HR Manager's Bookshelf (July 15, 2002)

The books reviewed in this issue provide guidance and expertise in a wide range of legal areas — wrongful dismissal, copyright law, and general legal advice for small business owners and managers. Other books detail mediation from the point of view of the legal process as well as in the context of conflict resolution provided by consultants, psychologists or managers who want to effectively deal with conflict that undermines performance.

Wrongful Dismissal Handbook, second edition
By John R. Sproat
Carswell, (2002)
(416)609-3800 or 1-800-387-5164,

Updated from the original 1995 edition, this is a comprehensive legal and practical guide covering:

•just cause for dismissal;

•constructive dismissal;

•reasonable and sample notice periods;

•quantifying and mitigating damages;

•termination payments; and

•departing employee obligations.

Other topics include disability, addiction, dishonesty, harassment, incompetence and criminal conduct. Lawyers who work in the labour and commercial law fields, and who do not subscribe to Carswell’s Employment Law Manual by John Sproat, will benefit most from this book. The book can also help in-house legal counsel and human resources practitioners who need to understand the various employment situations that can give rise to termination or constructive dismissal cases.

The Canadian Small Business Legal Advisor
By Douglas Gray
268 pages, McGraw-Hill Ryerson (2001)
At bookstores or 1-800-565-5758,

Not specifically an HR book, but with employment law content included, this guide covers legal business structures, bankruptcy, tax and estate planning, litigation and ADR (alternative dispute resolution). One chapter is devoted to hiring and firing staff — complying with government regulations, record keeping, personnel policy, job descriptions, discipline and dismissal. Another chapter addresses intellectual property issues including patents, trademarks, copyright and industrial design.
Ideal for small business owners and managers, generally those businesses where there are too few employees to warrant a full-time HR person. The book provides general awareness of legal requirements and considerations and helps readers avoid common legal pitfalls.

Canadian Copyright Law, third edition
By Lesley Ellen Harris
332 pages, McGraw-Hill Ryerson (2001)
At bookstores or 1-800-565-5758,

This revised edition tackles questions that often surface in employment relationships, particularly in this era of digital media and the Internet. Questions like:

•What is copyright protection?

•Is Web site content protected by copyright?

•How do you obtain permission to use protected material?

•How do you register work?

•What are electronic and digital rights?

•How do I stop someone from using copyright protected material without permission?

The first chapter outlines several types of protection — including copyright applying primarily to books, computer programs, Web site content, films and a wide range of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works.

Legal practitioners, managers or HR professionals with responsibility for intellectual property issues and policy should find this read interesting, specifically those working in a milieu where copyright protection is relevant. Some readers may already be familiar with the author; he’s a Canadian lawyer who previously wrote Digital Property (McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1998, reviewed in CHRR, Jan. 17, 2000).

Mediating Employment Disputes
By Barry Kuretzky and Jennifer MacKenzie
161 pages, Canada Law Book (2001)
(905) 841-6472 or 1-800-263-3269,

While money is an important issue in employment law disputes, there is usually much more at stake. “For an employee, it is often about emotions, respect, self-esteem, family issues and a sense of fairness as well. For an employer, it may be about running an effective business, employee morale and equity, among many other things.” This book provides an overview of mediation models, legal issues and procedures, determining when to mediate, how to prepare, and examples of creative solutions in disputes related to disability claims, reasonable notice, stock options, pension losses or other matters.

Written for lawyers primarily, the book details the role of counsel including preparing mediation materials, opening statements and third-party statements, selecting the mediator and the client representative, negotiation strategies, drafting a settlement agreement and avoiding common pitfalls. There’s also advice on setting up and preparing the client for the mediation session. This book will help management and HR readers understand the legal path and context of mediation, including alternative mediation processes such as judicial mediation, shuttle mediation and co-mediation.

Resolving Conflicts at Work
By Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith
252 pages, Jossey Bass (2000)
Available from Wiley Canada,

“Each of us experiences innumerable miscommunications and conflicts in the course of our lives that affect us deeply and daily. It is impossible to grow up in a family, live in a neighbourhood, attend school, work at a job, have an intimate relationship, raise children, or actively participate in the world without experiencing frequent conflicts.” The book is built on eight paths from impasse to transformation:

•understand the culture and the context of conflict;

•listen with your heart;

•embrace and acknowledge emotions;

•search beneath the surface for hidden meaning;

•separate what matters from what’s in the way;

•learn from difficult behaviours;

•solve problems creatively; and

•explore resistance, and mediate before you litigate.

This is a “complete guide for everyone on the job” including those who have no prior experience in handling conflict resolution. It may be of particular interest to internal consultants and facilitators of change, HR managers, line managers or executives who want to improve their grasp of human and stakeholder dynamics, and develop new approaches for intervening to help address differences that can have a high organizational cost, if left unresolved.

Mediating Dangerously: The frontiers of conflict resolution
By Kenneth Cloke
251 pages, Jossey Bass (2001)
Available from Wiley Canada,

For advanced study on the personal and psychological approaches to mediation, this book shows mediators “how to examine the inner processes and hidden personal recesses that limit their effectiveness, as well as the outside systems and structures that restrict their capacity to act on what they have learned.”

The scope includes:

•personal transformation — not forcing people to change or be someone they are not, but helping them become more of who they really are; and

•organizational transformation — bringing group cultures and systems into congruence with the wishes and desires of the people who work in them, who are served by them and who are the true reason for their existence.

This is a specialized book for conflict resolution professionals who want “to advance beyond the traditional steps, procedures, and techniques of mediation to unveil its invisible heart and soul and to reveal the subtle and sensitive engine that drives the process of personal and organizational transformation.” It explores the “dark places” — fear, apathy, dishonesty, insanity, revenge, oppression, domestic violence — and addresses the motives, needs and roles of the helper or mediator along with the challenge to take risks, open wounds and create new choices.

Ray Brillinger is a senior consultant with the IBM Consulting Group. He provides change management, business transformation and organization effectiveness services to client organizations. He can be reached at (905) 316-8733 or [email protected]

Latest stories