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

Media Release: Temporary Agency’s $30,000 Charge Against Workers Who End Their Employment Deemed Illegal by Ontario Labour Relations Boar

The decision involved four former temporary workers from FDM Group, a multi-national temporary work agency, who left their assignments arranged through FDM before the conclusion of a two-year commitment period.

Under FDM’s employment agreement, workers who end their employment contract before completing their commitment period are liable for $30,000 in damages arising from job-training costs incurred by FDM.

Under the Employment Standards Act, temporary work agencies are prohibited from charging workers a fee in connection with them becoming an employee of the agency and in connection with them being assigned work through the agency.

“In addition to being an unconscionable provision in an employment agreement, FDM’s enforcement of the $30,000 charge is in clear violation of the Employment Standards Act,” said John No, staff lawyer with Parkdale Community Legal Services, which represented three of the workers. “If temporary work agencies want to find ways to retain employees, they should be doing so by maintaining proper working conditions and not by bonding them with a threat of a penalty.”

The Board agreed with the workers and found that FDM’s $30,000 charge constituted a fee within the meaning of the Employment Standards Act and the manner in which FDM sought to enforce the charge was clearly prohibited by the Act. As a result, the Board held that charge was illegal and ordered FDM to remove provisions enforcing the fee from its employment agreements.

The decision is a monumental win not only for FDM employees, but also for temporary agency workers across the province, many of whom are low-wage workers, recent university graduates, and newcomers to Canada. Downtown Legal Services, who represented one of the workers in the FDM case, called the Board’s decision “a step in the right direction,” particularly for vulnerable groups who seek employment through agencies like FDM.

No commended the four workers for their willingness to participate in the case and fight FDM’s fee. “Had we lost, it would have been easier for FDM to enforce the fee against them,” he stated. “Instead, they decided to take the risk and fight to protect the rights of temporary workers.”

Eduardo Guzman-Diaz, one of the workers involved in the case, was extremely pleased with the outcome. “I’m very excited and relieved to have received the Board’s decision,” Guzman-Diaz said. “This decision not only impacts myself and the three others involved in the case, but also all FDM workers. So many people have reached out to me saying that they have been afraid to end their contracts with FDM. I hope this decision also brings them some relief.”

Unfortunately, FDM’s public statements after the decision gives doubt as to whether FDM will fully abandon its attempts to seek money from its employees. PCLS and DLS call on the Ministry of Labour to ensure that FDM has removed any iterations of the illegal damages clause from its employment agreements and that it will comply with the Board’s decision on a going forward basis.

The full decision can be found online here.

For more information contact:

John No
Staff Lawyer, Workers’ Rights Division
Parkdale Community Legal Services
noj@lao.on.ca, (416) 531-2411, ext. 227

Jennifer Fehr
Supervising Lawyer, Employment Law Division
Downtown Legal Services
jennifer.fehr@utoronto.ca, (416)934-4535

Final Exams are Here! Tips for Avoiding Academic Offences in a Remote Setting

The information contained here is taken from the University of Toronto Academic Integrity Website, the University of Toronto Missisauga Academic Integrity Website, and the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters.

 

What constitutes an academic offence during a remote exam?

Generally, submitting someone else’s work as your own, receiving help from someone else and/or helping someone else with their exam can all constitute academic offences. Sharing exam questions through online platforms or social media can also constitute an offence. Accessing aids like cheat sheets or online search engines are other examples of common remote academic offences.

Some Examples Include:

 Accessing an exam cheat sheet while writing your exam

 Searching Google, Reddit, or other platforms for help

 Posting an exam question on Reddit or Twitter

 Sharing and discussing exam questions through a chat app like Facebook messenger

 Submitting an answer from Easy Edu or Chegg

 Selling your exam or essay answers to other students

Even for open-book exams, always double-check with your professor what resources are acceptable. An open-book exam does not mean you are free to use any resource you want.

For more on unauthorized aids, see our post on unauthorized aids.

 

I’ve been accused of an academic offence, now what?

The information contained here is taken from the Academic Integrity Website’s Process and Procedures page. For a visual representation of the process, click here.

Professor’s Meeting

You will have an opportunity to discuss the accusation with your professor. You do not have the right to counsel at this meeting, but nothing you say can be used against you at a Tribunal Hearing (if the matter gets to that point).

Two important notes about professor’s meetings:

 If the professor believes an academic offence has occurred after meeting you and the assignment/exam is worth more than 10% of your grade, the professor has no choice but to report the offence. The matter will then proceed to a meeting with the Dean (or his/her Designate).

 Ignorance is no excuse! Even if you didn’t know what you did was an offence, the professor must report it.

Dean’s Meeting

At this stage, you will meet with the Dean’s Designate to discuss the allegations. At this point you do have a right to counsel. There are generally three outcomes to the Dean’s Meeting:

1. The Dean’s Designate may decide there was no academic offence and dismiss the matter.

2. If the Dean’s Designate believes there was an academic offence and you admit the offence, the Dean’s Designate may sanction you. If they believe your offence was serious enough to require a suspension longer than a year, they will decline to sanction you themselves and refer the matter to the Provost to lay charges against you.

3. If the Dean’s Designate believes there was an academic offence and you do not admit the offence, they will refer the matter to the Provost to lay charges against you.

Tribunal Hearing

If the Provost lays charges against you, you will have your matter heard before a tribunal comprised of a lawyer, a professor, and a student. For more information about tribunal hearings, see the Office of Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances Academic Discipline website.

Penalties

Sanctions imposed can range from a reprimand, to a reduction in your grade in the class, to a suspension from the University up to 5 years, to expulsion. Most sanctions will also involve a notation on your transcript.

For a non-exhaustive list of potential penalties that the University may impose for an academic offence, see here.

 

Can Downtown Legal Services (DLS) help?

If your matter has been referred to a Dean’s Meeting or a Tribunal Hearing, DLS may be able to provide you legal advice and representation.

DLS is a free legal aid clinic staffed by University of Toronto law students supervised by trained and experienced staff lawyers.

DLS services are available to any University of Toronto students who have not opted out of paying the DLS student levy. To determine if you’ve paid the DLS student levy, check your Tuition Invoice on ACORN. Look for an incidental fee for Downtown Legal Services.

 

How can I request DLS’ assistance?

To request assistance, call our intake line at (416) 978-6447. An intake operator will ask you a series of questions to determine if we can assist you.

Please note that whether we are able to assist you will depend on whether clinic students have availability to take on new files.

COVID-19 Update

Downtown Legal Services will be closed to members of the public during the City of Toronto lock-down (beginning November 23, 2020). If you require legal assistance, please call our intake line at 416-978-6447.

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.