As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, millions of Canadians are out of work and facing uncertainty about returning. These circumstances can put workers, particularly those in ‘gig economy’ jobs, in situations where their legal rights are unclear.
MyOpenCourt, a project of the Conflict Analytics Lab at the Queen’s University Faculty of Law and Smith School of Business, will now help these workers understand their rights – and options.
“Most Canadian workers cannot afford an employment lawyer, or live in areas with few skilled employment law experts,” says professor Samuel Dahan, Director of the Conflict Analytics Lab and a faculty member at the Queen’s University Faculty of Law with a cross-appointment to Smith. “Since COVID-19’s arrival in Canada, we have seen nearly two million jobs lost with terminations and layoffs across many different sectors, and decided to launch our tools to help Canadians who have lost work.”
MyOpenCourt currently features two free and simple-to-use web-based tools that harness artificial intelligence and data science technologies. Both are available at the project site at myopencourt.org.
The “Am I an employee or contractor?” application can determine the likelihood that a work arrangement is an employment relationship or that of a contractor through a fast, anonymous questionnaire.
Workers who believe they have been wrongfully dismissed can use the “How much severance am I entitled to?” tool to calculate reasonable notice for dismissal.
“These tools are as valuable for employers as they are for workers,” Professor Dahan says. “Navigating employer-contractor relationships is challenging, and severance is difficult to calculate. We hope to provide both workers and employers with ways to avoid pitfalls and find equitable solutions to the challenges created by the pandemic.”
Powerful AI technology lies behind both tools. Working from thousands of Canadian employment law cases, MyOpenCourt can make predictions that can offer guidance to workers in these uncertain situations. While these applications cannot take the place of a lawyer, they can help users understand if they have a case before contacting one.
Should a user discover they have a case, MyOpenCourt will automatically connect the user to a partner law firm at no cost.
The MyOpenCourt tools have been developed by students and researchers at Queen’s Law, the Smith Master of Management in Artificial Intelligence, Queen’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, and partners like McGill University and institutions based in the US and Europe. Professor Maxime Cohen of McGill and Professor Jonathan Touboul of Brandeis University provided data science expertise, helping to translate the case data into predictions.
Yuri Levin, Executive Director of the Analytics and AI ecosystem at Smith and instrumental player in the creation of the Conflict Analytics Lab, says, “We are thrilled that the Conflict Analytics Lab has been able to launch this platform, at a time when these tools will be able to help many Canadians.”
Unfortunately, the MyOpenCourt reasonable notice calculator cannot currently be used to generate case outcomes for Québec-based users.
To learn more about the work of the Conflict Analytics Lab, visit conflictanalytics.queenslaw.ca.