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Ontario’s Labour Laws safeguard Santa’s Elves: Ensuring fair treatment in the workshop

Employment Lawyer Peter McSherry says Santa’s elves and reindeer are also protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code

There may be a festive atmosphere inside Santa’s Workshop leading up to Christmas, but there is no doubt that Santa’s elves are facing an intense production workload, long overtime hours, and demands from management to meet their Christmas Eve delivery deadlines for children around the world.

Santa’s elves and his reindeer are protected under Ontario’s labour and human rights laws. Peter McSherry, an employment lawyer in Guelph says, “Because the elves are manufacturing, they would be covered under Ontario Employment Standard’s Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). Santa’s elves and his reindeer would also be protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code.”

Fair employment practices

Despite Santa’s workshop’s seasonal nature, managers need to comply with Ontario’s Employment Standards Act. McSherry says, “Workshop managers should ensure compliance with regulations regarding maximum working hours, breaks, overtime pay, and providing a safe and healthy work environment for all the elves.

With a surge in workload leading up to Christmas, it will mean longer working hours. In Ontario, the minimum wage is $16.55 an hour. The maximum number of hours the elves can be required to work in a week is 48 hours. The weekly maximum can be exceeded only if there is an electronic or written agreement between the elves and Santa. After 44 hours the elves must receive time and a half.

Following Christmas Day, if the elves are laid off for a period longer than a temporary layoff, the elves would be entitled to termination pay.

Ontario’s Human Rights Code Protections

The unique nature of Santa’s workshop with its heavy seasonal demands could warrant consideration under Ontario’s Human Rights Code. McSherry says, “The Code ensures equal treatment and non-discriminatory practices in the workplace. Elves and reindeer at the workshop should be afforded the same rights and protections as any other employee in Ontario, regardless of their work.”

The Ontario Human Rights Code is designed to protect individuals from discrimination and harassment in employment and other areas based on various grounds.

They include,

  • Race
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Disability
  • Creed
  • Place of origin

As a disabled worker in Ontario, a disabled elf would have the right to have their disability accommodated up to the point of undue hardship.

McSherry says, “Given their short stature, the elves might argue that their size is a disability that needs to be accommodated under the Ontario Human Rights Code. We’re not sure if Santa offered short and long-term disability benefits to the elves, but if they were unable to work, they could apply for Employment Insurance or if it was a workplace illness or injury, they could apply to WSIB.”

Because the elves come from the North Pole, they could also receive some protections under the Code for their place of origin.

Abuse endured by Rudolph

Look at what happened to Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. Rudolph endured discrimination and mistreatment due to his unique physical characteristic, his glowing red nose. Rudolph faced ridicule and exclusion from the other reindeer making him feel isolated and contributing to his low self-esteem. The evidence is in the song lyrics. “All the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names. They never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games.”

Rudolph’s red, glowing nose ultimately saved Christmas and made him a hero, but Peter McSherry takes issue with the fact that the bullying of Rudolph by the other reindeer did not prompt a workplace investigation. McSherry says, “Rudolph was probably ‘constructively dismissed’ and he would possibly have a Human Rights claim along with being awarded aggravated and punitive damages for the treatment he received at the hands of the other reindeer. There should have been a proper workplace investigation and safeguards put in place for Rudolph.”

Instead of a proper workplace investigation, the harassment of Rudolph was enshrined in a children’s song. Workplace managers must provide a safe and healthy workplace, free of harassment.

Occupational Health & Safety violations

When the reindeer lift Santa’s sleigh into the sky on Christmas Eve, they are not wearing any protective equipment. Santa isn’t even wearing a seatbelt. McSherry says, “There are grave concerns about the lack of safety precautions for the reindeer. They are being exposed to precarious and potentially dangerous working conditions as far as health and safety are concerned.”

Consult a lawyer:

While the operations at Santa’s workshop during the holiday season might differ from conventional workplaces, the employment issues faced by the elves and every other worker must still align with the principles and protections outlined in Ontario’s Employment Standards Act and the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Workplace pay, hours, severance, working conditions and human rights compliance and health and safety are crucial issues to every employee in Ontario. If you feel that your workplace or human rights have been violated, you should contact a lawyer.

Peter McSherry has years of experience in issues around employment law and the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Contact Peter at (519) 821-5465, Email: [email protected] or contact him online here.