The September, 2015 Case: Gordon v. Altus Group Limited 2015 ONSC 5663.
The employer alleged cause for termination. The Court held there was no cause for termination. The employer had to pay not only damages for failure to provide reasonable notice, but also $100,000 in punitive damages (for a failure to perform the parties’ employment agreement honestly) and reimbursement of the employee’s legal expenses.
The employer effectively launched a campaign of ‘trumped up’ allegations to try to establish cause for termination, effectively to intimidate the employee from making a claim for wrongful termination. They included: improper behaviour in the workplace, conflict of interest and, for example, hiring a friend (who allegedly had been a fraudulent person).
The employer failed to follow a progressive discipline process properly or procedurally. It should have, for example, held meetings with the employee to identify the concerns, provided written warnings and provide the employee opportunity and guidance to correct the alleged problems. The employer did not follow its own internal discipline policy. The Court also found the employer held ulterior motives in its conduct.
The Warning to Employers:
If you think you should fire an employee for cause, critically examine the existence of solid facts and solid evidence to substantiate the claim, as well as your motives. Also consider whether you have followed the procedural steps required of you, such as providing the employee with a warning of the problematic behaviour before the termination occurs. There will be occasions when you may be able to terminate for cause with minimal risk because the problematic behaviour is very serious, has been documented, and the employee in question has been clearly warned that his or her job is in jeopardy. In addition, there will be no extraneous circumstances that put into question your intentions. However, if you could be perceived as advancing “trumped up” allegations, or your position simply doesn’t pass the ‘smell test’, this case may persuade you to take a different course – it affirms and demonstrates the heavy cost you may pay if you proceed down the wrong path.
This WARDS PC BLAWG is for general information only. It is not legal advice, or intended to be. Specific or more information may be necessary before advice could be provided for your circumstances.
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