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Returning to work after your maternity leave

By Allan M. Kaufman

Most employers are aware that the right of a woman employee to return to her job at the end of her maternity leave is protected by law. The government has strong societal reasons for wanting to ensure that working women are encouraged to have children, without fear of losing their jobs.

I have encountered many situations in which the employer advises the woman – just prior to her anticipated return from maternity leave – that she will not have a job to return to. I have also encountered situations in which the same employer, under pressure from the woman’s lawyer, has reconsidered its decision and reluctantly agreed to return the woman to her previous job or to a comparable job. However, I have recently encountered a situation in Ontario in which the employer who has taken the woman back to her job under legal pressure from her lawyer has plotted to “get even”.

In other words, the employer calculated that it might lose the legal fight that would ensue if it carried through with its announcement to dismiss the woman from her job at the conclusion of her maternity leave. While it appeared on the surface that the employer had backed down by allowing the woman to return to work, the employer had done so with the calculated but concealed intent to terminate her employment only a few weeks after her return.

What advantage would the employer gain from such a course of conduct? The employer would be able to assert that it had complied with its legal obligation to reinstate the woman after maternity leave. Therefore, the employer would assert that it would only be liable for one thing when it dismissed her a few weeks later, namely to pay her severance pay for terminating her employment. Had the employer carried out its first intention to dismiss her at the end of her maternity leave, thereby denying her the right to return to work at all, the employer might be legal liable for two things: (1) monetary damages for violating the woman’s legal right to return to work following maternity leave; plus (2) severance pay for terminating her employment.

If your employer dismisses you only a few weeks after your return from maternity leave, first ascertain whether the employer had valid reasons to justify the dismissal. If the reason offered is that the employer “no longer has sufficient work” for you to perform, check whether the lack of work actually occurred from the date you were  re-hired after your maternity leave to the date of your dismissal. If the reason for the dismissal is that you “failed to meet performance targets,” consider whether you were  given sufficient time after your return to work to comply with those targets, or whether the targets were set so high upon your return that you were bound to fail.

There will not usually be direct proof that the employer plannedto dismiss the woman from the first day that it reinstated her after maternity leave. You will not usually uncover an e-mail from the employer to another senior person that set out the plot. Rather, inferences will have to be drawn from the fact that the employer was initially very reluctant to bring the employee back after maternity leave, and from the lack of valid reasons given by the employer when it ultimately dismissed her a few weeks following her return to work. If those inferences are strong enough to suggest that the woman’s dismissal may have been pre-planned, the law in most Canadian provinces would still allow that woman to file a legal claim against her employer alleging:

(a) failure to properly reinstate her after her maternity leave; and (b) retaliation against her for having brought legal pressure upon the employer to take her back to work after maternity leave.

While I do not pretend that this will be an easy case for a woman to win, she does in fact have a legal remedy.

Do not be reluctant about asserting your legal rights in such a situation. Women have fought for many decades to obtain the legal right to return to their jobs at the end of maternity leave. You should not allow your employer to deprive you of that right.

Seize the desk: For some of us our homemaking skills are best used on office supplies

by Sue Sutherland Wood

Although I enjoy the magazine and many of her ideas, I have to say that I do not consider myself to be a Martha Stewart acolyte – I’ve never seen a pyramid of size 11 Nikes in her foyer for example and our cat litter will never be housed in a decorative Grecian urn; however, I must confess that I frequently turn to the comfort of flipping pages that depict storage organization: baskets of tightly rolled white towels, cobalt-blue bottles full of vinegars, those round orbs fashioned from twigs often on a coffee table (why, I wonder — what are they for?), and I’d especially like a willow-pattern umbrella stand for my shooting sticks whilst I toe off my riding boots in the front hall. (You know, right in the front of the empty pizza boxes spilling out of the recycle …)

But I digress. I pride myself on being a realist so rather than try and convince teenage boys to roll towels, I seize the only power available to me – my office.

Office supply stores have long been exciting to me – I know it’s a bit sad, but there’s a hopefulness that comes with purchasing the perfect gel-tip pen or the ideal new, notebook. (Moleskine or Hilroy? Vintage or ironic? Blank? Lined?) On my last pilgrimage I bought a stapler (purple, since you ask) that stands upright and a box of red staples to feed it. I also organized the surface of my desk with the eye of a minimalist. There are now stamps, envelopes, some cut-price Easter eggs (who knows how long I’ll be in here?), and I gave an old retro-typewriter a place of honour to inspire me as I work. Elastics live in an old tea caddy, paper clips in a “curiously strong” peppermint tin. The cats have a soft round nest under the window perfect for assuming the shape of a cat donut.  I have also positioned my shredder so I can lean over and whoosh away any junk mail as it arrives. (A recent purging session was halted when I realized that in my zeal to shred some old dog license documentation, I had failed to remove the tags, still attached …)

There’s probably no hydrangea – dried or otherwise – billowing over an antique pitcher in my future. But, at least for now I can feel calm and organized at my desk and to me, this is a good thing.

