Series of Fixed Term Contracts Over 38 Years Yields Zilch Severance:

In Burns v University of New Brunswick ( 2017 NBQB 104) Justice Glendening had to decide whether the failure to offer a new contract to the plaintiff after a relationship of multiple contracts over a 38 year time span was a wrongful dismissal requiring reasonable notice .

The Judge said no, for the following reasons:

   I agree with the factors set out in the pre-trial brief of UNB which support the finding of fixed term contracts between Burns and UNB (ELP):

•         No continuous employment between the parties.  All ELP contract employees were told repeatedly that there was no guarantee of work in the future;

•         Contracts varied in length, duties and position.  Burns had the opportunity to and did negotiate terms of his contract;

•         Rate of pay was discussed and negotiated;

•         Burns refused contracts and, in particular, November 2015;

•         Records of Employment were issued over the years;

•         Burns did not receive benefits or pension from ELP or UNB;

•         Burns did contribute to the Public Service Shared Risk Plan under terms as established by PNB;

•         Burns did not receive vacation or sick time but he did receive vacation pay in his statement;

•         Burns had no authority over staff members or any students; and

•         Burns received the following training between 1978 and 2016:

–     three annual conferences in 1991 and two between 1991 and 2015;

–     one six hour session in 2008 and one three hour session as a workshop in 2013; and

–     a two day workshop at UNB’s College of Extended Learning in 2012.


[17]                              I find that an employee whose contract is not renewed at the conclusion of a fixed term contract is not entitled to reasonable notice.  The case law indicates that the contract is simply terminated and neither party is under any obligation to continue the contract of hiring.  I find that the contracts were clear and comprehensive.  I find that Burns was not an indefinite hire employee but rather a contract term employee.  There were no ambiguities to be interpreted in regard to termination.   Burns is not entitled to any reasonable notice.  The plaintiff was not wrongfully dismissed.

In Ontario, this plaintiff still would have been entitled to both termination pay and severance pay under the Employment Standards Act, which would have come to around 34 weeks, depending on if and when the gaps in employment were  in excess of 13 weeks.