Induced Employee Who Lasts Only 2 Months in New Job Gets 6 Months Notice :

In Younesi v. Kaz Minerals Projects B.V. (2021 BCSC 614) Justice Kent was dealing with 40 something Engineering Manager who was induced to leave his prior employer of just 2 years and join the Defendant. After only a little over 2 months employment the Defendant decided that the Plaintiff was ” not a good fit ” .

The Court said that normal reasonable notice was 4 months but it was bumped up  to 6 months because of the inducement.

The Court also awarded $12,500 in mental distress damages because the Plaintiff had a “thin skull ” and took the termination much harder than the average person ashe felt that  his professional competence was being  questioned. The Court noted that as this part of the claim is a tort, you take your victim as you find them so even though the average person would not have gone through the distress that the Plaintiff would have, he must still be compensated.


Successor Employer on An Asset Sale Must Explicitly State That Prior Service Does Not Count:

In Kitchen v Brandt Tractor ( 2021 NBQB 064) Justice Terrance has a situation where after an asset sale the new employer offered the employee from the vendor employment and specified that his adye of hire would be the date of the transaction closing but there was no specific mention of whether his  prior service would be regognized.

This is what the Judge said:

[30] Nowhere is previous service mentioned in the context of termination or reasonable notice. The Employment Contract only recognizes past years of service for purposes of vacation. The defendant submits that because the Employment Contract only references vacation and is silent on the issue of reasonable notice then, by implication, prior service is excluded from the calculation of reasonable notice (expressio unis est exclusio alterius). I disagree. The purpose of advising the employee of whether or not prior service will be included in the calculation of reasonable notice on termination is to permit the employee to make an informed decision whether it is better in his interest to claim against his former employer for damages or accept the new offer of employment. An important part of that calculation is whether his prior years of service will be counted if he is terminated by the new employer. The offer of employment made by Brandt in this case is, at best, ambiguous. It does not expressly state that prior service will not be counted. In my view, the offer of employment made by Brandt was not sufficient to put the plaintiff on notice of the consequences of his decision to accept the new employment with Brandt. The defendant has failed to rebut the presumption identified in Sorel andrecognized in Stone.

[31] The plaintiff’s entitlement to reasonable notice will be based on 11 years and 8 months service.


Under the ESA this is not an issue as the Act provides for deemed continuous service where the purchaser continues the employment of the vendor’s employees whether the transaction is a share sale or an asset sale.

However under the common law, one must first distinguish between an asset sale and a share  sale. There is no issue with a share sale as the employer is the same corporate entity, only the owner of the shares changes. However the case law supports the proposition that that is different for an asset sale. This actually goes back to ancient anti slavery provisions which prevented the Master from selling the Slave.

Quere, isn’t it ridiculous that an employee’s legal rights flow from how a bunch of tax lawyers decide to set up a transaction? How is the employee supposed to know or understand the difference between these two types of sale ? I digress.

As a workaround to this absurd law, judges have created this presumption of inherited prior service. However like all presumptions, they  can be overturned with evidence to the contrary.

So if an employer successfully negates the presumption then for common law purposes there is new employment but for ESA purposes there is  continuous employment. Moreover if the contract purports to say that for all purposes service is not continuous, is that provision void as it is contrary to the ESA?

Who ever said that employment law was easy.

“Cause” is the Same as “Just Cause” Thus Makes Termination Clause Illegal :

In Lamontangne v J.L Richards & Assocuates ( 2021 ONSC 2133) Justice Roger had a case where the employment contract had a termin ation provision which said “Employment may be terminated for cause at any time, without notice. ”

Under Waksdale v. Swegon North America Inc., 2020 ONCA 391 , the use of the term “just cause” instead of the defintion of wilful misconduct under the ESA has been found to invalidate the entire termination clause.

In this case the Defendant tried to distinguish thier clause by saying it only said ” cause” not “just cause “.

The Judge did not buy it. Here is what the Judge said :

[37] As a result, the “for cause” termination provision is illegal as it incorporates the common law “just cause” concept, which means that an employee could be terminated without any notice for conduct that is not “willful” or “bad on purpose”. This is an attempt to contract out of the minimum standards prescribed by the ESA and voids the entire clause. It does not matter what the employer might have done, the wording of the clause is determinative.