WATCH: This music video shows just how much EVERYTHING is photoshopped

We all know that, unfortunately, in this day and age almost everything we see in the media has been retouched in some way shape or form. But how much is too much?

Take a look at this new music video by French singer Boggie that shows us how much retouching goes into something as short as a music video.

What do you think, does all this photoshopping take away from our self-esteem?

Young professional women — where do we begin?

by Erin Nadler

With so many young professionals entering the work force and developing their professional image it is hard to know where to begin.  We all know that starting off on the right foot is essential and continuing that professional image is key to future successes.  Any female senior executive will tell you that developing their own corporate style did not happen overnight, but as a young professional where should you begin?  And with your eye firmly locked on a budget what items are a must?

Let’s talk essentials.  If you are going to invest these are the items on which you want to spend a little more of your budget.  First, a good quality, nicely fitting and classic straight or wide leg black pant.  Look for a fabric that you can wear year round, as it will give you the biggest bang for your buck.  Second, a fitted black blazer.  If you have the ability to purchase the black pant and jacket as a suit, you should, then not only are you able to wear them together for any potential job interview but by separating the items it allows for infinite mixing and matching.  Third, a classic and crisp white blouse.  I would not recommend you spend too much on this item as white blouses should be replaced every so often to keep their crispness. Lastly, a sheath dress.  Look for a dark coloured sleeveless solid dress with a rounded neckline which allows for something to be worn underneath as well as overtop.

So now that you know the essentials, where should you start looking?  Many mid to higher priced stores have sales throughout the year so don’t be afraid to go in and splurge a little when those big savings come around.  Beware of the less expensive stores that are geared towards the junior market.  A lot of times the dress or skirt lengths or style of tops and blouses they show are inappropriate for the workforce.  Always keep the question of whether this is office appropriate in the back of your mind.  Appropriate lengths are determined by the type of job you are applying for.  Just above your knee is always a flattering and appropriate length but you need to be aware of how high your skirt or dress hikes up when sitting down.  Stay away from the minis and other “trendy” lengths being shown in stores. A great classic wardrobe is always in style and will always be something you can fall back on.  Remember that you want to be hired for the right reasons and when starting your career showing a level of professionalism is crucial.

So you have your staple garments and you got the job, how do you spice up your wardrobe in order to keep it fresh?  One of the easiest and most cost effective ways is by adding accessories.  Adding a fabulous necklace, belt or scarf can really take your outfit to the next level.  As well when you mix more pricy items, like a simple black blazer, with less expensive items like a pair of shoes, belt, or pants it can also give off a more polished and classy look.  Very often you see successful professional women as well as fashion insiders mixing high-end with low-end and they do it so effortlessly.

If you remember only one thing it is to just keep it simple.  If in doubt look to how your boss is dressing and emulate her.

Erin Nadler is president of Better Styled. For more information you can visit her website.

#TOpoli with Sarah Thomson, Conrad Black, Travis Myers, and Ashley Csanady: Black supports socialized auto industry

#TOpoli host Sarah Thomson is joined by political panelists Lord Conrad Black, Travis Myers of Women’s Post, and Ashley Csanady at Queen’s Park Briefing.

This week the panel discusses Ontario’s upcoming by-elections, the competence of the premier, power outages, along with Conrad Black’s support for the socialization of Canada/Ontario’s auto industry and the possibility of the government purchasing Chrysler.

Check back for more clips from the show throughout the week ahead.

TRAVEL: Empire State of mind

Melanie & Doreen – Style md – are Toronto-based wardrobe consultants and personal stylists. stylemd.ca

by Melanie Jennings

Recently, I went to New York to have a visit with my girlfriend Betsy. After finally being able to co-ordinate our schedules we met in New York for the better part of a week to do some shopping, eat in great restaurants, visit galleries, and do lots of walking. While on the plane ride there, I started to think about summer fashions and to wonder what lovely things I might find during my shopping expedition in New York.  I was also curious to see how New York women dressed compared to Toronto women and whether there would be any difference in their styles. As I landed at JFK, I was excited to find out…

After a couple of days of serious shopping uptown and downtown, and being out on the street and in lots department stores and small boutiques in the Village, in Soho, as well as the trendy meat packing district, I felt I could summarize the main trends of summer in New York. I could also see the differences between how New York and Toronto women dressed. And there was actually very little difference between the women of both cities. New York women dress very similarly to Toronto women for the most part – well-groomed and very put together.

