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Can I refuse to go to work because of COVID-19 concerns? Will I be paid?

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There was considerable consternation in the employer community in response to my column last week.

As employment insurance claims jumped to a million in a few weeks, employers were upset to learn that most of the layoffs could result in claims against them for wrongful dismissal.

But, other than in New Brunswick and Alberta (where the statutes are different and the law presently uncertain), that is indeed the case.

Employees do not have to accept unpaid layoffs but can sue, instead, for wrongful dismissal. Ironically, that might be the best strategic route for an employee as it induces the employer to bring them back to work. If the employee refuses to return, their potential damages end as of that date. As a result, employees who sue may end up being recalled prior to employees who politely accept the layoff.

Have a question about how the coronavirus pandemic affects you? Drop Financial Post a line at FPcoronavirus@postmedia.com.

So, what are employers who must continue to pay salaries but are generating no revenue due to COVID-19, supposed to do?

I have never seen such a period in my 41-year career. Never has there been such a massive amount of layoffs and terminations in such a short period. Many employers, who cannot reduce their overhead without laying off some or all employees, will not survive. Dismissal cases will hasten that result for many.

What I have advised my employer clients is to provide employees a choice. They can either accept a layoff without pay but with benefits, on the basis that they will be recalled when work resumes, or be terminated.

Most, in my experience, are accepting layoffs for fear that, unless they return to their employer, they will be unable to find other work in what is expected to be a new era of high unemployment. If an employee accepts the layoff when provided this choice and signs the requisite agreement, they will have no viable claim for dismissal if they later change their mind.

To protect themselves, employees accepting layoffs in these circumstances should make clear, in writing, that they are accepting the layoff because of the unique circumstances, but do not accept the employer’s right to lay them off in the future.

Even if an employee agrees to the layoff, it will automatically convert to a dismissal if they are not recalled when new workers are hired or if the layoff exceeds the maximum period for layoff permitted in the Employment Standards Act.

But this does not provide an employer with the right, absent employee agreement, to lay employees off for these periods or at all.

I invited questions in my previous COVID-19 column and will devote Saturday columns to answering them, as well as provide general workplace advice related to those issues.

Here are a sample of questions I received, with my answers:

Can I refuse to go to work because of COVID-19 concerns? Will I be paid?

For those who are required to work but are uncomfortable attending, ask your employer for consent to work from home, or, if that is refused, for an unpaid leave of absence. At a minimum, employers must ensure social distancing, a sanitized workspace, and that no one be permitted to enter the workplace who has returned from another country or been near an infected person for 14 days or displays symptoms of COVID-19.

If the employer does not ensure a safe workplace, an employee can refuse to work and cannot be fired for that. But if the employer insists on your attending work which you view unsafe, you must inform your employer and ask that an Occupational Health and Safety Inspector make a determination.

Given that safety officers are extraordinarily backlogged right now, you will have a long initial period before you could be forced to work. If they attend and rule it is safe but you still refuse to work, you can be dismissed for cause.

Hopefully, employers for moral reasons will permit the employee a leave of absence instead. If they rule it is unsafe, then you need not attend the workplace. At that point, the company laying you off without pay, without providing you the ability to work from home or providing a safe working environment, would be considered a case of constructive dismissal.

I have to close my business because the province said so. Can I be sued by my employees?

If you are ordered to close, than you are at no risk of being sued for laying off employees during the period that you are ordered to close. That is called the defence of legal “frustration.” However, if you continue to lay off employees after the government permits you to reopen, that becomes a wrongful dismissal. There has been considerable confusion, even among legal commentators, about the defence of frustration and force majeure. Force majeure applies to contracts. Frustration applies if performance is rendered impossible such as a government shutdown, not when it is rendered merely uneconomic.

You have spoken about the rights of non-union employees. What about unionized ones?

