For this month’s Work/Life Balance meeting, our topic was the importance of being able to say no in the workplace.
At work, we often feel the pressure to take on as much as we can, but we very seldom stop to reflect on why that is. We don’t want to feel like we’re not being team players or contributing to the workplace. We spend a large amount of time at work and as such, it’s natural to want to avoid conflicts and be liked by our peers.
Sometimes, saying “no” when you need to can be more valuable to the office, rather than saying yes to something that you cannot handle due to a lack of knowledge on the ask or a lack of time.
Everyone in the office has their own role and responsibilities, and your responsibility is to stay on top of your own. Similar to when flight attendants advise that in the event of a drop in pressure, you have to place the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting anyone else; you’ll find it very difficult to help yourself if you’re always busy helping everyone else.
I’ve been guilty of this. when asked if I can lend a hand with something, I very rarely say no. Over time, I have learned to say “yes, but here’s when I can get this to you” instead so that I can fit things around my time, which is valuable.
When it comes to saying no, we found that it’s better to stop and assess what you already have on your plate and see if you have the space to take on more. If not, it’s better to simply be honest about it.
No one wants to wave the white flag at work, but knowing your limits and being communicative of them is always the better alternative.
So I ordered Starbucks for the firm on the day I’m writing this. The only coffee that actually made it to the firm was the one for me. So that was nice. Not.
Sigh. Re-ordered from a different location – the location cancelled the order. Re-ordered from the original location and it finally arrived. So fun. So frustrating.
I got through the Ubereats hell by taking a deep breath and going through the process to get money back and finally secure caffeine.
This is kind of like litigation at times – there are times when our firm will serve and file documents with the Court, but something will happen and confirmations will be lost by the Court or documents we upload mysteriously disappear.
If you’re representing your business on your own (with permission of the Court if its in Superior Court) then you are probably going to end up waiting a lot longer than someone represented by our firm as we monitor, double and triple check and make sure things get done properly.
The key to navigating the Courts these days is to use a professional: we know what can go wrong and how to fix it. If you represent yourself, well, this will quickly become a full time job. Kinda like me, who is now adding to her job title.
Be smart. Hire a lawyer.
Inga B. Andriessen, JD – Principal Lawyer & Ubereats Liaison Officer for our Firm
Thinking of starting a new business? Maybe you’ve been operating as a sole proprietor? Well, it may be time for you to consider setting up a corporation.
A corporation is a legal entity where the corporation directly holds assets, rather than the owners. Owners of corporations are called “shareholders” and are issued shares, which represent their ownership interest in the corporation.
There are many advantages to operating under a corporation, and in this week’s blog we give you a short crash course on those benefits.
First, incorporating can provide your business with a credibility boost. A corporation shows customers, lenders, suppliers, and potential investors that your enterprise is legitimate and long term. This, in turn, can make it easier to obtain financing and find investors if you are looking to grow your business.
Operating under a corporation, rather than as a sole proprietorship, also significantly decreases your potential personal liability. If something goes wrong with a customer or another third party, their recourse is only against the corporation and not against you personally. This means that only corporate assets can be at risk and not your own.
Should the corporation go bankrupt, you, as a shareholder, would not be liable for the corporation’s debts.
Setting up a corporation also has tax benefits, as corporate tax rates tend to be lower than personal income tax rates.
But as you know, we are lawyers and not accountants (thankfully, as math was never our forte!). You should discuss your decisions to incorporate with your accountant before proceeding. They can tell you if the tax advantages outweigh the costs of incorporating.
When you are ready to set up your corporation, be sure to incorporate us in your plans (like what we did there?).
This is a very loaded question. There have been times in the office when I’ve been told “your time is worth more”. This statement makes me pause to think about what I’m actually worth. Not just professionally, but also outside the office. Most people underestimate their value, and that’s unfortunate.
One thing that let’s me really see my worth is working for an employer who values her employees, as well as their time. Not only does she recognize our worth and how valuable we are to the firm (we all have something to bring to the firm), but she also values her own time and delegates tasks. By doing this, we all have our jobs, and gives us all opportunities to provide input on important matters.
As we are a boutique law firm, we usually have an idea of each other’s work flow. Sometimes when things get hectic and tasks are being assigned, it can get confusing as to who has what task. When it comes to a big project that includes indexing hundreds of emails (with attachments of course), it can be forgotten just how cumbersome that task can be. As we are valued in the office, its up to us, as not only employees but also as individuals, to speak up and let others know you need help. Sometimes we forget that we can speak for ourselves, or sometimes we are afraid to speak up about workloads for fear of not being able to handle multi-tasking
I had to learn long ago that I needed to speak up for myself when I was overwhelmed. By doing this, it opens up everyone’s eyes, and yours too, as to just exactly what is involved with your job. You could be surprised that you actually do more than you think, and with everything little thing you do, it just adds value and makes you realize just how much your time is worth.
