Monday, May 27, 2013

How to limit employer liability when dismissing employees

     In my close to 20 years in litigating wrongful dismissal and human rights cases on behalf of employees I have come to the the conclusion that many of these cases could be avoided or resolved for a fraction of the post-litigation cost.  Litigation, like dismissal for cause, should be viewed by human resources professionals as a last resort.  In the ever increasingly competitive business world litigation is an inefficient manner of resolving  the vast majority of these disputes.  Here are a few points to keep in mind:

- Do not allege cause unless you have received sound legal advice;           

-  Do not assert acts amounting to crimes or breach of a human
rights statute unless you have conducted a fair and thorough
investigation in which the employee has had a meaningful
opportunity to participate;

- If litigation has commenced, do not hesitate to put in a reasonable
Rule 49 Offer to Settle promptly.  Pin-point the range of reasonable
notice and offer something a little over the lower end of the range.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Coaching Error on Time-out Led to Leaf's Failure

     The time-out is one of the most powerful tactical tools in a coach's arsenal in hockey.  The time-out provides both players and coaches on the team calling it an opportunity to step back from the immediate moment of the game and to draw their attention to where they are and what they wish to accomplish.  To draw from physics it effectively breaks the momentum in the play bringing it to a period of rest allowing for both physical and mental rejuvenation. For the opposing team the time-out means that the momentum which they had is lost and they must start again and attempt to recapture the momentum which they left off at.  From a psychological point of view - the time-out - has the ability to provide the team calling it with a fresh start and renewed focus.

     When a team is up 4-1 in the third period of game 7 of a best of 7 series and the other team starts to dominate the play the most sensible and effective strategy is to stop the play by way of a time-out.  This for some reason did not happen in the Leaf's game 7 game against Boston.  Instead Boston kept dominating and with each goal they scored their opponents became more anxious, more vulnerable and less confident.  The more the Bruins came on without any interruption in the play to communicate a positive message to the overwhelmed Maple Leafs the less they believed in themselves.  Once fear overcame the Maple Leafs it was all over.  The job of a coach or mentor is to remove impediments such as fear and anxiety from their players.  The coach is a motivator and the task of motivating does not end simply because your team is up 4 - 1 late in the third period.  

Saturday, May 11, 2013

"Some of your best friends are gay and you don't even know it !"

     In the wake of the tremendous outpouring of admiration and support for NBA star Jason Collins on his coming out of the so called closet, I thought I would share with the readership my own personal experience with the concept of the closet, ignorance and homophobia.

The Closet:

     I was not always a tolerant and gay-friendly person.  I - like most individuals raised in a West-Indian and Catholic household was indoctrinated with a sense of morality which made homosexuals and homosexuality worthy of scorn, ridicule and isolation.  In my little world and by my simple mind homosexuality was a matter of choice.  They chose to be homosexuals so they opened themselves for scorn and ridicule.   In this climate fathers disowned sons.  Sons disowned fathers.  Mothers disowned their children. Brothers disowned sisters and vice versa.  Homosexuals - while we knew they existed - were forced into segregation and hiding.  The fear of losing family, friends and employment was so strong and compelling that homosexuals had to live "double lives" or "in the closet" as the concept has come to be phrased.


     I came to learn firsthand the power of the closet and that ignorance is at the heart of homophobia.  Two of my closest friends Paul and Mary (not their real names) enjoyed a friendship with me which started during our days as students.  Peter and Mary were a couple and myself and anyone I was romantically involved with at the time would frequently socialized together.  I considered Paul and Mary to be among my closest friends.  I assumed that like myself they were heterosexual and that like myself they held homophobic views.  Accordingly, from time to time I uttered the odd homophobic slurs in their presence - "flamer", "fag", "batty-man" etc.  One day Mary looked me straight in the eye and said, "Ernest some of your best friends are gay and you don't even know it."  Those words and the stern and serious look in Mary's eyes when she uttered them were branded in my consciousness for eternity. This was the start of my awakening and enlightenment.

      Unknowing to me Paul and Mary and their relationship was a product of the closet.   Each of them had a public persona as "straight" and their private persona.  To their parents, family, friends and employers they felt compelled to wear the mask of "straightness" and to park their homosexuality far in the closet.  The consequences of being "outed" were so potentially devastating to their lives on virtually all fronts. Indeed, if their parents and family and friends were like me their election to stay in the closet makes perfect sense.

     In reflecting back on my experience with Paul and Mary I feel both shame and pride.  I feel shame in knowing that I uttered homophobic slurs and denigrated others out of ignorance.  As book-smart as I was I never took the time to analyze the issue for myself - electing instead to blindly follow what was the conventional wisdom.  On the other hand I feel pride in knowing that this experience has profoundly opened my mind and my heart and has made me a much better person.  I truly hope that in sharing my experience it may cause others in the community to re-evaluate their views on this issue.