Practice Areas

the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act.

We defend employers in human rights complaints before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, in grievance arbitrations and in the civil courts. We also act for organizations in complaints relating to discrimination in the provision of services.

The firm prides itself on providing timely and commercially sensitive advice on how to navigate difficult questions of accommodation, including managing employee absence and disability in the workplace, with a view to maintaining happy and healthy workplaces, and minimizing exposure to human rights claims.

Police law

Johnstone & Cowling LLP has pioneered a practice focusing on police law, and particularly on police labour relations.

The firm excels at guiding police employers through all legal aspects of the employment relationship, including matters dealing with human rights, privacy legislation, jurisdictional disputes and civil actions.

The firm acts as counsel for police services and police chiefs in hearings before all levels of Ontario courts and administrative tribunals including disciplinary tribunals convened under the Police Services Act, grievance arbitrations, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission.
We are recognized as a leading firm in Canada with respect to police discipline. Our lawyers are routinely asked to provide advice with respect to:
• prosecutions for misconduct under the Police Services Act
• complaints to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director
• hearings and appeals before the Ontario Civilian Police Commission
• compliance with the Police Services Act
• police services board governance

We also provide advice to police services on all other aspects of labour and employment law, including:
• collective bargaining
• human rights complaints
• accommodation issues
• illness and disability issues
• employment standards
• establishing and implementing workplace policies and procedures
• Workplace Safety and Insurance Board matters, including appeals to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal
• occupational health and safety
• Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act matters
• judicial reviews

Because of its expertise with respect to policing, the firm is also regularly retained to appear as counsel on behalf of police services and police chiefs in Coroner’s Inquests, commissions or other inquires. We have also defended police services boards in a number of cases in which officers have been accused of racial profiling.

In addition to our representation of employers in the police services sector, we also act for police chiefs and deputy chiefs in matters relating to their individual contracts of employment.

Occupational health and safety and workers’ compensation law

Given the substantial fines often meted out in occupational health and safety matters, employers are rightly concerned to have the best possible legal support when faced with a Ministry of Labour prosecution.

Johnstone & Cowling LLP routinely defends employers in prosecutions under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act, securing acquittals and withdrawal of charges in numerous claims.

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board is responsible for administering the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997, (the ”WSIA”) which in turn prescribes a no-fault workplace accident insurance system. In exchange for no-fault insurance benefits, workers surrender their right to sue their employer. In order to provide insurance benefits to injured workers, employer pay premiums depending on the type of business activity the employer conducts.

Dealing with workers’ compensation claims can be both time-consuming and costly for an employer. Accordingly, employers should have a comprehensive understanding of both their rights and obligations in this regard. Further, employers should ensure that they have an appropriate workplace injury management system in place in order to fulfill the statutory requirements of the WSIA, and return workers to the workplace quickly and safely.

Johnstone & Cowling LLP has extensive experience in assisting employers in fulfilling their obligations with respect to workers’ compensation. We also act for employers in workers’ compensation claims, including challenges to the validity of such claims and appeals before the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeal Tribunal.

Information and privacy law

Johnstone & Cowling LLP advises employers in the public and private sector on a range of issues relating to information, data protection and privacy, including:

• the application of the Ontario Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Ontario Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, and the requirements of those statutes
• discipline and dismissal of employees and officers where privacy interests are engaged, including discipline for inappropriate use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media
• advising on and drafting workplace and organizational privacy policies and consent forms

Public and administrative law

Johnstone & Cowling LLP is an adviser to a number of public bodies, including police services boards, delegated administrative authorities and statutory tribunals. Our public and administrative law work includes:

• acting as counsel to statutory tribunals
• appearing as prosecutors for provincial offences
• advising on a range of matters including procedural fairness and natural justice, institutional structure and governance matters