Some trends I noticed to be the most prominent were the gladiator sandal. I saw it everywhere I went, adorned with all kinds of embellishments such as studs, sequins, grommets and beads. The other trend I saw lots of was the skinny leg silhouette. Whether it was the jegging or the good old stretch legging or the skinny jean, the fitted leg was big. I saw every version in dark, light and white. One other trend I saw many women wearing were shorts but not the “going to the cottage” shorts. These were urban city shorts, made out of gabardine, linen or lightweight suited fabric in neutral colours such as beige, black, grey and navy. They looked fabulous paired with little blazers and t-shirts.

I love New York. It never ceases to inspire, excite, invigorate and exhaust me all at the same time.

TRAVEL: Experience Crystal

By Murtaza Adamjee

Travel connects us with the world. It satisfies our curiosity, authenticates understanding, and allows us to appreciate acceptance. And over time, the growth and evolution of the cruise ship has served to provide a truly unique and authentic travel experience. It’s no surprise then why the past few issues of the Women’s Post Travel section have taken a look at some of the world’s most contemporary and innovative cruise ships. From Windstar Cruises to the Norwegian Epic, today’s cruise ship industry literally offers a world of luxury – at sea. And in the name of cruise ships, it would simply be a crime to ignore the two highest-rated ships in the world: Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity.

Voted World’s Best more times than any other cruise line, hotel, or resort in the industry, Crystal Cruises’ experience has been unmatched for an incredible 15 years. With a dedicated commitment to excellence, extraordinary service, and exceptional quality, Crystal Cruises’ “Welcome to the World’s Best” adage has a number of awards to validate this bold statement in a constantly competitive tourism market.

In order to fully appreciate the Crystal Cruise experience, it is essential to explore some key features onboard:

Accommodation:

Aboard the Crystal experience, stateroom features include a variety of elements. Most suites come with private verandas, and an exquisite view of the vast horizon. Each suite is finished with the finest luxuries: 100% Egyptian cotton linens and bath towels, a menu of pillow options, and Frette bathrobes. And in combination with an ocean view and the necessities of home, the Crystal experience provides ultimate comfort.

Penthouse features also include a 24-hour butler service, Jacuzzi tub and separate shower, private veranda, complimentary wine and beer, and an order-in option from specialty restaurants on board.

Daytime Diversions:

A wide range of activities and interests are available on-board. Guests can plan to pass the time via a large outdoor lap pool, a fully -equipped state-of-the-art fitness centre, golf driving ranges, PGA golf instructors and clinics, full-sized tennis courts, supervised junior activities, professional dance instructors, a luxury shopping arcade, a well-stocked library for those seeking moments of silence, piano lessons, Berlitz language lessons, and a Cleveland Clinic wellness seminar. Endless complimentary enrichment programs await.

Dining:

The Crystal experience provides a plethora of savoury, exquisite daytime and evening dining options. With up to five dining venues for breakfast and lunch, and up to seven dining venues for dinner, needless to say, there is something for everyone. Speciality restaurants on board include The Bistro, a French-style café, legendary restaurateur Nobu Matuhisa’s cuisine at Silk Road and The Sushi Bar, Piere Selvaggio’s menu of inspired dishes of Italy, and an elegant crystal dining room. Crystal Cruises also offer an extensive wine cellar and special reserve wine list with rare vintages.

Entertainment:

Evenings amidst the Crystal experience offer world-class entertainment for guests onboard. Guests can entertain themselves by attending lavish, Broadway-style productions, visiting the crystal casino, or by simply having cocktails with friends in one of the many lounges and bars. Those looking for something else can find solace in the variety of entertainers that include comedians, magicians, ventriloquists, and a talented ensemble of singers and dancers.

In 2011 Crystal Cruises will offer 2-for-1 fares, free business or economy air, an “As You Wish” on-board spending credit, and an all new flexible open dining by reservation. Receive even more on-board amenities when you reserve your 2011 cruise with Expedia CruiseShipCenters, Rosedale location at cruiseshipcenters.com/rosedale.

TRAVEL: Journey to the other side

Sari Gabbay is a Women’s Post contributor and founder of U2R1 Media, Inc.

After a grueling 20 hours of travel and two days without sleep, most of which were spent in an oversized sardine can high in the sky, finally I arrived. Coming from -15 degrees Celsius to a +30 degree tropical climate, it was easy to notice my stark white, almost translucent skin as I stepped off the fishing boat, the last element of transportation. It was as if I traveled through the time and space continuum; there I was in the future. Forty eight hours from when I left, I had entered into a completely different dimension of reality. Often, I imagined what heaven would be like and little did I know, its location was just on the other side of the earth, in a place far, far away known to the world as Fiji. As one who was fortunate enough to visit, I will describe this celestial paradise inhabited by a culture that is the epitome of true divinity. A place where heaven meets earth and one can only imagine as the destination God himself would choose as the ideal vacation spot.

“Bula, Sari,” our host greeted me. “Everyone that comes to Tokoriki Resort is considered part of the family.”

