Frustration of employment contract warrants termination, severance pay

Ontario employer deemed disabled worker’s employment at an end with no prognosis for re-turning to work, but decision wasn’t made in bad faith: Court
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 09/10/2019
The worker said he intended to return to work but there was no prognosis for when that might happen. Shutterstock

An Ontario employer who released a disabled worker with no prospect of returning from his employment didn’t act maliciously or egregiously but must pay him statutory termination and severance entitlements after his employment contract was frustrated, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has ruled.

Ronald Hoekstra, 51, worked as a medical social worker for Rehability Occupational Therapy. Rehability hired Hoekstra in September 2005 under a written contract of employment.

In December 2008, Hoekstra went on short-term medical leave due to symptoms related to severe esophageal and stomach conditions, during which time he received group benefits from a third-party health-care provider. He remained off work for several months, returning in September 2009. Hoekstra worked for another couple of years while being able to manage his conditions until May 2012, when he once again had to take time off.