Wassim Garzouzi Nominated by Canadian Lawyer as one of the Top 25 Most Influential Lawyers in the category of ‘Human Rights, Advocacy and Criminal’

Canadian Lawyer’s Top 25 Most Influential list is looking for those in the legal profession who have had the greatest impact over the last 18 months. This category encompasses lawyers who practice in the area of criminal law, human rights, constitutional law, and related areas, either in-house or in private practice as well as judges who have made an impact in those areas

During this period, Wassim led the charge – litigating over thirty cases to completion, bargaining, acting as a nominee, teaching and organizing. Wassim is singularly focused on ensuring that vulnerable workers are adequately compensated and treated with dignity.

LITIGATION

Some recent examples include:

Grant v Deputy Head (Correctional Service of Canada), 2017 PSLREB 59

Wassim successfully advocated on behalf of an employee who was found to have been “treated as a racially stereotyped person” which was specific to “black men as being violent”. The Board found that the employer had discriminated against the employee, creating an important precedent in the federal public service.

University Health Network and Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 5001, 2017 CanLII 82795

Wassim successfully argued that an arbitrator had jurisdiction to hear a grievance involving matters that took place before an employment relationship was established between employees and the employer. This case involved employees who had paid cash for jobs and who alleged being vulnerable as a result of fear of reprisals. The employer objected to the arbitrator’s jurisdiction on the grounds that the alleged payment would have taken place before the employees were actually employed. As a result of this decision, vulnerable employees were provided with due process for the first time.

Toronto Star report: https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/12/19/cash-for-jobs-scheme-forced-workers-to-shell-out-for-hospital-gig.html

Corporation of the City of Kingston v Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 109, 2018 CanLII 26065

Since 1975, nurses in Ontario performed work duties, either before or after their scheduled work shift, without compensation. Employers took the position that it was simply part of a nurse’s “professional responsibility”. Wassim successfully argued against this decades’ long practice in the health care sector, ensuring that employees, in a female dominated sector, were paid for all work performed.

Algonquin College v Ontario Public Service Employees Union, 2018 CanLII 83052

Wassim successfully advocated on behalf of an employee who had been denied any grievance rights to challenge his termination, on the basis   of his supposed “part-time” status. The decision confirmed principles that parties cannot contract out of their statutory obligations and provided a meaningful safety net to countless other employees in the College sector.

Office and Professional Employees International Union v Canadian Helicopters Limited (Canadian Helicopters Offshore), 2018 CIRB 891

Following a certification vote, the employer hired employees, assigned them a different title, and argued that they were not part of the union. The employer then proceeded to pay them approximately 50% less than the existing employees. Wassim successfully argued that this was contrary to the law. This decision ensures that employees are treated with dignity, that union rights are protected and that equal pay for equal work is fundamental to any workplace.

Health Sciences North v Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 1623, 2018 CanLII 60471

The Employer eliminated a classification in order to assign the duties to a lower-paying job. Wassim successfully argued that employees ought to be paid the same when performing the same work. Equal pay for equal work.

ADVOCACY BEYOND LITIGATION

In addition to arguing cases, Wassim bargains on behalf of clients in the provincial and federal sectors – ensuring that operational requirements never take precedence over human rights. Through litigation, Wassim persuaded arbitration boards to declare provincially-negotiated provisions of health care plans and collective agreement provisions to be discriminatory.

Wassim also acts as union nominee on interest arbitration boards, making compensation for vulnerable employees, regardless of employment status, a priority.

As a leader in this field, Wassim is regularly asked to comment on public interest issues. Recently, Wassim participated in a debate on an employee’s “Right to Disconnect” (or alternatively, be compensated for work performed outside of working hours).

He was elected by his peers to serve as Regional Vice-President for the Canadian Association of Labour Lawyers and is a Part-Time Professor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law, where he teaches the advanced Labour Law course, in both the French and English programs. In this same role, Wassim led a successful organizing drive leading to the unionization of hundreds of part-time faculty members at the University of Ottawa.

To learn more about Wassim visit: https://ravenlaw.com/people/wassim-garzouzi 

To learn more about Canadian Lawyer’s survey and to vote, visit: https://canadianlawyermag.com/survey/top-25-most-influential-2019-24