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Hugh J.D. McPhail, Q.C., Partner

  Office:   Edmonton
  Direct Line:   780.482.9212
  Practice Area(s):   Labour & Employment, Construction
  Law School:   University of Saskatchewan (BA, LLB, 1976); Dalhousie University (LLM with Distinction, 1979)
  Bar Admission(s): Saskatchewan (1978), Alberta (1979)

Hugh is recognized by his peers as a leading practitioner in Western Canada in advising and representing employers in a variety of businesses and all three levels of the public sector in respect to labour relations strategy, labour arbitrations, Labour Relations Board applications, wrongful dismissal lawsuits, human rights, privacy, employment standards, workers’ compensation, and various other labour and employment matters.

He advises employers regarding the drafting, implementation, and application of executive contracts, employment agreements, non-competition, non-solicitation, and confidentiality provisions, change of control agreements, drug and alcohol testing programs, harassment policies, and general employment policies and practices.

Employers from many different industries engage Hugh to advise and represent them in a variety of employment related matters before the relevant tribunals, including all levels of the Courts up to the Supreme Court of Canada, and the various administrative tribunals that adjudicate employment related matters including those dealing with human rights, occupational health and safety, workers’ compensation and employment standards matters.

Based in Edmonton, Hugh conducts cases across Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northern Territories, as well as national cases on behalf of federal employers.


  • LL. M. (with Distinction), Dalhousie University
  • LL.B., University of Saskatchewan
  • B.A., University of Saskatchewan

Awards and Recognition

  • Recognized as a leading lawyer for Management Labour & Employment by Who's Who Legal: Canada
  • Leading practitioner – Employment (Employer), Labour (Management), Workplace Human Rights (Employer) and Workers' Compensation (Employer), Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory 2015
  • Recommended in The Legal 500 Canada 2015 directory in the area of labour and employment where he is described as a “consummate strategist”
  • Leader in the field - Employment & Labour Law, Chambers Global
  • AV Preeminent peer review rating (highest possible rating), Martindale-Hubbell
  • Recognized in the area of Labour and Employment Law, Best Lawyers Canada

Professional Associations and Affiliations

  • Former Director, Canadian Association of Counsel to Employers
  • Former Chair, Labour Section of the Canadian Bar Association (Alberta), Edmonton Branch
  • Former Chair, Federal/Provincial Labour Relations Committee of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce

Community and Volunteer Activities

  • Former Chair of the Board of Tempo School and of the Edmonton Opera Association
  • Founding Board Member of the Edmonton Recital Society and the Edmonton Gentlemen’s Dinner Club


  • Counsel for the Government of Alberta in dealing with the five day illegal correctional services strike in 2013, including Labour Relations Board hearings, contempt proceedings and their appeals. Precedent-setting contempt fines were ordered against and paid by the striking union of $350,000.
  • Counsel for two large employers in separate claims for damages for four different illegal strikes.  The largest claim led to a seven-figure settlement. 
  • Regularly advises and assists employers with non-competition agreements and restrictive covenants, including litigation concerning their breach. 
  • Represented employers in several precedent-setting labour appeals in the Alberta Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of Canada.
  • Provided strategic advice to the Crown in respect of recent province-wide industry negotiations.
  • Counseled and advised several employers through difficult strikes including representation before Disputes Inquiry Boards.  
  • Represented a major construction employer in an important challenge to drug and alcohol testing through to the Court of Appeal.  
  • Represented and advised a major employer through a heavily contested and ultimately successful outsourcing, including applications to the Supreme Court of Canada.
  • Regularly represents employers in wrongful dismissal suits and in grievance arbitrations.
  • Regularly represents employers in respect to human rights complaints before the Human Rights Commission of Alberta.
  • Regularly provides advice to employers concerning employment standards, privacy, WCB and OHS issues, including related tribunal appearances.  
  • Regularly negotiates collective agreements in a variety of industries.  
  • Continually represents and advises employers before the Alberta Labour Relations Board and the Canada Industrial Relations Board regarding matters such as union certification and revocation, unfair labour practice complaints, strikes and lockouts, and successorship and common employer applications.


  • Hugh is a regular speaker at local, provincial, western Canadian, national and international conferences on a variety of employment/labour law topics
  • Hugh has also been a sessional lecturer at the University of Saskatchewan Law School, University of Alberta Faculty of Business, and Grant MacEwan Community College



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