Ranjan Agarwal comments in Lexpert's look at how privacy issues are becoming increasingly important in class actions in Canada. He identifies three main “buckets” of risk: consumer/competition class actions, employment class actions and equity, diversity and harassment class actions.
As a society more focussed on consumerism, “we buy on the internet and transact on our phones,” which offers more opportunities for violations of consumer protection or competition law that result in class actions, says the Bennett Jones LLP partner.
Second, Agarwal anticipates a continuing rise in employment class actions resulting from changes in the workforce, including an even greater rise in the so-called gig economy, which places novel pressures on employers and employees. Agarwal cites the Uber case; in August, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice certified a class-action lawsuit against the San Francisco-based technology giant. Uber drivers in the class argue they are entitled to minimum wage, vacation pay and other protections because they say they meet the definition of employees under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act.
(Uber has been fighting the proposed $400-million class proceeding brought by Ontario driver David Heller since he started it in 2017. In June 2020, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the appeal brought by Uber to stay the class proceeding in favour of arbitration in the Netherlands.)
“If people move away from a traditional employer-employee relationship, but believe that they should be still subject, for example, to the minimum” provided under Employment Standards legislation, “I think that is an area that ends up being ripe for class actions,” says Agarwal.
The third area concerns equity, diversity and harassment, with more “#MeToo” class actions anticipated for sexual harassment. As that “movement matures, and there is more of a focus on diverse workplaces, and racism in workplaces or in institutions, … I think we’re going to see more class actions that make allegations about institutional abuse or harassment.”