Criminal Law

Have you been charged with a crime? Have you been denied legal aid? We may be able to help. Visit our criminal law page to read more able the kinds of cases we can take on.

Family Law

Do you need advice about custody and access? Questions about child support? DLS may be able to assist. To find out more about these services, visit our family law page.

Refugee and Immigration Law

Have you made a refugee claim? Do you need help filing a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment or Humanitarian & Compassionate Grounds application? We may be able to help.

Housing Law

Are you a tenant in rental housing? Is your landlord trying to evict you? Does your apartment need repair? We may be able to help.

University Affairs

Are you a student at the University of Toronto? Have you been charged with an academic offence? Do you need advice about an academic appeal? Read more about our services for students to see if we can assist.

Employment Law

Lost your job?  Treated unfairly at work?  Problems with your employer?  We may be able to assist you.

Legal Education Workshops

We provide plain language workshops on a variety of legal topics. To request a workshop or learn more about our PLE program, contact us.


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News

Are we really open for business when no one has a schedule?

By Sukhmani Virdi, Caseworker in Employment Law & Academic Appeal Division

             Are you trying to plan your life without knowing when to work, for how long and no real ability to turn down work?  Are you bummed because your shift was canceled the night before? Are you trying to balance courses and a job, unable to know when you have time to complete school work because your boss still hasn’t made the schedule? Is it making you uneasy not knowing what your day will look like three days from now? If so, you are not alone. These are the realities for many of the almost 44 percent of people in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area who work in precarious jobs.[1]

            Irregular or short notice scheduling impacts more than just a person’s work, it defines their life. The Economic Policy Institute found that workers with irregular schedules experience greater work-family conflict than those with regular, standard schedules.[2] Other studies have demonstrated that workers in precarious employment are less likely to invest in their children (less volunteering at their child’s ).[3] In addition, these workers are more likely to experience poor health[4] as they are less likely to engage in preventative care. After all, who can afford to go to a doctor’s appointment when they might be called in to work?

            Employers argue that they need flexibility to schedule and cancel shifts last minute to respond to business needs otherwise they lose money. However, when workers do not know when they are working, or are trying to balance multiple part-time jobs, they are not ready to work at a moment’s notice – and employers are still left scrambling. By giving workers some notice, they give workers an opportunity to plan and to be reliable.  Reliable employees prevent a business from being short-staffed in busy periods or missing sales. In a 2015 pilot project, Gap implemented two key practices to support stable scheduling in their US workplaces: (1) schedules were posted two weeks in advance; (2) on-call shifts were eliminated. After eight months, Gap saw a median increase of 7% in their sales.[5] By posting schedules even just a few days in advance, employers are giving workers a sense of security and when workers feel secure, they stay in their positions, and employers avoid turnover and overhead costs.  

            For a short period, it looked like workers in Ontario were going to get some security in scheduling.  Starting this January workers were to have the right to (1) refuse a request to work with less than 96 hours’ notice; (2) be paid for 3 hours if their scheduled or on-call shift was cancelled within 48 hours’ of the start time.  But in November 2018, before these modest steps could come into effect, the Ford Government axed them without any consultation or substitution. Can Ontario really be “open for business” when no one knows when to come ?

[1] Poverty and Employment Precarity in Southern Ontario (May 2015) The Precarity Penalty: The Impact of Employment Precarity on Individuals, Households and Communities – and what to do about it. Online: https://www.unitedwaygt.org/file/Precarity-Penalty-ExecSummary.pdf, 3.

[2] Economic Policy Institute (2015) Irregular Work Scheduling and its Consequences. EPI Briefing Paper #394. 2015. https://www.epi.org/publication/irregular-work-scheduling-and-its-consequences/, 2.

[3] Poverty and Employment Precarity in Southern Ontario, 13.

[4] Poverty and Employment Precarity in Southern Ontario, 9.

[5] Joan Williams et al. Stable Scheduling Increases Productivity and Sales. Online: http://worklifelaw.org/publications/Stable-Scheduling-Study-Report.pdf, 6-7.