It’s a question that’s been bothering me ever since Alex Jones, the far-right conspiracy theorist and host of Infowars, filed for bankruptcy back in December of 2022. For those who may not remember, Jones spent years claiming that the 2012 massacre of 20 young children and six staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, was staged with actors as part of a government plot to seize Americans’ guns. For years, he encouraged his followers to harass and attack the grieving families of the Sandy Hook victims, making their lives a living hell.
Well, last year, the Connecticut court issued two judgments against Jones for nearly $1.5bn in damages to the families of victims of the Sandy Hook massacre. Coincidentally, it was around this time that Jones began filing for bankruptcy. Ensuing bankruptcy filings would show that Alex Jones’ company, Infowars, happened to owe millions of dollars in secured loans to several companies, which, in another unbelievable coincidence, happened to be owned by his friends and family. This meant that his other creditors, namely the families of the Sandy Hook victims, would be left with little to nothing to satisfy the Connecticut Court’s judgment debt.
While it will be up to a bankruptcy judge to decide whether or not these debts are legitimate, a number of many commentators noted that this was a clear attempt to force the Sandy Hook families into a settlement, something that his own bankruptcy filings not so subtly hinted at when it stated, “While Jones comes to this court in good faith and wants to reach an amicable resolution between all the parties, it is imperative that all parties do the same.”
But as many legal professionals pointed out, this probably won’t work since 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(6) provides that a debt for willful and malicious injury by the debtor to another entity or the property of another entity is not dischargeable. Fortunately, for people who are not Jones, defamation falls squarely under willful and malicious injury.
All this got me wondering why we here in Canada, don’t have our own 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(6), for these kinds of bad-faith bankruptcy applications. Our own equivalent legislation, the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, lists only eight specific classes of debts that are not released by an order of discharge. These exceptions are narrow, and none work to survive a judgment debt for willful and malicious injury in civil torts.
The closest thing we have is Subparagraph 178 (1)(a.1) which states that an order of discharge does not release the bankrupt from any award of damages by a court in civil proceedings for either (i) bodily harm intentionally inflicted, or sexual assault, or (ii) wrongful death resulting therefrom. However, as the Superior Court of Ontario in Marshall, Re, 2001 CanLII 28287 clarified, 178(1)(a.1) only refers to debts arising from criminal acts and did not apply to civil torts like defamation.
Over the years, Courts have applied a narrow interpretation of the provisions in section 178 of the BIA, leading to bankruptcy courts discharging civil judgment debts arising out of things like physical assault, false or misleading statements on financial documents, and the theft of trade secrets and confidential information.
Canada’s bankruptcy laws have long emphasized the importance of the fresh-start principle. But while one of the fundamental objectives of the bankruptcy regime is debtor rehabilitation, the discharge should also not encourage wrongdoers and dishonest debtors to escape the effects of their misconduct against innocent creditors. With that in mind and in light of recent events, it may be time for Parliament to re-examine section 178 of the BIA.
If a tenant just abandons their goods in your premises, it’s often tempting for the Landlord to toss out those things left behind, however, if you do that without warning, then you’ve got a bit of a legal issues to deal with.
In some situations the Repair and Storage Lien Act provisions can apply, but that’s only if your lawyer properly created documentation that allows for that. Its often more likely that you’re in a Bailment situation (technical legal term) and you’re going to have to get the items appraised, give notice and then sell.
This frustrates many Landlords as they are spending more money on a situation that probably already has a significant rental default. However, its worth taking the time and doing this correctly.
We always recommend using a Bailiff and Private Auctioneer to handle the process. This ensures that all steps are properly completed and protects you from anyone coming back and claiming they are entitled to a large payout from the Landlord.
More times than not, service providers will submit invoices to their customers that have a term specifying an interest rate for its outstanding accounts. Several clients have inquired whether the rate of interest on an invoice is enforceable or not.
Without a written Contract with the client or customer agreeing to a specific interest rate, a service provider cannot impose a rate of interest on its overdue accounts. You do not need to have to have a separate Contract apart from your invoice. If the customer signs the invoice acknowledging the interest rate, then that would be enough to satisfy the above requirement.
However, if your written Contract specifies a rate of interest incurred per day, week or month or any period less than a year (i.e.: 2% per month), that term in the Contract is invalid.
Section 4 of the Interest Act specifies that if the interest rate in your Contract is for any period less than a year (i.e.: 24% per annum), the maximum amount you can claim from a customer is 5%.
If you sue a customer for your outstanding invoices, you can claim the interest rate on your invoice, however, without a Contract agreeing to that rate of interest, more times than not, the most the Court will award you are the Courts of Justice Act rates of interest.
If you want to charge your customers an interest rate that’s higher than the Courts of Justice Act or the 5% maximum under the Interest Act, make sure the customer agrees to that rate in writing, and that rate of interest is conveyed to the customer as an annual percentage.
We’re already in the second month of 2023, and the high of the holidays has completely worn off. We’re left with the cold winter months, and for us here in Toronto, we went about 22 days without seeing the sun.
