Conflict Resolution: mediation, arbitration & workplace investigations

In the fields of labour and employment, my experience has been atypical for an Ontario lawyer. I acted for many years almost exclusively for unions and employees, and subsequently almost exclusively for employers, in union and non-union shops. This experience on “both sides”, informs my understanding of the needs and goals of parties to employment and labour disputes.

Having practiced in Toronto for over a decade, I relocated in the 1990’s to Waterloo Region, from which I served clients throughout Southwestern Ontario and the GTA.

I also served as Managing Partner of the Waterloo Region Office of Gowling WLG and was a member of a national management committee at that Firm for 12 years. Through that experience I gained significant understanding of the challenges facing employers as they make decisions and the impact of those decisions on employees. Those issues often surface at the mediation table.

In practice I was recognized in labour and employment law by Lexpert and Best Lawyers in Canada. I have represented parties through arbitration, trials and appeals including several cases heard by the Supreme Court of Canada, but in most cases I represented parties in settlement. That is what I seek to do in offering my services as a mediator: help parties and their lawyers find an acceptable road to settlement if one exists.

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Mediation

Through 35 years of practice I have represented unions and grievors, employers in union and non-union environments and employees. I have acted for parties in commercial and employment disputes, leading to arbitrations, or trials and appeals at the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada. Almost every case has involved some form of mediation.

Through this experience, I have developed a strong view that parties are best served by a settlement they design. Having always served on one side of the dispute, I now wish to dedicate my efforts to a neutral role, helping parties reach that settlement.

Settlement is reached by the parties and their lawyers. The mediator helps that process and the parties, but does not own it. On the other hand the mediator should not simply be a courier, passing offers between the parties. The parties deserve to hear a well-reasoned analysis of the case from a neutral third party.

I offer mediation of employment and commercial disputes, and assist organizations or privately held corporations address issues such as succession or internal disputes. Mediation in such circumstances offers a private and confidential alternative to litigation in the public arena.

Arbitration

In my experience, parties to labour arbitration are best served by an arbitrator who is mindful of opportunities to assist parties through mediation of the dispute, but also accepts the reality that in some cases the parties need to see the process through and receive a decision from a neutral third party. In other words, the arbitrator’s desire to see settlement in any particular case should not be pressed upon unwilling parties.

I am pleased to offer labour arbitration services and, if desired, med-arb. I bring years of experience to the process, having appeared before arbitrators representing the union and the employer over the course of my career.

Workplace Investigations

When acting for employers I retained numerous investigators to undertake workplace investigations under the terms of a workplace policy, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, or the Human Rights Code. I have also undertaken such investigations personally.

To arrive at a report which serves all participants, the investigator must be able to effectively question witnesses to attempt to arrive at findings of fact, and must be willing to make findings of credibility if required. To be of any use, the report must offer a conclusion as to whether the allegations which gave rise to the investigation have been substantiated.

I offer workplace investigation services and will ensure that any report will give the employer a foundation upon which to rest in deciding what, if any, actions are thereafter required.

Fee for workplace investigations available on request.