The litigation practice provides legal advice to the Ministry of Labour's officers and inspectors, reviews recommendations to prosecute and, where warranted, conducts prosecutions under the Provincial Offences Act for violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA). The prosecutions are conducted before the Ontario Court of Justice and are presided over by either a Judge or a Justice of the Peace. The litigators travel throughout the province to conduct the prosecutions in the districts in which the offence took place. The litigation practice also initiates and responds to appeals to the higher courts.
Prosecutions are considered key to advancing through deterrence the Ministry of Labour's goal of reducing workplace injuries and deaths and ensuring compliance with minimum employment standards. In the 2009-2010 fiscal year, there were approximately 1,164 convictions under the OHSA with fines totalling over $12.9 million. On the employment standards front, since the implementation of its revised prosecution policy in 2004, the Ministry of Labour has initiated over 1,825 ESA prosecutions.
The prosecutions have established significant legal precedents on the nature of strict liability offences, principles of statutory interpretation, the scope of Charter of Rights and Freedoms protections for those facing quasi-criminal liability and penalties for violations of public welfare legislation.
In addition, the lawyers represent the Ministry in appeals of administrative compliance orders, issued by Ministry officers under the ESA and inspectors under the OHSA, to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB). The lawyers represent the Ministry's interest in these proceedings to ensure the proper interpretation and application of the relevant legislation. They also represent the Ministry in judicial review proceedings involving decisions of the OLRB, before all levels of the courts.
Finally, the lawyers represent the Ministry's interest, as required, at Coroner's Inquests involving the death of workers.