The courts have described just cause terminations as the “capital punishment” of employment law. If an employee is terminated for “just cause,” the employer is not obligated to pay the employee any termination or severance pay. However, courts will take a close look at whether an employer is justified in firing an employee in this manner.
In Gates v Humane Society, an employee was terminated for just cause due to an alleged workplace violence event. Over a span of two days, two co-workers engaged in a shouting match. The Humane Society asked one of the employees, Gates, to apologize and he did. However, the Humane Society did not believe the apology was sincere, and fired Gates for just cause.
The Court found in favour for the employee, believing the employee’s versions of events rather than the Humane Society’s. The three-year employee was awarded $12,189.38 plus legal costs of $4,150 for being wrongfully dismissed.
Throughout the case, the Humane Society was represented by its CEO, not a lawyer. Largely because of the CEO’s actions for failing to follow Court procedure and behaving egregiously, after a serious of motion and appeals, the Courts ordered the Humane Society to pay Gates $20,000 in legal costs.
- Fired employees should seriously consider seeing an employment lawyer, especially if they are terminated for cause. An employee must commit serious misconduct for an employer to be justified in firing someone with cause.
- Court procedure may be complex and difficult to follow. If procedure is not followed properly, parties may have to pay legal costs to the other side. The Humane Society was ordered to pay the employee more in legal costs than what it lost at trial.
If you would like to speak to a lawyer at MacLeod Law Firm, you can reach us at [email protected] or 647-204-8107.
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