‘Just cause’: A moving target?

Carelessness and sloppiness may be just cause for dismissal but not enough to deny an employee statutory termination pay
By Peter Straszynski
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 06/15/2011

Every Canadian province has employment standards legislation imposing minimum entitlements on termination of employment. Where an employee has not signed a written agreement limiting termination entitlements to these minimums or to some greater specific amount of notice or severance, the common law (except in Quebec) implies that the employee is entitled to “reasonable” notice (or pay instead) on a termination without cause.

Many employers assume “just cause” for termination at common law means the employee is not entitled to statutory minimum notice and severance pay. This is not necessarily correct, as the test for disentitlement to statutory and common law notice is not always the same.

A recent Ontario Superior Court of Justice decision reminds us in very clear terms of three important cautions for employers wishing to assert just cause, the last of which deals squarely with the possible differences between statutory and common law standards.