Michael Wright

Lawyer

EDUCATION

  • Stanford Law School, J.S.D., 1993
  • Call to the Bar, 1991
  • Osgoode Hall Law School, LL.B., 1989

MEMBERSHIPS

  • Canadian Association of Labour Lawyers
  • Ontario Bar Association
  • Advisory Committee, Queen’s Faculty of Law, Centre for Law in the Contemporary Workplace

Michael is recognized as one of Canada’s leading labour and employment lawyers, noted for his direct and thoughtful advice, nuanced and strategic approach, and proven record of achieving excellent, real-world results.

Advising and advocating for unions and professional associations in a variety of sectors—including energy, arts and manufacturing—Michael has negotiated dozens of collective agreements involving organizations such as Hydro One, Ontario Power Generation, Stelco, the Canadian Opera Company, the National Ballet of Canada, and the National Arts Centre. He has acted both as counsel and nominee on arbitration boards in the final arbitration of numerous collective agreements and hundreds of rights grievances. He has also represented unions and professional organizations and their pension and benefit plans in the courts on pension matters, injunctions, judicial review applications and shareholder actions, including numerous successfully resolved class actions.

In his employment law practice, Michael advises and advocates for senior executives and professionals in all employment-related matters. He has extensive experience representing clients in financial services, health care and a range of manufacturing and service industries. While he frequently appears on behalf of his clients in court, he brings a practical, solution-focused approach to dispute resolution, which leads to timely, discrete and fair results for clients.

The recipient of a doctorate in law from Stanford University and a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School, Michael has taught at the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall Law Schools, presented at the National Judicial Institute, the National Academy of Arbitrators and the Law Society of Ontario, and published in leading law journals.

Michael is recognized as a Leading Practitioner in Employment and Labour Law in the Canadian Legal Lexpert directory, is rated by his peers as one of the “Best Lawyers in Canada” in Labour & Employment Law, and is rated in the top band by Chambers and Partners, which notes that he is “a leading practitioner with an impressive track record.”

Recent Representative Work

Altering the Gig Economy

Among the highlights of Michael’s recent work as a litigator for employees was a 2019 win described as one that could “fundamentally alter the balance of power” in the gig economy. As co-counsel to the proposed class in Heller v. Uber, an action that seeks the protection of the Ontario Employment Standards Act for all Uber drivers in Ontario (working with Danielle Stampley), Michael successfully argued that an arbitration clause present in the user agreement for all drivers is invalid both because it contracts out of the Employment Standards Act and because it is unconscionable. Michael will be arguing this matter at the Supreme Court of Canada in November 2019.

Protecting Workers Confronting Fundamental Change

Michael has a strong record of acting for trade unions and professional associations facing some of their most significant challenges.

  • In 2015 and 2016, he acted for the Society of United Professionals in the successful negotiation of renewal collective agreements that responded creatively to fundamental changes in the electricity sector affecting thousands of professionals at Ontario Power Generation, Hydro One and the Independent Electricity System Operator.
  • In 2016 as counsel (along with Tracey Henry) to United Steelworkers Local 1005 in an insolvency proceeding, he successfully negotiated a new collective agreement and protected the pensions and benefits for thousands of employees, retirees and their dependents at Stelco.
  • In 2017 and 2018 (again working with Tracey Henry and also with Alex St. John) in an insolvency proceeding, he represented United Steelworkers Local 2251 as litigation counsel and advised on the negotiation of a new collective agreement and the protection of the pensions and benefits for thousands more retirees and their dependents at Algoma Steel.
Remedying Bad Faith

Michael is retained by physicians across Canada to remedy their bad faith treatment and damaged reputations. He was lead counsel to Dr. Gabrielle Horne (working with Danielle Stampley) in a 33-day jury trial in Halifax in 2016 that resulted in the largest ever damages award in Canada for loss of reputation, which was largely upheld by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal in 2018. On May 2, 2019, a commentator on CBC Radio’s White Coat, Black Art described the case as “extremely challenging” to win and “tremendously difficult to prove.”

Here to Help

Enlist objective advice and committed legal representation. Whatever your challenge—no matter how fundamental or involved—Wright Henry will help you navigate the shoals and arrive at the best possible destination. We offer wide-ranging expertise and a proven record of success.