Why do Judges Still Get Character of Employment Wrong?

In Summerfield v Staples Canada Ltd ( 2016 ONSC 3656) Perell J. had this to say when determining the notice period for a  salesperson:

The character of employment factor tends to justify a longer notice period for senior management employees or highly skilled and specialized employees and a shorter period for lower rank or unspecialized employees: Cronk v. Canadian General Insurance Co., supra; Bullen v. Proctor & Redfern Ltd., supra, at paras. 7-10; Teitelbaum v. Global Travel Computer Holdings Ltd. (1999), 41 C.C.E.L. (2d) 275 (Ont. S.C.J.); Bernier v. Nygard International Partnership, 2013 ONSC 4578 (CanLII) at para. 57; Tull v. Norske Skog Canada Ltd., 2004 BCSC 1098 (CanLII).

However the definitive word on this issue is found in  a case not cited by the Court called Di Tomaso v Crown Metal Packaging Canada LLP ( 2011 ONCA 469) where the Ontario Court of Appeal had this to say about the issue:

27 Crown Metal would emphasize the importance of the character of the appellant’s employment to minimize the reasonable notice to which he is entitled. I do not agree with that approach. Indeed, there is recent jurisprudence suggesting that, if anything, it is today a factor of declining relative importance: see Bramble v. Medis Health & Pharmaceutical Services Inc. (1999), 175 D.L.R. (4th) 385 (N.B. C.A.) (“Bramble”) and Paulin c. Vibert (2008), 291 D.L.R. (4th) 302 (N.B. C.A.).
28 This is particularly so if an employer attempts to use character of employment to say that low level unskilled employees deserve less notice because they have an easier time finding alternative employment. The empirical validity of that proposition cannot simply be taken for granted, particularly in today’s world. In Bramble, Drapeau J.A. put it this way, at para. 64:
The proposition that junior employees have an easier time finding suitable alternate employment is no longer, if it ever was, a matter of common knowledge. Indeed, it is an empirically challenged proposition that cannot be confirmed by resort to sources of indisputable accuracy.
29 In my view, the motion judge conducted an appropriately holistic review of the case before her. She did not give disproportionate weight to any of the Bardal factors. She dedicated nine paragraphs of her reasons to the character of employment factor but it was simply not as relevant in these circumstances as the other three factors. She did not err in doing so.

In other words the assumption that lower ranked people get lower notice periods than higher ranked people has not been the law in Ontario since 2011.

Why then do judges and lawyers still rely on a faulty statement of the law ?

342 thoughts on “Why do Judges Still Get Character of Employment Wrong?”

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