Tokoriki Island was my destination and upon arrival I was welcomed with warm smiles, a lovely fruit cocktail, and a fresh wet cloth infused with peppermint oil to decompress from my travels. As I walked past the infinity pool overlooking the vast Pacific Ocean towards my beachfront Bure, equipped with an outdoor shower and state-of-the-art amenities, I was overcome by inspiration and marvel. At first, being welcomed as a family member my immediate thought was “what’s the gimmick?” However, after a few days I became awe struck at the Fijian’s genuine and authentic nature.

I’ve been to many resorts around the world and every one had an underlying ulterior motive: I’m nice to you so I can get a good tip. That entire concept put me off of traditional holidays for a long time. My travel agent, who had spent over a month in Fiji, explained that we were about to encounter some of the world’s most sincere and kind individuals, but it wasn’t until I experienced it for myself that all my preconceptions of traditional oceanside holiday resorts were erased.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that the worldwide reputation of the Fijians was not only accurate but far surpassed anything that had been described to me. Never in my life have I encountered a place so full of positivity and true zest for life. It’s hard to even imagine living a life in such a reality. This is what all spiritual gurus are teaching their students, what people pay Tony Robbins thousands of dollars to learn – who by the way has a centre in Fiji – but for the Fijians, this way of life comes naturally. It’s the only way they know and because of this they manage to live in total bliss all day, everyday.

During a conversation with one of the girls in Sensali, the spa at Tokoriki resort, I asked her point blank: “Do Fijians ever get angry?” She laughed at me as if was telling a joke, but once she realized I was actually inquiring she responded in a matter of fact tone, “Rarely, why do you?”

That’s when I started laughing. Soon after that my laughter turned into embarrassment, as I knew that the truth was infact ridiculously illogical: “Unfortunately, North Americans are angry more than they are happy,” was my honest to goodness response. She seemed a bit surprised and asked me why. My answer: “We are never satisfied with what we have and because of that we are never happy.” A sad and discomforting reality to say the least.

The truth is, living in Fiji is like inhabiting another planet and if we all lived like the Fijians then we would no longer need to pray for peace on earth. A perfect example of this is their current political situation. The military is in the process of staging a coup against the government and the irony is there will be no bloodshed or violence; the government is pre-warned that they will need to step down and everything is decided through conversations and communications. This is actually one of the many coups that have been staged over the past decade; they even stopped discussions to participate in a very anticipated Rugby game. Imagine that.

The locals live in villages on various Islands with head chief and respected elders at the helm. The village is run like a mini communist society where everyone shares everything: The villagers all cook for each other, they share the money and everyone is equal as long as you are a true Fijian, that is. Of course, nothing can be 100 per cent perfect and there are issues with race segregation and rights being limited to those of non-Fijian decent. (In this case, mostly Indian.) A Fijian salary is quite low, around 2-4 Fijian dollars/hour, which is equivalent to about US$1-$2. Many goods are hard to come by as they are only obtained on the main Island, Nadi, which is not easy to travel to on a regular basis. However, there is not much need for material items in Fiji. As we sat in the town hall drinking Kava, a traditional Fijian drink derived from a pepper plant, it became eminently clear that we, complete foreigners, had been welcomed with open arms to their sacred home.

A Fijian’s life revolves around family and more than one wife is completely acceptable. Children are put to work at a very young age but also enjoy a typical daily school routine where much of their teachings are in English and many of their classes incorporate music and song. Fijians love music, a fact that became evident to us at Tokoriki when we were greeted and bid farewell with traditional songs. Every night we were serenaded by the band who to our surprise knew many western artists, such as U2, Jason Maraz, and Frank Sinatra to name a few.

As each day passed I forged stronger and stronger bonds with the local Fijians working on Tokoriki Island, some of whom lived in the village about 10km across the ocean, while others had family and homes on the mainland. They knew every guest’s name and greeted us with warmth and kindness; it was evident that they cherished their job and the people around them. My last day was both heartfelt and emotional as I drew my last breath of Fiji sand and sea. I realized that unlike my other worldly travels, I was leaving behind more than just a country I visited. I was in fact leaving behind friends that would remember me always and had left a prominent imprint on my heart.

On my journey back to Canada, I took with me the understanding of what true serenity and peace of mind is like. The notion that happiness lies within the ones you love is not just an unobtainable cliché that we in the Western Hemisphere believe to be fairytale fodder. Alas, such a concept is hard to grasp in a society where we are all trying to keep up with the Joneses. Unless you see it first hand, the ideology of inner peace and abundance is just a means to grasp at when the world around you seems dark and grey. In Fiji, however, the sun is always shining even when it rains, and the smiles are big and bright. Perhaps one day the rest of the world will wake up and realize that these simple people in a small group of Islands isolated from the rest of the world are the ones who understood the true meaning of life all along.