Applying the Principle of Proportionality in Employment and Labour Law Contexts

Guy Davidov, Pnina Alon-Shenker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The principle of proportionality, which is designed to limit abuse of power and infringement of human rights by governments and legislatures, has become a fundamental and binding legal principle in the jurisprudence of many countries. Ever since the seminal R. u. Oakes decision, when the Supreme Court of Canada interpreted section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as entailing a three-step proportionality test, proportionality has become an important pillar of Canadian law. This article argues that the principle of proportionality actually extends, and should extend, to the private sphere-imposing limitations on employers and trade unions when using their powers. It first argues, at a descriptive level, that proportionality already plays a significant role (although often not explicitly) in various Canadian labour and employment law contexts, a role not sufficiently acknowledged thus far. It then turns to the normative level and explores the justifications for extending the application of proportionality to the private sphere and more specifically to the employment relationship. The article advocates a more explicit use and a structured application of the three-stage proportionality test in various employment and labour law contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-424
Number of pages50
JournalMcGill Law Journal
StatePublished - 2013


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