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Edmonton Corporate Law Blog

An employer's obligation to prevent workplace violence

Alberta employers are required to provide their employees with a violence-free workplace. Admittedly, it can be difficult to know when a particular person could commit a violent act against an employee. Even so, understanding what constitutes violence and certain situations in which it may occur, an employer can help prevent it from happening within the company.

Obviously, physical attacks and sexual assault against an employee constitute violence. Other forms of violence are not quite as obvious to some employers. For instance, written and/or verbal threats should be considered violence. Any threatening behavior that does not necessarily result in a physical attack is still violent. Finally, if a domestic violence incident occurs in on a work site, it constitutes workplace violence.

Organizational culture is vital to corporate governance

When starting a new business, Alberta entrepreneurs often set goals for their companies. The corporate governance decisions made during the formation process and the first weeks or months of operation set the tone for the future, especially when it comes to dealing with employees. Creating the right organization culture could help the business succeed.

Creating a supportive organizational culture lets employees know their value, which often increases their dedication and loyalty to the company. This helps to retain good employees by reducing turnover. The stronger the culture is, the better employees know what the owner expects of them in their dealings with each other, management and the public. The better a business owner defines the organizational culture, the greater the potential for distinguishing the company from competitors.

Business law issues: What to name a new company

In Alberta, choosing a name for a new company is an important part of the incorporation process. The name needs to draw customers in and be memorable. There are also considerations involving domain name selection.

There are a few legal reasons why an entrepreneur cannot simply choose a name and go with it.

Names must meet the requirements set forth in sections 10 and 12 of the Business Corporations Act (Alberta).

For instance, one of the primary criteria for a name is that it is not the same as an already established corporation. It also cannot be so similar that it creates confusion between two companies. For this reason, a NUANS search is required in order to eliminate these possibilities.

ADR in Alberta: How negotiation, mediation, and arbitration work

There are many alternatives to going to court to resolve legal conflicts. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) can be faster and cheaper than litigation for individuals and organizations.

There are four methods of resolving disputes:

  • Negotiation
  • Mediation
  • Arbitration
  • Court Litigation.

Parties can use individual methods or combine them as needed. For example, negotiation and mediation are often used to resolve disputes that are already in Court litigation.

Each method offers parties varying degrees of input and control over the process and outcome. With knowledge of the benefits and drawbacks of each method, parties in conflict can choose the appropriate method depending on the dispute, the parties involved, and the relationship between them.

Professional liability: Contact a Lawyer Early When Faced with an APEGA Investigation

Alberta's engineers and geoscientists are regulated by the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta. All members and permit holders become subject to the Engineering and Geoscience Professsions Act, its Regulations, Code of Ethics, General Regulations and applicable Practice Standards and Guidelines.

APEGA is self-regulated. This means that when complaints against members arise, the association investigates them, conducts the discliplinary process, and manages any appeals. 

When APEGA receives a complaint, the member or permit holder is notified. They are then compelled to produce any evidence related to the complaint and to cooperate with the investigation. Interviews may be conducted by the investigations staff, which also gathers evidence for the investigative panel.

Employer obligations in workplace harassment and violence

Employees deserve a safe place to work. Employers are obligated under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to make that happen. The law outlines the minimum requirements for addressing workplace harassment and violence. In particular, as of 2018, employers were required to provide a "psychologically safe" environment to workers.

Alberta employers need to make clear, in written form, what constitutes workplace harassment and violence. These definitions must include sexual and domestic violence. Employers must also develop separate plans to help prevent harassment and violence in the workplace, which require review at least every three years. The training programs that support these policies and plans are pivotal to the programs, and are reviewed during investigations as evidence of the steps the employer took to provide a safe work environment.

Minimizing retaliation in harassment investigations

Alberta businesses who have employees must prepare to deal with personalities that do not get along. Claims of discrimination, bullying and harassment could crop up at any time and business owners need to make sure that they have appropriate policies and procedures to deal with them. It is not enough to have protocols for discrimination or harassment investigations, but also to handle retaliation against complainants or witnesses by those that are accused of harassment or others that are sympathetic to the accused.

Everyone within the organization needs to understand the company's policy against retaliation for making complaints or participating in investigations. Training sessions should be held periodically to ensure every employee knows the company's expectations and the repercussions of violating those policies.

When it comes to business law, numerous choices are required

Starting a small company here in Alberta comes with mixed emotions. Excitement, trepidation and more can make the decision-making process challenging if done alone. Choosing an entity structure is an important part of the process, but it is only one choice entrepreneurs need to consider as they work to make their visions come to life. Business law encompasses a wide variety of circumstances and situations that could be encountered when embarking on a new venture.

Business law allows flexibility in choosing a structure

Entrepreneurs here in Alberta and across the country have several decisions to make as they get ready to open their doors. One of the most essential is the type of business structure under which they will operate. Fortunately, business law allows flexibility in this area since a company can change its structure when necessary.

For example, if an entrepreneur starts out on his or her own, it would probably be more advantageous to choose to operate under a trade name. This is an unincorporated business owned by one person or entity also referred to as a sole proprietorship. Since the law does not distinguish between the business and its owner, he or she takes full responsibility for the good and the bad, including liability, profits and losses, and decision-making, among other things. The entrepreneur must weigh the potential tax and financial benefits of a proprietorship against the potential risks of the business and assuming personal liability if something goes wrong. Whether it is a negligent act or omission, or the debts of the business, a proprietor will be solely and personally liable for the costs that arise. 

Corinne Petersen Rejoins the Benchers Table

Kingsgate Legal is proud to announce Corinne Petersen has rejoined the Law Society Board of Directors. The Board provides strategic direction to the Law Society of Alberta focusing on governance and adjudication. We are excited to have one of our very own helping to ensure our legal profession is regulated in the public interest in a fair and responsible manner. Congratulations, Corinne!

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