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My new job title: Toronto employment and “playbour” lawyer

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As I read the paper this morning, I came across an unfamiliar term: “playbour”.  Apparently, this is the brainchild of the media theorist, Julian Kücklich, who coined the term as a result of the confusion between work and play, as facilitated by technology.  As anyone who has responded to a work e-mail from a child’s dance recital or done online shopping from the comfort of their office knows, the lines between work and play are increasingly blurred.  We have laws which regulate the workplace (employment standards, occupational health and safety, etc.), but the question is whether these same laws apply when the employee is doing “work” outside of the traditional workplace.

This is not an easy question to answer and it is, we predict, one which courts and tribunals will be called upon to answer with increasing frequency.  We are already seeing these issues present to us in our office in some interesting ways.  For example, recent years have found claims of unpaid overtime making headlines and employees using class actions as a vehicle for addressing this legal issue.  We have been asked to consider whether e-mails reviewed and responded to on smartphones after hours or on weekends are to be counted for hours of work and overtime calculations.

The question of how to approach the use of the internet and access to social media in the workplace has been a vexing one for our employer clients.  Where they can identify a legitimate business purpose and are considering implementing policies to allow for internet and social media access at work, they anticipate that this will also mean access for personal reasons.  We have worked with these clients to help them decide whether to allow access for personal reasons, and if so how to define reasonable parameters.

Add to the foregoing the extremely tricky issue of trying to determine the health and safety rights and entitlements of those employees who may be called upon to conduct some business while engaged in what would otherwise be a personal leisure activity, such as golf or hockey, and you can begin to see that we have probably only scratched the surface of the many legal issues to come.

For now, I’m considering changing my business cards to read, “Employment and Playbour Lawyer”.

Chris Thomlinson