Vey Willetts LLP was recently successful in defeating a summary judgment brought by IBM Canada Limited. This decision, Amberber v. IBM Canada Limited, serves as an important reminder to employers of the need to draft contractual termination clauses with a high degree of clarity, or risk unanticipated liability in the event of a without cause dismissal.
A recent decision from the Ontario Court of Appeal, Roberts v. Zoomermedia Limited, dealt with the unusual situation of a defendant employer arguing that its own contractual termination provision was unenforceable and thus the plaintiff employee was entitled to common law reasonable notice. Employees frequently challenge the enforceability of a termination provision to seek common law notice, however, it is rare that an employer would do the same.
There are few areas of employment law more in flux (and vexing to lawyers) than that surrounding the enforcement of termination clauses. Part of the frustration is when the Courts provide seemingly contradictory messages on whether termination clauses will be upheld. In January 2017 alone, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice released two decisions that appear, on their face, to be somewhat at odds.
Vey Willetts LLP was recently successful on a motion for summary judgment, seeking increased severance for an employee who had been wrongfully dismissed. In its decision, Vinette v. Delta Printing Limited (2017 ONSC 182), the Superior Court significantly increased Mr. Vinette's severance entitlement from 8 weeks to 15 months.
Fixed term employment contracts can serve a useful purpose within an organization. They permit employers to limit the engagement of an employee to a set project or a fixed period of time. In circumstances where there is a significant fluctuation in annual work volume or where temporary staff are required to offset absences (such as due to illness or a parental leave) fixed term contracts may be ideal.
Employers who fail to incorporate a binding termination clause into their written employment agreements may face significant, and unexpected, liability for severance. This lesson was learned the hard way by Qualified Metal Fabricators ("QML") in a recent unpublished case out of Toronto.
QML employed Mr. Roy Singh as an assembler from May 2011 until his dismissal, due to an alleged shortage of work, in May 2015. Upon termination, QML paid Mr. Singh 4 weeks' termination pay in compliance with the Employment Standards Act, 2000, and allegedly the terms of his written employment agreement.
It is an all too common story. You prepared for the job interview. You got all of the questions right. All you have to do is sign on the bottom line and you do, because it is just a formality, isn't it? And you don't want to rock the boat before you even have your first day at work.
Something like the fictional sequence of events above will sound familiar to most people. It is very rare for employees to push back at the time of hire about the terms of their employment. However, you can expect that when an employer puts an employment contract in front of you, it is designed to protect the company's interests and not your own. The next time you have to consider signing an employment contract, watch out for these five key items.