Novotel decision shows limits of employer free speech

Employers should tread lightly as statements can be perceived as coercive: Lawyer
By Danielle Harder
|Canadian Labour Reporter|Last Updated: 11/13/2012

A longstanding dispute between a hotel in Mississauga, Ont., and the union that hoped to organize its employees has ended with the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) ordering automatic union certification.

The case demonstrates the subtleties around employer free speech during an organizing drive, according to Stephen Krashinsky, a lawyer with Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP in Toronto who represented the union, UNITE HERE.

The OLRB ruled managers at Hotel Novotel in Mississauga acted illegally when they used misinformation and the threat of job losses to deter employees from unionizing. The board also ordered the hotel to pay union organizer Rekha Sharma the equivalent of eight hours’ pay per week dating back to April 2009 for cutting all of her part-time hours during the organizing drive.