We are pleased to share a recent Benefits Canada article, “Employers can’t rely on original termination clauses when employee responsibilities increase: court,” with quotes from George Avraam. A recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision upheld a motion judge’s award of over $400,000 to an employee on the basis of the changed substratum doctrine. The case
Another Termination Clause Bites the Dust
There is a presumption that an employee is entitled to common law reasonable notice upon termination of employment without cause. Employers may rebut this presumption through an enforceable termination clause that, at the very least, provides Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”) minimums, and displaces an employee’s right to common law reasonable notice.
In the past year, the Ontario Court of Appeal made it clear that it will find as unenforceable a termination clause where even the slightest imprecision could result in an unlawful contract. This trend started in Andros v. Colliers Macaulay Nicolls Inc., where the Court narrowly interpreted a failsafe clause as applying only to the first part of a termination clause but not the second. In Rossman v. Canadian Solar Inc., the same Court concluded that savings provisions, such as a failsafe provision, cannot save employers who attempt to contract out of the minimum standards prescribed by employment standards legislation. And most recently, in Waksdale v. Swegon North America Inc., the Court struck down a valid “without cause” termination sub-clause because the “for cause” termination sub-clause was unenforceable. In short, the Court concluded that where one of the sub-clauses is unenforceable, the entire termination clause must fall and it will not be saved by a severability clause.…
Saving Provisions Unable to Save Termination Clauses
The Ontario Court of Appeal released yet another decision on the interpretation and enforceability of termination clauses: Rossman v. Canadian Solar Inc., 2019 ONCA 992. Recent appellate decisions on this matter have been inconsistent on this issue and unfortunately, Rossman is more bad news for employers. Nevertheless this decision provides guidance that should be considered in reviewing and drafting termination provisions in employment contracts.
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No Termination Clause in a Fixed Term Contract – A Costly Omission!
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has reminded employers that terminating a fixed term employment contract early can prove to be expensive.
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A New Contract for a Current Employee? Consider the Consideration!
Employers often wish to enter new or updated employment agreements with existing employees. The driving force is typically that circumstances have changed, but it can also be that the employer simply wants different or additional terms. However, the employer must give the employee valid consideration, otherwise the new or updated agreement will not be enforceable.
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Defining “Cause” in a Termination Provision: Mind Your Language!
This is part two in our series on recent Ontario Superior Court decisions that employers should be aware of before finalizing future employment agreements. See here for our first part, on the recent trend of lengthy notice period awards for long service employees of advanced age.
As most employers know, unenforceable termination clauses often give rise to costly wrongful dismissal claims. Yet the case law in this area is constantly evolving, and it is increasingly challenging to stay abreast of what a court will consider to be enforceable.
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Dismissing a Long Service Employee of Advanced Age May Prove to be More Costly
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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ONCA Upholds Termination Clause and Signals to Courts to Not Create Ambiguity Where None Exists
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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Alberta and Ontario Courts Diverge on Termination Clauses
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.
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Ontario Court of Appeal Weighs in (Again) 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.
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