In 2016, the Ontario Court of Appeal confirmed that dependent contractors are entitled to reasonable notice of termination. In a recent decision, Cormier v 1772887 Ontario Limited cob as St. Joseph Communications, (“Cormier“) the Ontario Superior Court of Justice extended this principle – commenting that service as an independent contractor should be considered in calculating the reasonable notice period in certain circumstances.
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In a recent decision, Modern Cleaning Concept Inc. v. Comité paritaire de l’entretien d’édifices publics de la région de Québec, the majority of the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) held that a cleaner who had a franchise agreement with a cleaning company was actually an employee, not an independent contractor. This “employee” determination, however, was in the context of a very particular legislative regime, which applied to the specific franchise relationship. Since the cleaner offered his cleaning services in public buildings, he was covered by a collective agreement, the Decree respecting building service employees in the Quebec region (“Decree”), which sets out minimum standards in the workplace (wages, hours of work, overtime, etc.) and is governed by the Act respecting collective agreement decrees (“Act”). With the scope of its provisions being “public order”, the Decree can apply to any contract where an individual is in a relationship determined to be that of “employee” within the meaning of the Act.
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The Supreme Court of Canada will decide if an employee is entitled to payments owed in the event of a corporate acquisition despite the fact that the employee resigned over a year before the triggering event. On January 31, 2019, the SCC granted leave to appeal in Matthews v. Ocean Nutrition Canada Limited. The employee asserts that he is entitled to over $1 million in profits following the acquisition of his former employer – even though he had resigned 13 months before the transaction. If the SCC decides in the employee’s favour, employers may face more challenges (and increased litigation) when seeking to enforce limiting clauses in employment agreements.
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Surprisingly, evidently not. Briefly the facts in Plate v. Atlas Copco Canada Inc., 2019 ONCA 196: an Executive in the role of Vice President Global Strategic Customers was terminated for just cause grounded in a decades-long defrauding of the company and its benefits provider in conspiracy with the latter’s consultant, to the extent of over $20,000,000, over a million of which resulted to the Executive personally. His argument that he was a bystander incidentally enriched to the knowledge of the employer failed, conviction entered, no appeal pursued.

In the course of the criminal process the Court readily found that the Executive was a “fiduciary”, a formidable position of trust: the duty of replete fidelity, selfless devotion to the “beneficiary” (here the employer), compelling so-called “righteousness” behaviour.
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Faith-based, as in “good faith”, that is.

Not that long ago the Supreme Court installed “good faith” as core to the fabric of contractual relations in Canada whether commercial or employment, whether ostensibly arms-length as “independent contractor” or employment per se. Implying a duty to act fairly in contract is not foreign to other jurisdictions— it is foundational to EU legal principals and long-since present in the Restatements of US law.

Here, not so much. In the 60s Ontario Justice Goodman enthused about incorporation of “good faith” as a distinct implied term of contract; alas conservative sentiment rendered that distillation jurisprudential ‘moonshine’. Some 50 years on Bhasin v. Hrynew (2014) refined that elixir into single malt: the SCC aspirationally confirmed that we all gotta have ‘faith’.

While it remains difficult to be ‘sort-of pregnant’, good faith became operational but not as an independent “cause of action”. But as an influencer of import in contractual relations, it has certainly come of age: Mohamed v. Information Systems Architects Inc., 2018 ONCA 428.
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This is the first of our two-part series on recent Ontario Superior Court of Justice decisions that employers need to be aware of before finalizing their next employment agreement. The decisions highlight the risk of failing to include an enforceable termination provision in the employment agreement. Absent such a provision, an employee dismissed without cause will be entitled to “reasonable notice” of termination at common law.

In this first part, we examine two recent decisions of the Court that suggest that the Court now favours longer notice periods for long service employees of advanced age: Dawe v Equitable Life Insurance Company, 2018 ONSC 3130 (Dawe) and Saikaly v Akman Construction Ltd., 2019 ONSC 799 (Saikaly). Until recently, 24 months was generally considered as the upper limit of notice entitlement that courts would award absent exceptional circumstances.
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In its first decision of 2019, the Ontario Court of Appeal has overturned the lower court’s decision in Heller v. Uber Technologies Inc., 2019 ONCA 1. The Court of Appeal held that an arbitration clause requiring arbitration in the Netherlands of disputes between drivers and Uber to be invalid and unenforceable. Based on the presumption that Uber drivers are employees of Uber, the Court of Appeal found that the arbitration clause was a prohibited contracting out of Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA).
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To ring in the New Year, we highlight the ten most significant developments in Canadian labour and employment law in 2018.
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On August 2, 2018, the Supreme Court of Canada refused the plaintiff’s leave application in Krishnamoorthy v Olympus Canada Inc, 2017 ONCA 873. As such, the Ontario Court of Appeal’s ruling still stands. The ONCA held that a purchaser of assets of a business is free to offer employment on new terms to employees

Last week, the Ontario Court of Appeal released yet another decision on the interpretation and enforceability of termination clauses: Amberber v. IBM Canada Ltd., 2018 ONCA 571. Recent appellate decisions on this issue have been inconsistent and/or provided less than clear guidelines, see here, here, here and here. In contrast, Amberber is a bright spot for employers. The Court not only reaffirmed the principle that termination clauses must be interpreted as a whole, but also held that courts should not strain to create an ambiguity where none exists.
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