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67 Year Old Technician With 3 Days Service Gets 3 Months Notice :

In DALTON v FRASER VALLEY FIRE PROTECTION LTD ( 2021 BCPC 146) Judge Skilnick decided that the Plaintiff’s age was such an important Bardal Factor that the reasonable notice period was a pretty shocking 3 months notice. The judge also found that there was no enticement and the poorly worded probationary clauise did not apply .This is what the Court said.

[33]     Older employees, particularly those over 50, may be entitled to a longer period of notice. Age is a factor that bears so importantly upon the prospects for other similar employment and employers who terminate the employment of older employees must appreciate the difficulty that is thrust upon older employees who are on the receiving end of a wrongful dismissal.

My Comments:

Although age is definitely an important Bardal Factor, it is not usually that important where the service is short. In part this is because if older short service workers were automatically entitled to much longer notice periods that younger workers, this would simply create another barrier to the hiring of older workers.

By the way, the Plaintiff represented himself.

If The Employer Has Just Cause It Does Not Matter if They Did Not Conduct an Investigation:

In McCallum v Saputo ( 2021 MBCA 62 ) JA Pfuetzner made it clear that under the common law an employer has no duty to investigate prior to dismissing an employee although if they do not and just cause is not found they run the risk of additional damages for not doing so.

In other words, if you hired Sherlock Holmes as a workplace investigator who concluded that you did have just cause but the judge disagreed with Mr Holmes, then the employer would lose.

On the other hand if you did no investigation at all but proved your case in Court, then the employer would win.

Companies often spend huge amounts of money on workplace investigations but then are shocked to find out that they are of little or no assistance when it comes to actually proving their case in a court of law. The witness statements taken down by the investigator cannot be used as direct evidence in Court and even the Plaintiff’s statements can only be used to contradict what he or she says in Court. Of course the investigators assessment of credibility and or their conclusions on liability are not admissible as this is the exclusive function of the judge or adjudicator.

Can the Alleged Harasser Examine for Discovery the Alleged Victim?

In Mohotoo v Humber River Hospital ( 2021 )NSC 4894) Mater La Horey had a situation where the Plaintiff, a manager, was fired for just cause for sexually harassing a unionized employee. The Plaintiff indicated that they wished to examine the alleged victim as the Defendant’s representative. The Defendant objected and proposed that they present a human resource manager, who had no first hand knowledge of the alleged harassment.

The Court found that the Plaintiff had the primary right to choose which representative of the Defendant that he wished as long as the the purpose behind choosing that particular person is not ” perverse, illogical, vindictive or made for a collateral purpose, such as intimidation.”

As there was no evidence that this was the purpose behind choosing the alleged victim as the Defendant’s representative, the Master ordered that chosen individual to attend for examination.

In this case it was noted that the only real issue was whether or not the sexual harassment took place, and thus the alleged victim would certainly have sufficient knowledge of the relevant facts.

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Court Awards Commission During Notice Period But Not Beyond:

In Kraft v Firepower Financial Corp ( 2021 ONSC 4962) Justice Morgan had a somewhat unique situation.

It was not disputed that on two different transactions the Plaintiff salesman had done everything that was expected of him up to his termination date and the only issue was whether the transaction would actually close and thus the Defendant would receive the sale proceeds. On of the closings took place within the 10 month notice period and one had not closed within the 10 months nor by the date of the hearing.

The Judge awarded the Plaintiff his commission for the first transaction but not for the second one ..

This is what he said :

[26] On the other hand, I am not prepared to award the Plaintiff commission on the Schure Sports deal if and when it ever closes. The Plaintiff’s notice period has come and gone, and his entitlement to wages – whether salary, bonus, commission, or other incentive payment – does not go on forever.

[27] The notice period defines the time frame after which both the employee and the employer must put the employee’s wages flowing from his termination behind them. Otherwise, an employer and employee would be tied to each other indefinitely. I am of the view that a judgment in a case like this should bring finality to the issues between the parties.

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Court Increases Notice Period From 9 to 10 Months Due to COVID:

In Kraft v Firepower Financial ( 2021 ONSC 4962 ) Justice Morgan awarded 10 months notice to a 34 year salesperson in the financial industry with 5.5 years service.

However he did this is in a three step process.

First of all he determined that the relevant case law showed a range between 4 and 12 months.

Secondly, he then determined that the average of those cases was 9 months .

Thirdly he added a month because ” there was evidence that the pandemic impacted on the Plaintiff’s ability to secure new employment.”

