Introducing the Supporting Ontario’s Recovery and Municipal Elections Act, 2020
On Friday, November 20, 2020, the Ontario Government enacted the new Supporting Ontario’s Recovery and Municipal Elections Act, 2020 (the “Act”). Employers should be aware of this new piece of legislation, as it contains several provisions which impact Ontario business owners and employers as they navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Section 2(1) of the Act, retroactive from March 17, 2020, provides employers and businesses with civil liability protection by preventing COVID-19 lawsuits from being advanced by individuals who were infected, potentially infected, or exposed to COVID-19 due to alleged actions or inactions of individuals, businesses and employers.
Employers and businesses will have the benefit of these protective measures provided the following has occurred:
- they made a good faith effort to act in accordance with public health guidance and applicable laws relating to COVID-19;
- the business’s/employer’s actions do not amount to gross negligence;
- the business/employer was not in operation when they were required to be closed; and
- the alleged exposure of contraction of COVID-19 occurred after March 17, 2020.
This Act provides welcome protection against lawsuits that may additionally burden already struggling businesses. The threshold of compliance a business must demonstrate in order to receive protection under this Act is fairly low. It essentially requires an “honest” effort to comply with legislation and guidance from public health authorities as long as the conduct does not amount to gross negligence.
While the Act protects businesses from these types of lawsuits arising from customers, clients, or visitors, it is important remember that under section 4(2), the limitation does not bar employees or other individuals engaged in the performance of work or supply of services (such as contractors) from commencing a claim.
For employers, this provision is significant. For employers covered under WSIB, the Act specifically recognizes that the Worker’s Safety and Insurance Act will continue to apply.
Like many pieces of legislation intended to address the many facets of pandemic, it is still unknown how this Act will be interpreted by the Courts. As such, we advise employers to follow best practices in keeping up with legislation and do their best to follow public health guidelines and other government mandates.