‘Just Cause’ Termination
Not all terminations are without cause. Some terminations are determined to be for “just cause”.
When terminated with cause, your employer does not have to give you notice or payment in lieu thereof. You are simply walked out the door.
When is Just Cause appropriate?
The courts have found that, in certain circumstances, employers have the right to dismiss an employee for just cause, or for ‘good reason’.
The legal test to determine if an employee has been terminated for just cause is found in the case of Regina v. Arthurs (1967), 62 D.L.R. (2d) 342 (Ont. C.A.):
If an employee has been guilty of serious misconduct, habitual neglect of duty, incompetence, or conduct incompatible with his duties, or prejudicial to the employer’s business, or if he has been guilty of wilful disobedience to the employer’s orders in a matter of substance, the law recognizes the employer’s right summarily to dismiss the delinquent employee.
To determine if just cause exists when being terminated, the employee has to have done something or omitted to do something (not done something) so grave that it is incompatible (or against) with the employee’s duties, fundamental terms of the employment contract and employment relationship.
You haven’t done anything ‘wrong’, yet your employer said you did.
The employer has a duty to act in good faith known as the “Duty of Fair Dealing”. This means that they are not allowed to falsely accuse you of misconduct when none occurred.
Courts take a ‘contextual approach’ when determining if your misconduct is grave enough to justify being summarily dismissed ‘with cause’.
The alleged misconduct will be looked it in the unique context of your specific workplace activities and environment, then determine if it merits you being terminated.
But I haven’t been given any warning…
Employers are not allowed to falsely accuse you of misconduct in order to avoid giving you notice or payment in lieu of notice.
Progressive discipline and warning letters are a must when an employer alleges that your termination is for just cause.
Without being warned, the employee will not be aware that they are not performing up to standard and will not be given the opportunity to rectify their actions.
Without proper documentation of warnings, whether verbal or written, employers could be considered to have ‘condoned’ (allowed) their employee’s performance. Agreeing to less than ideal performance or a certain misconduct will disallow employers to terminate an employee for just cause.
Courts hold that employees should be afforded (given) the opportunity to better their performance before being terminated for just cause.
It is very important for employers to properly document everything that happens. Employers should have progressive discipline and corrective measures in place. All employers should consider implementing Performance Improvement Plans to employees with performance issues before terminating for just cause.
If you are an employee and have questions or have been terminated and your employer is claiming that they have just cause to terminate you, contact us today. We can help with examining the events that led up to your termination. Reviewing and understanding the events that led to your termination can help in better determining if you are entitled to a termination package.
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