Unionized employees cannot sue for constructive or wrongful dismissal and, unlike a non-union worker, an employer has an absolute right to lay them off, subject to collective agreements.

If you have a dispute, a unionized employee is subject to the union agreeing to fight for them. Given the many claims by members to relief at the current time, unions have even more legal discretion in deciding which cases it wishes to use its resources to fight.

I am part of the gig economy, do I qualify for EI?

Generally, gig economy workers such as ride-share drivers are not considered employees and are not eligible for EI.

However, many gig economy workers may be eligible for Ottawa’s new Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which provides a new benefit of up to $1,800 per month (after tax) for up to 4 months to those who are at least 15 years of age, earned at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the past 12 months, and who ceased working for at least 14 days due to COVID-19, regardless of EI eligibility. CERB is a simpler and more accessible replacement for the previously announced Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit.

The new benefit is available to people who are in any the following circumstances:

1. Workers who have to stop work due to COVID-19 and don’t have access to paid leave or other income support;

2. Workers who remain employed but have been asked not to come to work and are not being paid due to insufficient work;

3. Wage earners and self-employed workers, including contract workers, who would not otherwise be eligible for EI;

4. Workers who are unable to work because they are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19; and

5. Parents who have to stay home from work without pay to care for sick children or children who need care due to school and daycare closures.

The CERB will be accessible through a web portal or via an automated telephone line beginning in early April. The government estimates that applicants should receive their benefit funds within 2 days through e-transfer or within 10 days through the mail.

Note, however, that the CERB is not available to workers who quit their employment voluntarily.

For more information about the Emergency Care Benefit and others, you can visit this website.

I have to stay home to look after my children/family members, can I be fired? Can I work from home and look after my children?

Employers have a right, if they permit you to work from home, to have that work uninterrupted by childcare or eldercare work. However, unless daycare arrangements can be found, they do not have the right to prevent you from remaining home. It might be unpaid, though.

Firing or disciplining you because you stayed home to look after family members would be a breach both of Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s new legislative changes in the province and the Human Rights legislation throughout Canada.

If you were dismissed for staying home to look after your children, you could be entitled to reinstatement, back pay and additional non-taxable damages for breach of your human rights.

This CERB also applies to working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children due to school or daycare closures. The benefit applies regardless of whether the individual is eligible for EI.

I will be answering further inquiries in future Saturday columns. If you wish your question answered, write to me at hlevitt@levittllp.com.

 

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The Boys Season 2 Release Date, Cast, Plot, Trailer And Everything You Need To Know

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Hooray, The Boys are here! Amazon original science-fiction live-action series, The Boys aired back in 2019.

Before even the first season made it on the Amazon platforms, it was renewed for a second installment. The success of the show is a massive one, seeing the eccentric portrayal of superheroes.

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The pilot is more than enough to keep you hooked, and you can barely see the time pass as you watch the first eight episodes of season one.

It is a story loaded with sarcasm and skepticism, rather than to win over the viewers with identification or emotions. The inspiring characters show the dark side of superheroes credibly and surprisingly.

What Do We Know About The Release Date?

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According to an Instagram post of November 6, 2019, by Karl Urban, playing the lead role of Billy Butcher, the filming of the show was all done with it:

Cut and print!🤪 That’s a wrap for Billy Butcher on season 2 of @theboystv. Massive thanks to our awesome Crew n cast, love you all. 💥The Boys 2💥 On yer telle Mid 2020 #gonefishing🎣 😎💗

Eric Kripke, showrunner of Supernatural and The Boys, wrote on his Twitter handle regarding on the update on the upcoming season:

And, I’m hard at work (remotely) on #Season2. Here are a few shots! @KarlUrban @antonystarr @TheBoysTV #TheBoys #SPNFamily pic.twitter.com/rHnw0REsIx

— Eric Kripke (@therealKripke) March 22, 2020

Seeing the completed filming, we can expect the second part to hit our screens in mid-2020. The show is currently in its post-production stage.