Our Work/Life Balance meeting last month touched on the Winter Blues or more formally known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD – aptly named, am I right?). The dark, cold mornings, gray skies, and shorter days induce the dreaded Winter Blues.
Why is it important to identify this, especially at work? If your mind is not right, your focus is thrown off and thus, your productivity and motivation is impacted. When your mental health isn’t at it’s best, your energy levels and concentration are low, making it difficult to perform at your best. One of the biggest keys to success is to prioritize your health.
Combatting the Winter Blues can be challenging, especially with the shorter days. Some ways to help combat SAD is by exercising, trying to maintain a healthy diet, and even simply talking about it with someone.
“Seeing the light” will also help boost your mood. I invested in a little light box for those dark days, especially considering there have been so many lately. On my lunch breaks, weather permitting, I will go for a walk and find that that refreshes my mental space to tackle the rest of the day.
Making your physical and mental health a priority will help you beat the Winter Blues.
On the darkest day of the year, our amazing Law Clerk Leah Dickie said, “from here, every day gets brighter and brighter.”
So, here’s to looking forward to more sunshine and beating the Winter Blues!
I recently watched a four-part Netflix docuseries called “Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?” Aside from the wave of nostalgia that had me reaching for my Tamagotchi, it left me thinking about the necessity of clear and enforceable disclaimers.
The documentary follows the attempt of an American college student named John Leonard, in acquiring a Harrier fighter jet through a 1995 Pepsi promotion.
If you grew up in the 90s as I did, you will recall the same promotion in Canada at the time called the “Drink Pepsi Get Stuff” campaign. This promotion, which came during the peak of the cola-wars between Coca-Cola and Pepsi, was Pepsi’s way of trying to get a leg up on their Coke competitor. To participate, all you had to do was buy Pepsi products and collect the points that came with each product. Points could then be redeemed for “cool” Pepsi swag.
To advertise this new promotion, Pepsi used a flashy commercial showcasing the prizes that consumers could redeem. Now, if you’re a millennial like me, you may even remember this commercial while watching your weekly dose of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. It featured a teenager getting ready for school in the morning. Each time the teen put on Pepsi merchandise in the commercial, such as his leather jacket or sunglasses, the Pepsi point total for the item was displayed on the bottom of the screen. The commercial ended with our teenage hero landing in front of his high school in a Harrier jet with “7,000,000 Pepsi Points” displayed on the screen under the aircraft.
This commercial aired in the United States with no disclaimers or fine print with respect to the multimillion-dollar jet.
John Leonard saw this commercial with its clear lack of a disclaimer and saw an opportunity. He figured out a way in which he could acquire the 7,000,000 Pepsi points he needed to redeem the jet for $700,000 USD – he did this by purchasing Pepsi points for 10 cents each, as permitted by the promotion. He ultimately collected all the necessary points and mailed them in to redeem his jet.
Shocker – Pepsi laughed at his attempt to obtain the jet and sent him a voucher for a case of Pepsi. You would think they could at least have sprung for that “fly” leather jacket! Both parties lawyered up and the matter proceeded to litigation.
The result? NETFLIX SPOILER ALERT.
Mr. Leonard lost in court and never got his jet. The court found that the commercial was “evidently done in jest” and that “no reasonable, objective person would have understood the commercial to be an offer.” Pretty sure my 9-year-old self would have strongly disagreed.
While the U.S. District Court found that a disclaimer wasn’t necessary to show that the jet was clearly a joke, remember all of this could have been avoided with a clear disclaimer in the commercial from the start. The insertion of a disclaimer gets ahead of a possible loophole and may prevent costly and time-consuming litigation, even if the law is on your side.
Fun fact – the same Pepsi commercial aired in Canada however this version included a disclaimer from the very start indicating that the jet wasn’t available as a prize. Perhaps Canadian lawyers are just ahead of the curve?
Many of you who have read some of my older blogs, you know that there is nothing more I love than finally get a client the money back that they are owed.
In particular, when a debtor attempts to hide assets such as property or bank accounts, tracking those down and filing a Writ or garnishing their bank account.
Recently, we received a letter from a law firm regarding a real estate closing that closes in three days. They were requesting a clearance letter confirming that their client was not one and the same as the person named on a Writ we had filed.
I’m not sure what information the law firm had suggesting that their client wasn’t one and the same as our debtor, but we certainly were not jumping on providing the letter without doing our due diligence first.
As we have a really good online filing system, I was able to access the file and confirm that in fact, their client was the same as the person we filed the Writ against. How do I know this? The ID they provided for their client matched the ID that our client had in their files. This time it was easy. Some clients don’t obtain photo ID for the people they do business with, which can make is sometimes difficult to confirm this information. This time, it made it easier for us to ascertain the information we needed easily.
What does this mean for our client? This means that this real estate deal cannot proceed without our client first being paid out. A win for our client I would say!
We don’t always get this result when we enforce Judgments, but when we do, it’s really satisfying.
A note for our client, get that photo ID for your clients when you are entering into agreements, you may thank us later.