The Pendulum Swings: Wrongful Dismissal and Summary Judgment

Summary judgment can be an invaluable tool for individuals who lose their job. Unlike the traditional litigation route, trudging labouriously through mediation and discoveries to trial, it allows for expedient and cost-effective resolution of straightforward employment disputes.

Rule 20 of the Ontario Rules of Civil Procedure provides for summary judgement "where there is no genuine issue requiring a trial." Last year, following amendments to the rule, the Supreme Court in Hryniak v. Mauldin revisited its application and confirmed that it "must be granted whenever there is no genuine issue requiring a trial."

Is there now an implied duty to provide reasons for dismissal?

One of the most common complaints employment lawyers hear from workers who have just lost their jobs is that they don't know why they were fired. Many become even more aggravated when they ask for a reason and are told 'we don't have to give you one.' Unsurprisingly, this type of response can often result in the now ex-employee imagining all kinds of innovative rationales as to explain their dismissal.

Pursuant to the Employment Standards Act, which applies to most Ontario employers, there is no requirement to tell dismissed employees' why they are being fired. Accordingly, 'we don't have to tell you' can be a valid response [1].

Long Service Worker Awarded 27 Months' Severance Pay

It is pretty rare that an employee will receive a severance package worth more than 2-years of their salary. In fact, it is generally agreed that there is an informal '24 month cap' on the amount of pay that a dismissed employee will receive in severance.

That said, there are exceptions to every rule. A recent case from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Markoulakis v. SNC Lavalin Inc., illustrates what circumstances may produce a severance entitlement above the 24-month cap.

Off-Duty Conduct and Discipline: The FHRITP Case

This week a media firestorm was sparked over comments made by a Hydro One employee (Shawn Simoes) to Shauna Hunt, a CityNews Television Reporter, outside a Toronto F.C. game. Shortly after the televised exchange, Hydro One made the decision to terminate Simoes' employment.

Mr. Simoes was present when another man yelled into Ms. Hunt's Microphone during a live broadcast, "F__k her right in the p___y." Yelling this phrase, abbreviated to FHRITP, was popularized in a series of fake news reports in early 2014. Ms. Hunt, visibly upset at this act, challenged Mr. Simoes and his friends who had stood close by. Mr. Simoes did not repeat the phrase but said on live television to Ms. Hunt that what had transpired was "f____ hilarious." Before adding "you're lucky there's not a f___ vibrator here."

What is 'Just Cause' for Dismissal?

There is a reason that Canadian courts refer to just cause for dismissal as the "capital punishment of employment law." The implications can be grave. If you are fired for just cause, you will likely face a number of problems. These can include your former employer refusing to provide severance, Service Canada denying your application for Employment Insurance ("EI") benefits and potential negative work references while seeking re-employment.