Ontario Court of Appeal Reverses Finding That Plaintiff Failed to Mitigate :

In Lake v. La Presse, 2022 ONCA 742, the trial judge had assessed an 8 month notice period for a 52 year old General Manager with 5.5 years service making $185,000. However the trial judge reduced the notice period by 2 months on the grounds of poor mitigation.

The Court of Appeal reversed the reduction and said the trial judge erred for the following reasons:

1. The Judge said that as time went on the Plaintiff should have looked for lesser positions such a salesperson. The Court held that this was an error and that the Plaintiff is always entitled to look for comparable employment and that she need not lower her sights as time went on.

2. The trial judge said that she was aiming too high in applying for VP jobs. The Court found that the trial judge focused too much on the titles of the positions the Plaintiff was applying for and ignored the Plaintiff’s evidence that the jobs she was applying for were of the same nature as hers, despite their loftier titles.

3. The trial judge admitted that she had no evidence before her on this issue , but went on to infer that if there were VP jobs available there must have also been more junior jobs available and that if the Plaintiff had applied for such junior jobs, she likely would have got one. The Court stated that the employer has to show not only that such jobs actually exist ( on which point no evidence was led) but that if she had applied she would have obtained that job.

My Comments:

The law seems to be that the employer must not only show that the Plaintiff failed to pursue comparable employment but that if the Plaintiff had done so that they would have had a job before the end of the notice period.

The first part of the test is not hard to prove but the second part is almost impossible. Many job applicants meet the qualifications of a job ad but do not get the job. There may be many qualified candidates but only one position. The job may go to the most qualified applicant or to the GM’s lazy nephew.

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