The Ontario Court of Appeal has reiterated that, barring exceptional circumstances, reasonable notice for dismissal without cause will not exceed 24 months. The Court partially overturned the lower court’s decision in Dawe v The Equitable Life Insurance Company of Canada, which also ruled on the enforceability of unilateral changes to the employer’s bonus plan.
Continue Reading 24 Months Reaffirmed as the “High End” of Reasonable Notice; Bonus Plan Changes Must Be Accepted by Employee

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.
Continue Reading Independent Contractors Entitled to Reasonable Notice on Dismissal?

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.
Continue Reading Highest Court Rules Quebec Franchisee Was Employee, Not Independent Contractor, Under Provincial Statute

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.
Continue Reading Supreme Court to Decide if Bad Faith Employer Conduct Nullifies Limit on Incentive Compensation

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.
Continue Reading Dismissing a Long Service Employee of Advanced Age May Prove to be More Costly

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.
Continue Reading ONCA Upholds Termination Clause and Signals to Courts to Not Create Ambiguity Where None Exists

Employers who include discretionary bonuses as part of their employees’ compensation packages should be aware of the Ontario Court of Appeal’s latest guidance on (i) bonus entitlement for the period up to dismissal and (ii) compensation for the loss of a bonus during the reasonable notice period. This guidance came in the Court’s decision, issued last week, in Singer v. Nordstrong Equipment Limited, 2018 ONCA 364. Our analysis of the lower court’s decision in this case can be found here
Continue Reading Is Your Dismissed Employee Entitled to a Bonus?

A recent decision of the Alberta Court of Appeal adds further confusion to the issue of the enforceability of termination clauses. In Holm v AGAT Laboratories Ltd, 2018 ABCA 23 (“Holm“), the Alberta Court of Appeal (“Court”) held that explicit language must be included in a termination clause to oust an employee’s common law rights.
Continue Reading Alberta and Ontario Courts Diverge on Termination Clauses

The Ontario Court of Appeal just released another decision on the interpretation and enforceability of termination clauses – the latest chapter in a less-than-clear set of guidelines. Generally speaking, a properly drafted termination clause can be used to limit an employee’s entitlements on dismissal.
Continue Reading Ontario Court of Appeal Weighs in (Again) on Termination Clauses

Many employers rely on the discretionary nature of their bonus plans to deny bonuses to employees they’ve dismissed. However, in last month’s decision in Singer v Nordstrong Equipment Limited, 2017 ONSC 5906, the Court held that stipulating that a bonus is discretionary in the policy doesn’t necessarily give the employer complete freedom to withhold the bonus. Rather, discretionary bonuses must be awarded through a “fair, identifiable process.”
Continue Reading Is a Discretionary Bonus Really Discretionary?