Any Trailer Yet?

Yes, thankfully, an official trailer was released on December 6, 2019, on the official YouTube account of Prime Video UK. And, since then, it has scored a total of over 3 million views.

There are no updates regarding the admission of fresh faces. But, here is a list of a line-up based on the previous season:

  • Karl Urban as Billy Butcher
  • Jack Quaid as Hughie Campbell
  • Anthony Starr as Homelander
  • Erin Moriarty as Annie January 
  • Dominique McElligott as Queen Maeve, and so on

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Originally posted 2020-05-04 03:47:50.

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Spider-Man actually solved time travel in Avengers: Endgame

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Spider-Man might have been a pile of dust for most of Avengers: Endgame, but he actually played a bigger role than you’d think.

After the movie’s surprise five-year time jump, the remaining Avengers start to look to time travel to bring everyone back. Smart Hulk doesn’t have the knowledge though, so they need Tony Stark’s help and he doesn’t seem to want to do it.

Marvel Studios

Related: Avengers: Endgame theory makes it even more heartbreaking

He’s left the superhero life and living peacefully with Pepper and their daughter Morgan, so Tony doesn’t want to potentially mess it up by playing around with time – something he doesn’t think is possible anyway.

And yet, over one night, Tony manages to create time travel, but really, we should be thanking Spider-Man instead.

tom holland as spider man in avengers endgame

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Before Tony solves the time travel problem (and after he bizarrely dries plates before putting them on the washing-up rack), he looks at a picture of himself with Peter Parker and a fake Stark Industries certificate.

Shortly after this, Tony decides to have one last try at the time travel simulation, seemingly because of the guilt he felt over Peter’s death in Avengers: Infinity War.

But there’s a key detail you might have overlooked.

avengers endgame, peter parker, tom holland, spider man

Marvel Studios

ScreenRant suggests that the fact that Peter is holding the Stark Industries certificate upside-down is the reason why Tony is able to solve the timey-wimey conundrum.

“I’ve got a mild inspiration. I’d like to see it if checks out. So, I’d like to run one last sim before we pack it in for the night. This time in the shape of a Möbius strip, inverted please,” Tony tells Friday after this moment.

He says a few other science-y bits, but the main change is inverting the Möbius strip like Peter did for his certificate.

And given the timing, it seems that the “mild inspiration” could well be that certificate. Lo and behold, turning it upside-down worked and the rest is history.

iron man avengers endgame, snap

Marvel Studios

Related: A major Avengers plot hole about Thanos has finally been resolved

We’re sure time travel is more complicated than just looking at it upside-down, but they did have a time heist to get on with.

So, technically, this also means that Spider-Man is inadvertently responsible for Tony’s eventual sacrifice to save the world.

Sorry about that.

Avengers: Endgame is out now on DVD, Blu-ray, 3D, 4K and digital download, and is available on Disney+.


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Looking for more TV recommendations and discussion? Head over to our Facebook Group to see new picks every day, and chat with other readers about what they’re watching right now.

Originally posted 2020-05-01 06:05:44.

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Rhode Island Comic Con Panel Recap: Choose Your Realm, Westeros or Hogwarts?

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Courtesy of Co-director, Lindsey DeLuca.

Rhode Island Comic Con was held at the Rhode Island Convention Center and Dunkin’ Donuts Center this year from November 1-3. Nerds and Beyond joined the large crowds of people that were in attendance for an amazing time at the biggest show in the smallest state.

One of the highlights of the weekend was the variety of celebrity Q&A panels that were available for attendees to sit in on. Keep reading for our recap of two of the panels that were not to be missed!

Courtesy of Rhode Island Comic Con.

Winter is coming (really), and what better way to usher in the White Walkers’ favorite season than a chat with Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy) and Kristian Nairn (Hodor)? The Game of Thrones panel, aptly titled “One More Trip to Westeros,” was an excellent and insightful journey.

