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I work for a municipal government and have been told that I now have to work at a long-term care home. Can I refuse?

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I work for a municipal government and have been told that I now have to work at a long-term care home. Can I refuse?
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I work for a municipal government and have been told that I now have to work at a long-term care home. Can I refuse?
Reviewed: 
April 3, 2020
Answer

On March 17, 2020, the Ontario government declared a state of emergency. This gives them powers they don’t normally have.

The government used these powers to pass a regulation that says municipalities can staff their long-term care homes in ways they usually cannot do. Municipalities include cities, towns, and regions. People who work for municipalities do a wide variety of jobs. Some municipalities operate long-term care homes.

With the new law, municipal staff, who usually do other jobs, can be told to work in long-term care homes that are run by the municipality. And employers don’t have to follow the collective agreements of unionized staff when they do this.  

What you can do

The Occupational Health and Safety Act lets most workers refuse to do work that’s not safe. But this does not apply to workers who the law says are “employed in the operation” of a long-term care home. It’s not yet clear whether this includes workers who are moved to long-term care homes for a period of time but will later go back to their old jobs.

If you’ve been told you’re now working in a long-term care home, you may be able to ask your employer to accommodate or do things differently for you based on the Ontario Human Rights Code. This could apply if you or a family member you’re caring for is at high risk if they get COVID-19. It may go against the Code to make you work in a long-term care home.

Get legal help if you need more information about your rights. To find out about making a human rights claim, contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre.

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