20-year oral contract unenforceable but deserves increased notice: Court

Doctor on long-term contract found to be ‘dependent contractor’
By Andrew Treash
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 07/27/2011

The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench has ruled that even though a long-term oral employment contract is unenforceable, it may have an impact on the notice period required for termination. The court also recognized the existence of “dependent contractors.” These workers, while not exactly employees, are economically dependent on their “employers” and, as such, are entitled to some form of reasonable notice.

Melvyn Lavellee was a doctor who had been working at the Siksika Nation near Calgary. When he started working there at age 50, he and the nation agreed that he would work there until he retired at 70. In October 2005, after working there for about ten years, he was informed that his services would no longer be required after January 2006.

Lavellee sued the nation on the basis that they had a 20-year contract and that he was owed damages based on the length of time left in the contract — 10 years.