The panel began with a question about how the actors felt now that Game of Thrones is over. Nairn reflected on Hodor and explained that he initially wondered how much he could bring to the character, as he wanted him to be real, not a ridiculed laughing stock. He then realized that he was able to convey something beautiful and human with Hodor, which was very apparent on-screen. Allen, meanwhile, said that he had a specific and unique journey because his character was initially hated and ridiculed (before Theon’s big comeback!). He feels that it’s interesting to look back on it objectively now and is ultimately eternally grateful to have been a part of the show.

Because of what his character went through on the show, Allen discussed how he has a lot of conversations with people now about mental health. He went on to say that in regards to being able to talk about it, being honest, and being a symbol for it, he “can’t think of anything better.”

When asked if there was a character on Game of Thrones that they wish their own character had gotten a chance to have a scene with, Nairn replied that he would have liked to have worked with Charles Dance (who portrayed Tywin Lannister). They were then asked if they would like to have played any other character, and Allen said Ramsey (because there’s a lot of license to do what you like in that role), and Nairn said Varys or Brienne.

Allen, when someone inquired as to which scene in Game of Thrones that they were most proud of, referred back to the scene in season 6, episode 1 where Brienne and Pod show up to save Sansa and Theon. Allen described a moment (which he said was small but important to him) where Theon had been staring at Sansa, but turns his gaze to the ground when she looks over at him. He explained that this small reaction was not planned, he just naturally did it because it felt right, and he really liked how the scene turned out.

Nairn, of course, referred to the infamous door scene. He laughed as he reflected on how many doors were involved throughout various takes, and also explained that there were a lot of emotions because filming fell on his birthday, and those were his last few days on set.

Allen was asked what made him say yes to the role of Theon Greyjoy. He explained how big of a deal it was at the time for someone to have a chance to work with HBO, especially in England! He said that it didn’t seem real to him that he could potentially be a part of an HBO show, as he was actually watching HBO’s The Wire at the time. Interestingly enough, Allen actually auditioned for the roles of Jon Snow and Robb Stark before eventually taking on the role of Theon.

The topic of off-camera moments was brought up, and Allen launched into a tale about a time when he, Richard Madden (Robb Stark), and Kit Harington (Jon Snow) went out to a club (which Nairn was DJing at!) and found themselves in a bit of trouble. Trouble being defined as Allen inviting himself up on stage to do his own “routine” amongst the ladies that were up there performing. Unsurprisingly, he was quickly removed from the establishment.

Nairn, meanwhile, went on to discuss how one of his first days of filming ended up being one of his toughest days on set. As he was new to the acting world, he didn’t really know what to expect. He specifically referenced the scene in which Tyrion presents Bran with his newly fitted saddle, and Hodor then has to carry Bran. Nairn quickly learned about how difficult the repetition of filming scenes can be — eight times!

When asked about their previous knowledge of Game of Thrones before working on the show, Nairn stated that he knew nothing about the book series and hadn’t even heard of it. However, when he told his mother he was auditioning, she “freaked out” and told him to say yes if he got the part. She was the one that encouraged him to take on what ended up being his first professional acting role!

Allen had not read the books, and when he later asked if he should, he was told that they would leave that up to him. Though he did start reading them, he eventually stopped because the direction of the story changed as the show took on a life of its own. He also laughed as he remarked how he looks nothing like the book version of Theon.

Overall, Allen and Nairn’s panel was an absolute delight. It was a pleasure to hear about their experiences working on such a huge and epic series that has meant so much to so many people. 

Courtesy of Rhode Island Comic Con.

Wands at the ready? To end off this phenomenal weekend, RICC brought us back to Hogwarts with “Avada Kedavra! Wizarding 101” featuring Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley), James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley), and Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood). Before we launch into the panel’s details, we wanted to commend RICC on their organization for this massive panel. It was clear as we queued that not everyone who had lined up would be getting to the panel, and RICC handled it flawlessly with only allowing a certain amount of fans into the ballroom at once, the staff communicating effectively on how many more seats were available before sending another group in.