Landlord’s “bed and breakfast” rental scheme defeated

The DLS Housing Law Division has just completed four years of litigation to win back thousands of dollars that were illegally collected from three University of Toronto international students and then kept by their landlord, who still has not paid them back. If you’re a student renter, read on to avoid having this happen to you!

The case

In late summer 2014, three international students answered a rental ad that a local landlord had placed on the University of Toronto Housing Services’ off-campus housing website. When the students visited the home (in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood, and divided into several apartments) to sign a lease, the landlord instead presented them with a “Booking Agreement” for a nine-month term of occupancy, requiring that the tenants pay their rent make their ‘payments’ in a front-loaded instalment schedule. The document also claimed that the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 (“RTA”) did not apply, that the landlord was an “innkeeper”, and that the students were each required to do chores for several hours per week as part of their agreement.

By December 2014, the students were complaining about a pest infestation, lack of heat, and daily harassment by their landlord. She had collected most of their rent for the entire term, so she told them to get out. They did move at the end of December, but she kept all of their money. The students visited DLS the next semester, and we filed their Landlord and Tenant Board (“LTB”) applications that summer.

The landlord managed to drag the case out for the next four years by:

The LTB, overwhelmed by staffing shortages, often took several months after a hearing date to even try to schedule the next one. From the final hearing, the LTB took eight months to issue its decision.

The outcome

The final LTB order provides that:

  • since the RTA applied to this tenancy, it was illegal for the landlord to collect a damage deposit and irregular front-loaded “instalment” payments instead of a regular monthly rent (where the deposit must be no greater than one month’s rent)
  • since the landlord ended the tenancy early in December 2014, she should have returned all of the money attributable to January-May 2015
  • since the landlord harassed the tenants and interfered with their reasonable enjoyment of the rented unit, she was ordered to refund an additional 10% of their rent

The landlord has decided not to appeal. As of the date of this post, she also has not yet paid a cent of the $7000+ that she owes.

Lessons for renters

  1. As a renter, you should be familiar with your basic legal rights under the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 – a law that protects tenants in Ontario. Visit yourlegalrights.ca for easy-to-read explanations of rent control, security of tenure, and other tenant rights.
  2. Just because your landlord says you are not covered by the RTA, does not make it true. The RTA applies to most rental situations, and there are very narrow exceptions. Signing an agreement (saying the RTA does not apply) does not matter. You cannot “contract out” of the RTA.
  3. If the RTA applies to your rental situation, you cannot be required to pay more than one month’s deposit (which is your last month’s rent) in advance. Beware of landlords who request three, five, or even twelve months of rent up front. A tight rental market will lead you to difficult choices. But the more money you put in your landlord’s pocket, the more you’re risking that they will keep that money in a situation where they are required to refund it.
  4. You have one year from the date that your landlord did anything illegal to file an application to the LTB. This deadline comes sooner than you think, so get legal advice soon if you think you might need it.
  5. The legal process is frustrating. Traditionally, the LTB is an efficient tribunal for evictions and landlord applications, which make up about 90% of the cases that the LTB hears. But tenant’s applications can often take years to finish, in part because an LTB member may look at what you are seeking and say “it’s just money”.
  6. Because you may need to give evidence to the LTB years down the road – after memories have faded – keep good documentation of your tenancy issues. If you think your landlord is harassing you, communicate with them in writing (including by email or text message) and save backup copies of that correspondence. If you notice any maintenance problems, take lots of photos and keep them organized by date and subject. If you feel that your apartment has inadequate heat, buy a thermometer, hold it in the centre of the room, and take a clear photo of the thermometer.

Special thanks to the four generations of our now-alumni who worked tirelessly on this case, the law students continuing collections efforts, UofT Housing Services for agreeing to de-list the landlord in question, and our clients who gave us permission to share this story.

Demystifying the University Mandated Leave of Absence Policy

 Thank you to 1L DLS volunteers Arjun Gandhi and Sara Bolourchian for putting together these questions to assist students in understanding the University Mandated Leave of Absence Policy.  The information contained here is taken from the University Mandated Leave of Absence Policy.  

