Public employees subject to regular contract law: Court

Supreme Court says employees contracted under public law aren’t entitled to extra dismissal rights
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today

The Supreme Court of Canada has limited the rights of public employees to due process and changed the standard of review for fairness in the wrongful dismissal case of a New Brunswick government employee.

David Dunsmuir worked in the offices of the clerk of the New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench in Fredericton. After his hiring in February 2002, his original four-month probationary period was extended twice until it lasted 12 months, with a performance review at the end of each four-month period. By the end of the 12 months, he met expectations and was given a permanent position.

In July 2002, Dunsmuir was reprimanded for improperly e-mailing the chief justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench to complain about a judge. He was warned if he didn’t go through proper channels in the future, he would be disciplined and possibly dismissed. On June 3, 2004, Dunsmuir was suspended for one day with pay after advertising as a lecturer at private sector legal seminars, despite being told public service lawyers shouldn’t practice law in the private sector. He was also warned about the timeliness and organization of his work, which needed to improve.