than five people—can result in the following penalties under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (“EMCPA”):
- Individuals may be fined between $750 and $100,000, and/or receive up to one year in jail;
- Directors of corporations may be fined between $750 and $500,000, and/or receive up to one year in jail; and
- Corporations may be fined between $750 and $10,000,000.
Accordingly, employers and workers anywhere in Ontario may be subject to these penalties if they violate any of the province’s Emergency Orders, which are being enforced by the police and municipal by-law officers across the province.
Further, anyone who interferes with an officer who is enforcing the Emergency Orders can be fined up to $1,000.
Employers should also be aware that certain cities in Ontario have passed additional by-laws in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that may impact them. We set out the municipal by-laws most relevant for employers in the Greater Toronto Area below.
The City of Brampton
On March 31, 2020, Mayor Patrick Brown enacted the Brampton COVID-19 Emergency Measures By-law, which prohibits certain activities and regulates social distancing in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 (the “Brampton By-law”).
The Brampton By-law prohibits anyone who does not live together from being within two metres of one another while on public property and prohibits employers from permitting people who do not live together from sitting or standing within two metres of one another inside or outside their business.
Violations of the Brampton By-Law are subject to a fine of between $500 and $100,000 per offence.
Therefore, employers with essential workplaces in Brampton that have not already done so should immediately institute and socialize appropriate policies to ensure that they do not permit anyone who does not live together to sit or stand within two metres of one another inside or outside their business. Further, Brampton employers that have workers who perform their jobs in public places must ensure that the workers remain at least 2 metres apart from each other and members of the public whenever they are on public property.
The City of Burlington
On April 6, 2020, the Burlington City Council approved a new COVID-19 Physical Distancing By-law, which prohibits people who do not live together from maintaining less than a two -metre physical distance from one another while on any public property (the “Burlington By-law”). Violation of the Burlington By-law is punishable with a fine of between $500 and $100,000.
Thus, employers with workers who perform their duties in public places that have not done so already should institute and socialize policies requiring workers to stay at least two metres away from anyone whom they do not live with while in public places.
The Town of Oakville
On April 3, 2020, Oakville implemented By-law 2020-054, The Emergency Physical Distancing By-Law, which regulates physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic (the “Oakville By-law”).
The Oakville By-law prohibits people who do not live together from being within two metres of one another while on public property, and prohibits businesses from permitting two or more persons who are not employed by the business from being within two metres of one another on any premises owned or controlled by the business.
Violations of the Oakville By-law can result in a fine of between $750 and $100,000, or an administrative penalty of $300.
Employers in Oakville with essential workplaces that are still operating should therefore ensure that they institute and socialize appropriate policies to ensure that they comply with the Oakville By-law, if they have not done so already.
While other GTA municipalities have passed by-laws in response to COVID-19, those listed above are most likely to impact employers. Additionally, as with other laws and regulations passed in response to COVID-19 across Canada, the provincial and municipal laws set out above are subject to change, and other municipalities may follow suit as the pandemic continues.
This blog is provided as an information service and summary of workplace legal issues. This information is not intended as legal advice.