Employers in Canada are not required to state the reasons when firing employees. Is that the end of the story? No. The law grants them the right to terminate staff without warning or explanation as long as terminated employees are appropriately compensated.
Generally, termination falls within two categories: termination without cause and termination for cause. Federal and Ontario statutes govern each and employers must abide by those rules. Violating these employment laws or not abiding by an employment contract may result in wrongful termination and compensation for the overly harsh manner of dismissal.
If you believe you are the victim of wrongful termination, consult an experienced employment lawyer to advise you of your options.
Termination without Cause
When an employee is terminated without cause in Ontario, it means you are fired for reasons that do not amount to wilful misconduct (misconduct on purpose) or just cause (misconduct, but not done intentionally). Employers can disclose reasons at their discretion. Termination may be due to poor work performance, redundancy, restructuring, downsizing or not being a good ‘fit’ for the company’s culture. However, employers must provide the terminated employee with termination pay or notice of termination before the final work date. Normally, employees working consecutively for 89 days qualify for this right in Ontario.
Termination for Cause
Termination for cause means that an employee is fired for a specific, cumulative or series of reasons. They may have committed wilful misconduct for which the company’s only recourse is termination of employment. The misconduct in question may be theft, fraud, conflict of interest, sexual harassment or numerous more potential actions or omissions done intentionally.
The employer must state the reason when an employee is fired for cause. Employees terminated for cause are not entitled to termination or severance pay.
Why Employers May Not Want to Give Reasons For Dismissals
It is a company’s right to terminate an employee without explanation as long as the termination does not violate any laws. Companies have a legal right to reorganize their workforce as they see fit. They sometimes use terminations to maximize human capital and reposition the business.
Below are some reasons companies may want to keep their reasons private.
- Revealing the reason can lower morale. This situation can cause feelings of distress not only for the terminated employee but also for other staff members, leading to increased anxiety and reduced overall morale. Some employees might even start questioning their job security.
- It might be used against the company in court. The phrase “anything you say can be used against you in court” holds true when giving reasons for termination. Depending on the content of the statement, it could make the termination unlawful, leaving the company susceptible to a lawsuit.
- The cause can be hard to explain. Depending on how the information is revealed, an employer may be held liable for wrongful termination.
Understanding Wrongful Termination
When dismissing for misconduct and denying termination pay, employers are required to warn employees before kicking them out of the business. Employers are prohibited from firing employees in certain circumstances. The following actions and circumstances can be grounds for a wrongful termination suit:
- No termination pay: Employers cannot terminate employees without honouring the requisite notice (Ontario is one week per year of service) or payment instead of that notice of job loss. Failure to provide termination pay makes a termination illegal.
- Discrimination: Employers are prohibited from firing staff because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, disability and religion, among other reasons. This is discrimination – and discrimination is illegal.
- Retaliation: The certain employment laws prohibit employers from firing staff who ask about their legal rights and request freedom from illegal actions. The activity may involve making a complaint about the employer and the employee is illegally dismissed as a result.
Are You a Victim of Wrongful Termination?
Losing your job without knowing the reason can be a challenging experience. If you or someone you know believes they were wrongfully terminated, contact Lecker & Associates. Our team of experienced employment lawyers can evaluate your case and ensure you receive the benefits you deserve.