Overview

Local governments provide a broad range of services to the communities they serve, from general municipal operations to emergency response, transit, and libraries. Local governments face constant funding challenges, increased regulation, and intense public scrutiny. Local governments have many roles: employers, providers of services, cultural leaders, and as stewards of community interests.

Harris & Company understands that each entity, from the largest city government, to the smallest improvement district, is different. We work by getting to know the structure, people and objectives of each workplace. We then apply our deep knowledge of labour and employment law, and our broad understanding of local governments, to offer efficient advice that is tailored to each location and situation. We learn the culture and objectives of each client so that our advice is legally appropriate and contextually relevant.

We work with employers in every part of the province, from the East Kootenays to the Northwest to Vancouver Island, to help them to manage employees effectively while avoiding legal risks and liability. We understand the political, cultural and socio-economic factors at play in local governments and have years of experience in helping our clients to anticipate and avoid issues relating to managing their workforce and relationships with their unions.

Our clients include unionized and non-unionized local governments and related entities such as:

  • Regional Library Boards
  • Police service boards
  • Municipal libraries

We have been providing workplace legal advice and services to municipalities and municipal organizations since the firm’s inception. We are very familiar with the various unions involved, and the collective agreements under which our clients must manage.

Our services include:

  • Collective bargaining strategy and representation;
  • Collective agreement drafting and interpretation;
  • Labour dispute contingency planning;
  • Systemic issues relating to employee behavior and conduct including attendance and work performance;
  • Essential services, picketing and other strike-related issues;
  • Drafting employer policies;
  • Executive compensation and employment issues, including negotiating and interpreting employment contracts between employers and executives;
  • Intellectual property, breaches of confidentiality, and drafting and enforcing restrictive covenants;
  • Whistle-blower activities, including employer rights and responses to whistle-blower incidents, and developing policies governing employee conduct and disclosure of confidential information;
  • Investigation and policy enforcement regarding substance abuse, fraudulent activities, workplace violence, and misuse of municipal property and equipment;
  • Wrongful dismissal, contract and tort claims, including matters involving reasonable notice, just cause and damages;
  • Judicial review of tribunal decisions, including arbitration awards, federal and provincial labour relations board decisions, employment standards tribunal decisions, workers compensation board tribunal decisions, freedom of information and privacy tribunal decisions, and the decisions of professional tribunals (colleges, societies, self-regulating bodies); and
  • Disability plan administration, including disputes relating to overpayment of benefits, coverage and denial of claims.

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