Termination With Cause

Termination With Cause: What You Need To Know

Termination with cause, often referred to by a variety of names such as termination for cause, just cause termination, dismissal for cause, with cause or for cause dismissal, and fired for cause, is a significant aspect of employment law that can have profound consequences for both employers and employees.

In this article, we delve into the importance of termination with cause, and the critical implications it carries in the realm of employment. Whether you’re an employer seeking to understand the legal grounds for termination with cause or an employee facing the complexities of a potential just cause termination, this resource is your gateway to clarity and insight.

What is Termination With Cause?

In the context of Ontario employment law, termination with cause, often referred to as termination for cause, just cause termination, or various other similar terms, is a specific type of employee dismissal. It occurs when an employer decides to terminate an employment contract due to serious misconduct, negligence, or a significant breach of the employment agreement by the employee.

Termination with cause is distinct from a termination without cause, where an employer ends the employment relationship for reasons that are not related to the employee’s behaviour or performance. When an employer terminates an employee with cause, it signifies that the employee’s actions or omissions were so severe that they justified immediate and severe consequences, including the termination of employment.

In Ontario, specific legal standards and requirements must be met for termination with cause to be considered valid and lawful. Generally, the employer must demonstrate that the employee’s actions or behaviour met the legal threshold for just cause, such as serious misconduct, theft, fraud, harassment, or other severe violations of the employment agreement or company policies.

It’s important to note that termination with cause is a serious and complex matter in employment law, and it has significant legal implications for both employers and employees. Employers must be able to substantiate their claim of just cause, and employees have the right to challenge the termination if they believe it was unjust. Legal advice and consultation are often sought by both parties to navigate the complexities of termination with cause in accordance with Ontario employment law.

The courts have found that, in certain circumstances, employers have the right to dismiss an employee for just cause, or for ‘good reason’.

The legal test to determine if an employee has been terminated for just cause is found in the case of Regina v. Arthurs (1967), 62 D.L.R. (2d) 342 (Ont. C.A.):

If an employee has been guilty of serious misconduct, habitual neglect of duty, incompetence, or conduct incompatible with his duties, or prejudicial to the employer’s business, or if he has been guilty of willful disobedience to the employer’s orders in a matter of substance, the law recognizes the employer’s right summarily to dismiss the delinquent employee.

The Key Elements of Termination With Cause

In the realm of termination with cause, where an employee is faced with allegations of wrongdoing by their employer, several critical elements come into play. Ontario’s employment law framework ensures that both employers and employees operate within a fair and equitable system.

The “Duty of Fair Dealing”: This fundamental principle underscores that employers must act in good faith when dealing with their employees. It means they cannot falsely accuse employees of misconduct when none has occurred. This Duty of Fair Dealing forms the foundation of termination with cause proceedings, ensuring that employees are treated fairly and ethically.

A “Contextual Approach”: Ontario courts take a contextual approach to assess whether alleged misconduct justifies termination with cause. This involves a thorough examination of the specific work activities and environment in which the alleged misconduct occurred. Only then can they determine if it warrants the employee’s termination.

The Importance of Warnings: To uphold the principles of fairness and provide employees with an opportunity to rectify their actions, employers are required to follow a progressive discipline approach. This approach involves issuing warning letters to employees when allegations of misconduct arise. Without these warnings, employees may not be aware of their performance shortcomings and may not have the chance to improve.

Proper Documentation: Accurate and thorough documentation of warnings, whether they are verbal or written, is a crucial aspect of termination with cause proceedings. This documentation plays a pivotal role in ensuring that employers are not considered to have “condoned” an employee’s performance, which could prevent them from terminating an employee for just cause.

Opportunity for Improvement: The legal system in Ontario emphasizes that employees should be provided with an opportunity to enhance their performance before being terminated for just cause. This underscores the importance of proper documentation, progressive discipline, and, where necessary, the implementation of Performance Improvement Plans. These measures align with the principles of fairness and legal requirements in Ontario’s employment law, safeguarding the rights of both employers and employees.

Key Takeaways

In the realm of termination with cause in Ontario, it’s paramount to uphold the “Duty of Fair Dealing.” Employers should act in good faith, avoiding false accusations of misconduct. The contextual approach recognizes the uniqueness of each case, emphasizing the importance of considering the specific work environment. Warnings play a crucial role, giving employees a chance to improve their performance. Proper documentation of warnings ensures transparency and prevents misunderstandings. The legal system underscores the need to offer employees an opportunity for growth before considering termination with cause. By embracing these takeaways, employers and employees can navigate this process in line with Ontario’s employment law, fostering fairness and ethical conduct in the workplace.

Contact Achkar Law

If you are an employee and have questions about ‘just cause’ terminations or have been terminated and your employer is claiming that they have just cause to terminate you, contact us today. We can help with examining the events that led up to your termination. Reviewing and understanding the events that led to your termination can help in better determining if you are entitled to a termination package.

If you are an employer who wants to terminate an employee for just cause, contact us before doing so, and we can help devise a plan that would allow you to do so safely.

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