Termination of Employment

IDEL and Constructive Dismissal
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The Ontario Superior Court has ruled once again on the right of an employee to assert a constructive dismissal in light of the O. Reg. 228/20: Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (“the Regulation”) under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA). In the latest decision, the court ruled that the Regulation does not preclude an employee from asserting a common law constructive dismissal. 

As discussed in previous posts, under the Regulation neither a reduction in the employees hours of work or wages constitute a constructive dismissal under the ESA if they occur during the COVID-19 Period. The COVID-19 Period keeps changing on us, but it currently runs from March 1, 2020 to September 25, 2021.  There have been conflicting decisions about whether the Regulation also removes an employee’s right to assert a constructive dismissal under the common law. 
Continue Reading Another Ruling on the IDEL and the Employee’s Right to Pursue Common Law Constructive Dismissal

severance and employer payroll threshold
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A new ruling from Ontario’s Divisional Court has changed which employees will be entitled to severance pay. While the law has been mixed, it was generally the case that the $2.5 million payroll threshold for the purposes of calculating severance pay applied to Ontario payroll only. The Divisional Court has now ruled that global payroll should be considered. 

What’s Severance Pay?

In Ontario, employers with a payroll of more than $2.5 million must, upon termination or severance of employment, pay severance pay to employees with five or more years of service. This aspect of the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) increases the legal minimums employers are required to pay to long service employees significantly. Under the ESA, notice of termination caps out at 8 weeks, whereas severance pay can be up to 26 weeks. 
Continue Reading Heads up Multinational Employers! A Change to the $2.5 Million Payroll Threshold Calculation.

IDEL and constructive dismissalsLast month we blogged about the  Ontario Superior Court’s decision in Coutinho v. Ocular Health Centre Ltd. (Coutinho) when the court ruled that an employee placed on Ontario’s Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL), established by O.Reg 228/20 (the Regulation), could still bring an action for constructive dismissal at common law. The plot has thickened with the release this month of a contradictory decision in Taylor v. Hanley Hospitality Inc. (Taylor).

In the Taylor decision, the court considered the same issue – is the employee precluded by the Regulation from bringing a claim for constructive dismissal under the common law, when their hours are reduced or eliminated as a result of the pandemic? While the court in Coutinho concluded no, the court in Taylor has concluded yes. 

Where does that leave us? Because these two decisions are from the same level of court, neither has more weight than the other for later judges who might be deciding cases on similar facts. When decisions of the same level conflict, we need a higher court to weigh in – in this case, that would be the Ontario Court of Appeal. 
Continue Reading Good News for Employers: A New Decision On Constructive Dismissal and the IDEL

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The COVID-19 Period in Ontario’s Infectious Disease Emergency Leave has been extended until September 25, 2021. Prior to this change, the COVID-19 Period was set to end on July 3, 2021. 

What does the end of the COVID-19 Period mean?

The end of the COVID-19 Period is relevant to employers who reduced the hours of their employees due to COVID-19 reasons. In many cases, these employees were “laid off,” meaning they work no hours at all. 

Typically, a layoff can only last for a specific number of weeks. The introduction of the “deemed IDEL” and the extension of the COVID-19 Period have made it possible for these employees to remain off work/laid off for much longer, without a termination being triggered. 

If you were an employer keeping the July 3, 2021 end date in mind, you can forget that and add September 25, 2021 to your calendar.
Continue Reading IDEL COVID-19 Period Extended to September 25, 2021

pregnant employee notice periodIn the case of Nahum v. Honeycomb Hospitality Inc., the employer, Honeycomb Hospitality, terminated their Director of People and Culture, Sarah Nahum when she was five months pregnant. 

Entitlement to Notice of Termination

The notice period is intended to bridge a terminated employee to their new position. Courts consider the employee’s age, length of service and the character of their employment when determining what notice period is appropriate. 

Ms. Nahum had been with Honeycomb for just four and a half months. She was 28 years old and made $80,000 per year. She was terminated without cause, did not have a valid contract governing her termination entitlements, and therefore was entitled to notice in accordance with the common law. 

Honeycomb argued that an appropriate notice period for Ms. Nahum was two months.  
Continue Reading How Does Being Pregnant Impact an Employee’s Notice Period?

Constructive Dismissal and the IDEL
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At long last, the impact of Ontario’s Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL) on employee constructive dismissal claims has been litigated. Employment lawyers have been speculating for a long while about how courts will treat the various employment pivots employers were required to make during the pandemic. We now have our first answer. 

Last week, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice released its decision in Coutinho v. Ocular Health Centre Ltd. and ruled that the IDEL does not take away an employee’s ability to sue for constructive dismissal. 

What’s Constructive Dismissal?

A constructive dismissal occurs when an employer unilaterally and substantially changes an express or implied term of the employee’s contract. The term also needs to have been essential. Changes regarding pay, duties, hours of work etc., can all potentially be constructive dismissals. 
Continue Reading An Important Ruling for Employers on Constructive Dismissal and the IDEL

SpringLaw is 4!!!!  To celebrate our 4-year anniversary, thank our clients and welcome non-client businesses who are looking for a new way to receive legal services, we are pleased to offer The 444 Toolkit.

