Howard Levitt: Why the independent contractor status of doctors leave them vulnerable in the workplace

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At trial, the judge acknowledged that both physicians would be required to “consider new career paths” as the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario required that they complete extensive retraining to practice in emergency of family medicine, as they had spent their careers specializing in urgent care and found themselves with nowhere to practice. Dr. Luczkiw developed cancer shortly after the urgent care centre closed.

Despite the, frankly, tragic result and unfavourable outcome for the physicians in this case, the Court took an important step in finding that the physicians were dependent contractors due to their economic dependence on the hospital and their high level of exclusivity. As a result, where privileges are cancelled, revoked, refused or substantially altered, absent this limited statutory exemption, physicians would be entitled to damages for reasonable notice, as dependent contractors, in the same way as employees — and potentially for dramatically more if their loss of hospital privileges prevented them from getting back on their financial feet for years.

The case exposes the cracks in our system by which independent contractor status leaves our physicians vulnerable and unprotected. For a society that has become acutely aware in recent months of the importance of physicians to the health and functioning of our society, we must ensure more fair and equitable treatment of our healthcare heroes. The court in this case, as in others, has increasingly filled in the gaps and provided deserved protection for a group which was historically, to the surprise of many, vulnerable.

Got a question about employment law during COVID-19? Write to me at levitt@levittllp.com.

Howard Levitt is senior partner of Levitt LLP, employment and labour lawyers. He practises employment law in eight provinces. He is the author of six books including the Law of Dismissal in Canada.

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