In this case the termination took place in mid March 2020, the same week the Ontario government declared the pandemic emergency . Here is more of what the Judge said :

[18] Here, by contrast, the Plaintiff was terminated during the second week of March 2020, the very same week and just days before the Ontario government declared an emergency. Whatever policy considerations drove the provincial government to implement its emergency orders on one particular day that week and not another are not relevant to the analysis; the point is that the economy was already shutting down and remained closed during the Plaintiff’s inevitably prolonged job search. A global pandemic does not just emerge on the day of the government’s emergency decree. 

[19] Especially during the first half-year of the shutdown in response to the pandemic, there was uncertainty in the economy and the job market and fewer employers were looking to fill positions. I agree with cases that warn against the danger of applying hindsight to the reasonable notice analysis: Iriotakis v. Peninsula Employment Services Limited, 2021 ONSC 998, at para 19. But as a number of my colleagues have commented, “[t]his degree of uncertainty, which existed on February 19, 2020, is one of the many factors that I consider in assessing the reasonable period of notice applicable to the circumstances of this case”: Lamontagne v. J.L. Richards & Associates Limited, 2021 ONSC 2133, at para 64. 

I find that the manner in which the Judge approached the notice issue interesting because he actually set out a logical process as opposed to musing about the Bardal Factors and then seemingly plucking a number out of the air.
I wonder whether in determining  the average of the cases he had before him a objective determination of the most relevant cases. ( yes this is a shameless plug for my Wrongful Dismissal Database ) .
He then clearly told us by how much he was increasing the notice period because of COVID .
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Judge Awards 24 Months Notice + $25,000 Moral Damages:

In Russell v The Brick Warehouse ( 2021 ONSC 4822) Justice Vella awarded 24 months notice to a 57 yearly Senior Supervisor making $75k with 36 years service.

However the surprising part of this case is that the Judge also awarded $25,000 for certain events following the termination. In essence, the Defendant failed to tell the Plaintiff that if he did not accept their offer ( which was in excess of the ESA minimums) they would nevertheless pay him his ESA minimums.

This is what the Judge had to say about the employer’s behaviour

[51] In considering the factors that inform an award for moral damages, the court is to look at the manner in which the dismissal was carried out. This can include conduct at the time of the dismissal and following the dismissal provided it is related to the dismissal: See Doyle at paras. 26 and 39. 

[52] The termination letter provided to Russell, dated July 21, 2020, is the focus of this analysis. It provided a without prejudice offer to settle Russell’s termination and severance obligations by providing terms that were, generally, more generous than the statutory minimum entitlement, but less than his common law entitlement for other aspects of his compensation. Russell had three days to accept this offer and would have had to sign a Release in favour of the employer. 

[53] The termination letter was not fully compliant with the minimum statutory entitlements of the ESA insofar as it did not reflect an extension of Russell’s employment related long term disability, accidental death and dismemberment coverage or ongoing participation in the Group RRSP and DPSP programs during the statutory notice period. Furthermore, the termination letter provided that vacation pay would only be paid accrued to the date of termination. Under the ESA, vacation pay continues to accrue over the statutory notice period, or eight weeks beyond termination in Russell’s case. 

[54] More importantly, the termination letter did not advise that if Russell declined the offer, he would be immediately provided with his statutory entitlements under the ESA. I find this to be a serious defect with the termination letter, as it implies employees will know that they can demand their statutory entitlements forthwith upon rejection of these types of offers. This defect reflects a failure by The Brick to deal fairly with Russell. By failing to include this proviso in the termination letter, The Brick was not being honest and forthright with Russell. 

[55] Furthermore, while The Brick’s failure to immediately transfer the correct amount of severance and termination pay into Russell’s RRSP was largely due to a series of “inadvertent” missteps on its conduct post termination, it nonetheless reasonably caused Russell distress beyond the “normal” hurt feelings that accompany termination without cause. 

[56] There is some evidence in the record that supports the requisite degree of mental distress, recognizing that mental distress need not be proven by medical evidence: Groves v. UTS Consultants Inc., 2019 ONSC 5605 at para. 113. 

[57] I recognize that an employee, like Russell, does not have a statutory entitlement to have his severance and termination pay directed to an RRSP. However, there is no suggestion by The Brick that it would not accommodate such requests from terminated employees and Russell made this request on July 23, 2020 – three days’ after receiving the termination letter – and this request was repeated by his lawyer. Eventually, The Brick did arrange for a direct deposit into Russell’s RRSP. 