 

1. What is the University Mandated Leave of Absence Policy 

The University Mandated Leave of Absence Policy (“MLOA”) is a relatively new policy passed by the University of Toronto Governing Council on June 27, 2018.  The policy creates a process through which the University can place a student on an involuntary leave of absence from the University. The policy is not intended to be disciplinary and is meant as a last resort in infrequent circumstances where the student is experiencing a mental health crisis or a similar issue and has declined to participate in any of the accommodative services made available to them, or where accommodations have not been successful.  

2. Who is covered by the MLOA? 

 The MLOA applies to all part-time and full-time students at the University of Toronto including students with a valid student card who are in-between sessions.  

 3. Under what circumstances does the University consider the MLOA? 

There are two scenarios where a students behaviour may trigger consideration for MLOA. 

(1) The student poses a physical or psychological harm to themselves or to others.  

(2)The student is unable to engage in the activities required to pursue an education at the University even after accommodations have been offered/pursued.  (To be clear, this does not mean that being academically unsuccesful by itself triggers the policy) 

4. How will I know if I am being considered for a MLOA? 

The Student Case Manager (SCM) assigned to your case will notify you in writing that the Vice-Provost is considering whether you fall under the policy. You will be given an opportunity to discuss this with the SCM.   

5. Who is the Student Case Manager (SCM) 

If the Vice-Provost is considering a MLOA, you will be assigned a SCM. The SCM acts as a liaison between you and the Vice-Provost, as well as with other staff engaged in exploring accommodations. The SCM also supports staff providing advice on terms and conditions of any leave. 

6. I have asked for an accommodation which the university has refused and now they are considering me for a MLOA. Is that allowed? 

The Vice Provost is not to place a student on a MLOA unless reasonable efforts have been made to enable the student to continue in their studies with accommodations and either those efforts have not been successful or the student has not participated or cooperated with the offered accommodations. 

The SCM should explore accommodations as an alternative to the MLOA in consultation with you, the Vice-Provost, and the Student Support Team.  

7. What is the Student Support Team? 

The Student Support Team (SST) is a team of multi-disciplinary experts established by the Vice-Provost. The team may include student service representatives, registrar personnel, medical professionals, academic administrators, equity officers, campus safety personnel, and others. The team is supposed to assist in giving a nuanced and comprehensive analysis of the student’s needs.  

8. Once I am notified that I am being considered for an MLAO what options do I have? 

Just because you are being considered for a MLOA does not mean that you will be placed on one.  If there are accommodations that would assist you that are not yet in place, these should be considered before any MLOA is imposed.  As a result, you should make the SCM and SST aware of any potential accommodations that you may require.  

Also, at any time during the process, you will be given the option of taking a voluntary leave of absence. The terms and conditions of the voluntary leave of absence will be recommended by the Vice-Provost after consultation with the SST and SCM. You may submit comments in response to the recommended terms and conditions. 

9. How long does the leave last? 

It depends. The duration of the leave is different in each case and will be determined by the Vice-Provost in consultation with the SCM, SST, and the student.   

10. How does the leave of absence affect my finances (tuition, scholarships)? 

It depends. Arrangements may be made for the reimbursement of tuition and for changes to the status of awards and scholarships.  This is a matter that must be considered as part of the MLOA. Speak to your SCM and SST. 

11. Will the MLOA affect me academically? 

The MLOA will not be noted on your transcript. Where appropriate, academic credit will be awarded for any academic work or research already completed. This is a matter that must be considered as part of the MLOA. Speak to your SCM and SST. 

12. Can I still be on campus after the leave has come into effect? 

It depends. Terms and conditions of the MLOA may include a limitation to your access to university premises. You may also be required to temporarily cease your co-curricular involvements on campus while the leave is in effect.  This is a matter that must be considered as part of the MLOA. Speak to your SCM and SST.  

13. I live in student housing, what happens if I am placed on a MLOA? 

It depends. Consideration must be given to a student’s housing situation where it could be affected by an MLOA. Where appropriate, terms and conditions of the MLOA may include relocating you to transitional housing. Speak to your SCM and SST. 

14. Will my personal information be kept confidential? 

Information regarding the process will remain strictly confidential. Any disclosure of your information should only occur if there are serious safety concerns, in which case, only the necessary officials should be notified.   

