Insubordination In The Workplace: Can You Be Terminated?

Insubordination In The Workplace: Can You Be Terminated?

Sometimes, employers and employees just cannot get along. In some cases, employees and employers will learn to work together anyway, ignoring potential problems that might arise. Other times, people will not be able to work together, and an employee may choose to refuse to work or mock their employer. The relationship may deteriorate so much that the employer may fire the employee due to their insubordination.

If an employer does choose to fire their employee due to insubordination, they may choose to fire their employee with cause. Firing an employee for just cause is very different than firing an employee without cause. 

This article will tell you about what insubordination in the workplace looks like, and how it could potentially lead to an employee being terminated with just cause.

What is insubordination in the workplace?

Workplace insubordination can come in many forms. The typical example of insubordination involves the refusal by an employee to follow an order given by their superior. The order given needs to be reasonable and within the law, and the employee needs to have deliberately and intentionally chosen not follow it. The employer cannot claim insubordination just be because the employee did not understand the instructions or did not receive the message.

Insubordination can also include the use of mocking or insulting language towards superiors in the workplace, or the mocking of decisions that superiors have made. 

Some examples of insubordination in the workplace might include:

  • An employee refusing to complete a task, despite being capable of doing so and understanding how it should be done.
  • An employee mocking an employer after a meeting.
  • An employee failing to come into work and refusing to come in when called upon.
  • An employee leaving their shift and refusing to return.

Insubordination might not include:

  • An employee not doing a task that they were not assigned or that was not part of their job description.
  • An employee does not do a task because it is unsafe, unethical, illegal, or goes against their religion or beliefs.
  • An employee not doing a task because it goes against societal norms of acceptability.
  • An employee not accepting a change in their rate of pay.
  • An employee completes a task incorrectly because they did not understand the instructions.

What is a just cause termination?

In most cases, when an employee is fired, they will be terminated without cause and provided a termination package that accounts for their age, service time, role, and other factors. A without cause dismissal can occur for a number of reasons, and those reasons can include the employer’s need to restructure the business, or the employer’s need to fire the employee because they were not the right fit. Employees who are not unionized can be terminated at any time without cause, so an employer can decide to do just that, so long as they give them proper notice or payment in lieu of notice.

In other cases, such as employee  insubordination, the employee may be fired with just cause. 

Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our Experienced Employment Lawyers

Contact us by phone toll-free at 1-866-561-2176 or email us at [email protected], and we will be happy to assist.

Firing an employee with just cause means that the employee does not receive proper notice or payment in lieu of notice once dismissed, and they can immediately be terminated from their position without receiving any further payment, save for any regular payment that they have earned.

What do you have to prove if you are terminating someone for insubordination?

Terminating someone with just cause is more difficult than terminating someone without cause. The accusation of cause must have merit, must be severe, must directly affect the workplace and the employer, and otherwise cause harm to the workplace environment. An employer does not need to prove that the behaviour of the employee was done deliberately. 

Terminating an employee with just cause has a very high threshold, and employers should be wary of this before going ahead with the action.

What can I do if I am terminated with a just cause?

If you are terminated with just cause, you can speak to an employment lawyer about any options you may have. In many cases, the employer may have not sufficient cause to fire the employee without notice or payment in lieu of notice, which will lead to wrongful dismissal. An employment lawyer is unlikely to get you your old position back, but if you were wrongfully dismissed, you may be able to receive the termination pay that you would have gotten if you were terminated without cause.

Finally, speaking to a lawyer may help you change your termination status from being terminated with just cause to being terminated without cause, which can help you receive employment insurance.


If an employee refuses to do their work, despite being capable of doing so, mocks an employer, or otherwise finds ways to refuse to do this job, then they may be acting in insubordination. If an employee’s behavior is bad enough, their employer may choose to fire them with just cause, and without providing them notice or payment in lieu of notice.

The threshold for termination with just cause is very high, and in some cases, it may be done unfairly. If you are an employer who wants to terminate an employee for just cause, always seek legal advice about the best way to do so. 

If you are an employee who has been terminated for just cause, you should speak to an employment lawyer to learn about your rights and whether you can do anything.

Contact Us

If you are an employee or an employer with questions about just cause termination for insubordination, our team of experienced employment lawyers at Achkar Law can help.

Contact us today at +1(800) 771-7882 or email [email protected], and let us help you find the solutions you need to move forward. 

Further Reading