Bad contract wording gives long-time employee big notice award

Termination clause limited notice, but didn’t guarantee benefits during notice period; 21 months common law notice instead
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 03/20/2019

An Ontario company must pay a dismissed employee damages equal to 21 months’ pay because the termination clause in its employment contract potentially deprived the employee of benefits during the reasonable notice period, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has ruled.

St. Joseph Communications is a marketing and advertising company based in Ontario. In 1994, it hired Kelly Cormier as a freelance wardrobe stylist with an oral employment contract. St. Joseph considered Cormier to be an independent contractor at the time, but Cormier believed she was an employee of the company.

Cormier’s duties as a freelance wardrobe stylist involved selecting clothing and accessories for models in St. Joseph’s advertisements and promotions. Once she selected the items, the company bought them and hired the models, while also supplying an iron to Cormier to press the garments. St. Joseph issued the assignments to Cormier on a day-to-day basis and paid her either by the hour or for each project, depending on the particular project.