15. What do I do if I don’t like the terms and conditions of the MLOA proposed by the Vice-Provost? 

Terms and conditions are determined on a case by case basis and are supposed to address the specific behaviour and needs of the student. Prior to imposing the MLOA, the Vice Provost must provide the student with the circumstances giving rise to the decision to place a student on a MLOA, the process followed to arrive at the decision, and terms and conditions of the leave.  The student will have an opportunity to provide other relevant information prior to any final decision. 

In addition, you can speak to your SCM and SST to express your concerns before the MLOA is imposed 

If you are still not satisfied with the terms and conditions when they are imposed, you can request a review by the Provost. 

16. I’ve been placed on MLOA, and I do not agree with it. What do I do? 

Within 10 business days of the Vice-Provost’s decision to place you on a MLOA, you may submit a written request to the Provost to review the decision.  

The Provost will respond in writing within 10 business days to this request. 

17. What does a written request to review the Vice Provost Decision look like? 

The letter should set out the reasons the MLOA should not be imposed and/or requested changes to the terms and conditions.  Any supporting information should be included (ie. professor letter, medical notes).  The tone of the letter should be respectful and it should be edited to be free of grammatical errors or typos. 

18. I am over the 10 day time limit to apply for a review, what do I do? 

The Provost may extend the time limit for you to request a review in certain circumstances. In your letter, include any extenuating circumstances that prevented you from requesting a review earlier.  

19. The Provost agreed with the Vice Provost to impose a MLOA.  What do I do now? 

You can appeal the Provost’s decision to the University Tribunal. You must submit a written notice of appeal within 20 days of the Provost’s decision.  

20.  Will there be a hearing? Is the University Tribunal’s decision final? 

Yes, the Senior Chair or Associate Chair will hear the appeal and their decision is final.  

21. When my leave of absence is over, can I automatically return to the University? 

 When your voluntary or mandated leave of absence terminates, you must apply in writing to the Vice-Provost in order to return to your studies 

In addition, under the policy,  the Vice-Provost has the discretion to request an external medical assessment before allowing a student’s return. The Vice-Provost can extend the leave of absence if they feel the terms and conditions of the MLOA have not sufficiently been met.  

22. What does that letter requesting to return to studies at the University look like? 

It depends on the initial reasons for the MLOA so every situation will be different.  The letter could have updated medical information and/or an opinion from your treating health professional.  

23. The University has requested medical documents and/or that I undergo expert assessments prior to my return. What do I do? 

If the University requests medical documents or medical assessments, they will be responsible for reimbursing the costs. Any medical information given to the University will remain confidential.  Any medical information requested should be related to the reasons underlying the leave. If you still feel uncomfortable with complying with the request, you can seek independent legal advice.  

24. The Vice Provost has refused my return to University and extended my MLOA.  What do I do? 

You may have that decision reviewed and appealed using the same process as described in paragraphs 1620. 

25. I was placed on a MLOA without any prior notification or process. Is that allowed? 

In cases where a student’s behaviour is violent or poses a serious threat, an urgent MLOA can be immediately invoked for up to five business days without following the standard procedure. Where this is the case, you still have the opportunity to respond.  You can also request a review and appeal of this decision according to paragraphs 16-20. 

26.Can I seek legal advice? 

At any point during the process, you may seek independent legal advice. 

27. Can I get help from Downtown Legal Services (DLS)? 

If you are appealing the Provost’s decision to the University Tribunal, you can contact Downtown Legal Services (DLS) for legal advice and we may be able to represent you to the University Tribunal 

28.Do I have to pay for DLS services? 

DLS’s services will be free of charge provided that you have not opted-out of these levied services.  

29.How do I contact DLS to ask for assistance? 

Call our intake line at 416-978-6447.  Our trained students will confirm whether you are eligible for our services and you will be referred for an in person intake meeting to determine whether and/or how we can assist you. 

 

 

We are grateful for the funding provided by Legal Aid Ontario, the Law Foundation of Ontario, the Faculty of Law and students at the University of Toronto.