The 444 Toolkit is a collection of our most highly sought-after resources our clients ask for every day:

  • 4 core legal templates
  • 4 of our most popular workplace law guides
  • 4 helpful checklists

If you are a small business owner, looking to update your core legal docs and needing some guidance to navigate this ongoing rollercoaster of the pandemic, this workplace law toolkit is for you!

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Continue Reading The 444 Employment Law Toolkit

Over the course of the past year, many people have had reductions in earnings and received some form of government income assistance - EI, CERB or Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB).  In some cases, employees who initially thought that their interruption or reduction in earnings was temporary have had their employment terminated.   In almost all termination situations an employee will be entitled to some form of termination payment from the employer. Employees who are also receiving government income assistance may wonder how their government payments will be impacted by their termination packages.   While not everything is crystal clear at this point, we have some thoughts!  Layoffs and the Deemed IDEL   As noted, in some circumstances, employees have been temporarily laid off. During 2020, these layoffs converted into Deemed Infectious Disease Emergency Leaves (IDEL). Unless an employee is terminated, these Deemed IDELs will continue during the COVID-19 Period, which is presently set to end July 3, 2021.   While an employee is not receiving income, or while they are receiving 50% or less of their pre-COVID income due to COVID-19 reasons, they will typically be eligible for EI or the CRB.   Employees who have not had their employment ended at the end of the COVID-19 Period can expect to either be recalled to work or be placed on a temporary layoff. A temporary layoff can continue for up to 35 weeks if the employer continues the employee benefits.  An employee can expect to continue to be eligible for CRB or EI after the COVID-19 period should they be continued on a layoff.   Terminations, EI, CERB and CRB  An employee who is terminated while on the Deemed IDEL should receive their termination entitlements up to the date of their termination. This means that for the purposes of calculating length of service the employee’s time on the Deemed IDEL should be included. This should also mean that the income replacement benefits that the employee received prior to their termination date should not be required to be paid back, for reasons of double-dipping. The termination package should cover a time period after the termination date and therefore not impact the benefits received prior to the termination date.    While it is not 100% clear how the CRA will treat an employee’s continued entitlement to income replacement benefits following the termination date after the employee receives a termination package there are a few general principles:   EI - Typically an employee will not be entitled to EI when they are receiving income from the employer, and EI will regard termination payments as income. However, the government’s EI FAQs state that “As a temporary measure most separation monies received when you are laid off will not affect the payment of your EI benefits for the claims established on or after September 27, 2020 for one year.” This suggests that EI payments with respect to COVID-19 may be treated differently.   CERB - While the period for which employees could receive CERB is over, the government CERB FAQs indicate that “A severance payment does not impact an individual’s eligibility for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.” This suggests that receiving a termination package will not disentitle an employee from their CERB. In a recent decision the Ontario Superior Court agreed - see Iriotakis v. Peninsula Employment Services Limited, 2021 ONSC 998.  CRB - The CRB will likely be treated similarly to the CERB, and we expect that an employee will not have to repay the CRB if they also receive a termination package so long as they continue to maintain eligibility. An employee will be required to re-pay $0.50 of CRB for every dollar of net income earned above $38,000 in the calendar year.   Terminated employees who have been receiving income replacement benefits should get advice so that they can understand the impact of their termination packages on their entitlements to these benefits.Over the course of the past year, many people have had reductions in earnings and received some form of government income assistance – EI, CERB or Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB).

In some cases, employees who initially thought that their interruption or reduction in earnings was temporary have had their employment terminated. 

In almost all termination situations an employee will be entitled to some form of termination payment from the employer. Employees who are also receiving government income assistance may wonder how their government payments will be impacted by their termination packages. 

While not everything is crystal clear at this point, we have some thoughts!
Continue Reading Termination Payments and Repaying Government Benefits – EI, CERB and CRB

honest contractual dealings
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A recent Supreme Court of Canada decision serves as a helpful reminder to workers and businesses about the importance of honesty in their contractual dealings. C.M. Callow Inc. v. Zollinger involved condo maintenance contracts. The plaintiff, C.M. Callow performed summer and winter maintenance for the defendant Zollinger, who managed maintenance contracts for several condos (referred to as Baycrest). 

The Deception

Baycrest and Callow entered into a two-year winter maintenance contract in 2012. In the Spring of 2013, Baycrest decided they wanted to end the winter contract. The contract allowed for early termination, for any reason, by way of 10 days notice. They did not provide that notice until September of 2013, allowing Callow to act on his impression that the winter contract would be renewed all through the summer of 2013. Through the summer of 2013 Callow performed the summer maintenance contract and also did additional work for free, in the hopes and under the impression that the winter contract would be renewed.  
Continue Reading Honesty – the Golden Rule for Contracts

impact of covid-19 on terminations
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The Covid-19 pandemic has changed our economy. In many industries, it has made it more difficult to find work and also more difficult for businesses to afford termination packages when letting employees go. The relevance of these facts to how courts will determine what terminated employees are entitled to has, so far, been unclear. 

Reasonable Notice

When an employment relationship is not governed by a written contract – with valid termination provisions – a terminated employee’s entitlements on termination without cause will be determined by the common law and what is called reasonable notice. 
Continue Reading The Impact of the Pandemic on Termination Packages