[58] Russell was without income or, to his knowledge, benefits for approximately seven and a half months post termination. His spouse was forced to go back to work full time and Russell had to use his savings to make ends meet for the family during this period. Russell has been receiving some medical treatment and medication for stress related issues according to his unchallenged evidence. There was no good reason for The Brick to have failed to advise Russell by at least July 23, 2020 (after receiving his counterproposal) or shortly thereafter that the majority of his benefits would be extended beyond termination, in compliance with the ESA. There was also no good reason for The Brick to have not immediately advised Russell that he would receive his statutory notice and severance pay in the event its without prejudice offer was rejected. This is no way to treat any employee, much less a long-term loyal employee of over 36 years. 

[59] The fact that The Brick offered for Russell to keep the funds totalling the net ESA entitlements does not relieve it from its errors and lack of timeliness (see the chronology and evidentiary cites at para. 16 of Russell’s factum). The whole point was that Russell wanted the funds deposited into his RRSP so that there would be no personal tax withholdings from it. The 

Brick had already taken far too long to get the statutory entitlements right irrespective of the date when it was provided with the RRSP bank deposit information by Russell’s lawyer. 

[60] Furthermore, The Brick used the same basic template termination letter, modified to the circumstances of each terminated employee, as was used for Russell. While no direct evidence was led on the issue of how the “template” termination letters were modified, the inference is either none of the termination letters reflected the advice to employees terminated at around the same time as Russell that if The Brick’s offer to settle was rejected, they would receive the statutory minimum entitlements, or the other letters did reflect that advice and it was omitted from Russell’s termination letter. Either way, this factor supports an award of moral or aggravated damages, in combination with the other factors reviewed. 

[61] Russell asks for an award of $50,000 as moral or aggravated damages. 

[62] In the circumstances of this case and having regard to awards made by this Court in other cases featuring similar types of unfair dealings during the course of termination, I am awarding $25,000.00 as moral damages for the following reasons: 

a) A lack of transparency and fair dealing by The Brick in the termination process by failing to advise that Russell would be provided with his full statutory (ESA) entitlements in the event he rejected the offer reflected in the termination letter; 

b) A lack of transparency and fair dealing by failing to advise Russell that his benefits would be extended consistent with his statutory notice period irrespective of whether he accepted The Brick’s offer; 

c) The failure of the offer to meet all of the statutory entitlements, including vacation pay accrued over the course of the statutory notice period; and 

d) Mental distress Russell suffered beyond the usual hurt feelings and distress of being dismissed, and which was reasonably foreseeable to The Brick arising from its lack of transparency and fair dealing in the manner of terminating his employment. 

My Comments:

This is another example of how the Courts are reacting to behaviours by the employer that in their opinion fall below the acceptable standard.

For instance ,the Court felt that not telling the Plaintiff that if did not sign the release he would still be paid his ESA minimums was wrong. However, within one month of his termination he retained an experienced employment counsel who would have told him this. In fact, within 10 days of his termination the employer not only paid the ESA minimums but overpaid it by paying it twice. Therefore how was the Plaintiff possibly misled?

The problems seem to arise from this “overpayment “. Once they realized this “overpayment” the Defendant  asked that the Plaintiff return the portion in excess of his ESA. The Plaintiff refused and instead the Plaintiff returned the whole net amount. Why did he not simply keep all the money and tell the defendant it was a credit to his common law entitlement?

Through a series of screw ups the ESA payment was not properly paid to his RRSP until 7 months later.

The Judge made references to  some without prejudice offers made by both the Defendant and the Plaintiff . Funny, I always  thought that offers that were not accepted were not even to be disclosed to the Court, let alone referred to or relied upon.

One of the basis for the moral damages was the failure to pay vacation pay on the termination pay. At 12% of 8 weeks salary  at $75,000 /year this would amounted to $1,385.  But in fact the Defendant paid twice the ESA amount , an overpayment of 34 weeks ( $50,480) which more than covered the vacation pay underpayment of $1,385. Remember, the Plaintiff chose to repay the entire amount ( presumably because he wanted it in RRSP not subject to tax withholding ) and now was complaining that he did not get his ESA payments for 7 months.

My personal feeing is that certain judges feel compelled by the Court of Appeal to cap notice periods at 24 months absent special circumstances. However they feel that the Plaintiff should receive more than this informal cap and therefore will find other creative ways of rewarding extra monies to plaintiffs they believe are deserving by focusing closely on the Employer’s actions at the time of and following the termination.

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