It’s no secret that Lynch had been a Potter fan before her casting — and that Luna Lovegood had been her favorite — but it’s still always wonderful to hear her talk about that love she still holds for her character. She retold a story of how just the year before her casting as Luna, she dressed as her for Halloween, even hand-making her own set of radish earrings. The designers over at WB loved her version so much that they purchased the pattern from her and replicated them for the film and memorabilia later on. “She had a mature mindset,” Lynch reminisced about Luna, “I found solace in her character. Her self-acceptance made it so she didn’t judge other people.”

The Harry Potter cast across all the films feature some true masters of their craft. When asked which of their veteran cast mates they enjoyed working with most, the Phelps landed on Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), and Wright enjoyed David Thewlis’ portrayal of Remus Lupin, her favorite professor from the books, so much she asked him to star in her directorial debut, Separate We Go. Lynch recalled as an actress new to filming the ease and playfulness of Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange) and Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), and how watching them taught her that acting really, truly is about playing and having fun.

What would a celebrity panel be without one the most classic questions at a fan Q&A: what was the funniest moment from set? The group laughed as they told a few silly stories, one of which being when Dumbledore’s Army is discovered in the Room of Requirement in The Order of the Phoenix. Straight faces were limited, they remembered, with each take getting progressively funnier the more it was shot.

Harry Potter also breaks the hearts of its readers with some fan-favorite character deaths, and the Phelps, despite one of their characters dying in the books, mentioned Harry’s trusty owl Hedwig’s shocking demise as one of the most impactful deaths of the series. Lynch had to tell her mom to take the book and hide it after Dumbledore’s death in The Half-Blood Prince. Wright thought Sirius’ death packed the most punch, and that’s definitely up there for us, too. Speaking of the books, James Phelps loved Prisoner of Azkaban, Oliver Phelps thinks Goblet of Fire is the best of the bunch, and both Lynch and Wright agreed that Order of the Phoenix is number one.

This series is important to a lot of people, and gaining more fans every day, and this panel made it clear it was just as important to the actors in the films. James Phelps felt fortunate to have worked with such a fantastic crew and set that was fun to go to everyday. It gave Wright the inspiration to go to college and study film, the knowledge of the craft of filmmaking enrapturing her. Lynch was amazed by the creativity involved, and she learned that imagination really is a magic power — the ability to see something in your head and then turn it into a work of art.

Lynch also volunteered herself for a role in the films when they get rebooted — she’d love to play Trelawney! And in the same token, she hoped that they would consider an entire series of one episode per chapter, and the crowd certainly agreed. But the question flipped from who they’d like to play to how the characters defined them as actors. The Phelps both agreed that Fred and George were very saturated versions of themselves, while Wright noted there was a blurred line where Ginny ended and Bonnie began. She remembered it took a few years to process the whole experience and realize how significant and formative it was, and to celebrate it. Lynch commended that the characters were so well written and developed, it made the job easier. She wanted to find more individuals like Luna who inspire her and make her want to be better.

The panel ended with the actors revealing their own Hogwarts houses. Oliver Phelps wanted to remain a Gryffindor, but it turns out that the ever-popular Pottermore revealed them both to be Hufflepuffs! Wright mirrored her on-screen character with a sorting into Gryffindor, where she was joined by Lynch per the quizzes, who was happy with her sorting (although she sometimes wished it was Ravenclaw).

It was so great to see these old cast mates together once again, the love for their Potter characters still abundantly clear. It was just like going back to Hogwarts, even if only for an hour.

The Nerds and Beyond team was at Rhode Island Comic Con all weekend, and we had a blast. You can read about our take on RICC as a whole here!

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Originally posted 2020-04-28 15:16:15.

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