Applying the Principle of Proportionality in Employment and Labour Law Contexts

By Alon-Shenker, Pnina; Davidov, Guy | McGill Law Journal, December 2013 | Go to article overview

Applying the Principle of Proportionality in Employment and Labour Law Contexts


Alon-Shenker, Pnina, Davidov, Guy, McGill Law Journal


The principle of proportionality, which is designed to limit abuse of power and infringement of human rights by governments and legislatures, has become a fundamental and binding legal principle in the jurisprudence of many countries. Ever since the seminal R. v. Oakes decision, when the Supreme Court of Canada interpreted section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as entailing a three-step proportionality test, proportionality has become an important pillar of Canadian law. This article argues that the principle of proportionality actually extends, and should extend, to the private sphere--imposing limitations on employers and trade unions when using their powers. It first argues, at a descriptive level, that proportionality already plays a significant role (although often not explicitly) in various Canadian labour and employment law contexts, a role not sufficiently acknowledged thus far. It then turns to the normative level and explores the justifications for extending the application of proportionality to the private sphere and more specifically to the employment relationship. The article advocates a more explicit use and a structured application of the three-stage proportionality test in various employment and labour law contexts.

Le principe de proportionnalite, concu pour limiter les abus de pouvoir et les violations des droits de l'homme par les gouvernements et les legislatures, est devenu un principe juridique fondamental et contraignant adopte par la jurisprudence de plusieurs pays. Depuis l'arret de principe R. v. Oakes, au sein duquel la Cour supreme du Canada a estime que l'article 1 de la Charte canadienne des droits et libertes entrainait un test de la proportionnalite en trois etapes, la proportionnalite est devenue un pilier important du droit canadien. Cet article soutient que le principe de proportionnalite s'etend, et devrait s'etendre, a la sphere privee--imposant certaines limitations aux employeurs et aux syndicats lorsqu'ils font l'usage de leurs pouvoirs. Adoptant dans un premier temps un point de vue descriptif, il avance que la proportionnalite joue deja un role significatif (bien que pas toujours explicite) dans divers contextes relies au droit du travail et de l'emploi au Canada, un role pas suffisamment reconnu jusqu'a present. Il se place ensuite sur un plan normatif et explore les raisons justifiant d'etendre l'application de la proportionnalite a la sphere privee, et plus specifiquement aux relations d'emploi. L'article preconise un usage plus explicite et une application plus structuree du test de proportionnalite en trois etapes dans divers contextes relies aux droits du travail et de l'emploi.

Introduction
I.   Proportionality in Canadian Employment and Labour
     Contexts
     A. Introduction
     B. Explicit Use
        1. Disciplinary Procedure and Just Cause
        2. Privacy in the Workplace
     C. Implicit Use
        1. Introduction
        2. Restrictive Covenants
        3. Discrimination
        4. Picketing
        5. Unfair Labour Practice
II.  Justifications for Applying Proportionality in Labour
     and Employment Law
     A. Introduction
     B. A Higher Standard of Bella dour is Nonnatively
        Justified
     C. Proportionality is an Appropriate Choice of a Higher
        Standard of Behaviour
     D. Applying die Proportionality Test is Doctrinally
        Possible and Will Improve Coherence
III. Additional Applications
Conclusion

Introduction

The principle of proportionality is designed to limit abuse of power and infringement of human rights and freedoms by governments and other public officials to the minimum necessary in the circumstances. As a philosophical notion, proportionality may be traced back to the ancient Golden Rule of "that which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow." (1) As a legal principle, it originated in the nineteenth century in Prussian administrative law, in which it imposed constraints on police powers that infringed an individual's liberty or property. …

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