Feb 14, 2017

When Can Your Employer Terminate You for Just Cause?

“Just Cause” is a legal term that describes when employers can terminate employees without providing any notice of termination or pay in lieu of notice.

In a 2016 decision, the Ontario Court of Appeal found that a teacher’s misconduct was serious enough to warrant a just cause termination.

The Legal Test for Just Cause

An employer may dismiss an employee for just cause when the employee’s misconduct is sufficiently serious that it goes to the heart of the employment relationship. The courts will review the nature and extent of the misconduct, consider the circumstances, and determine whether dismissal was warranted.

The Case

In Fernandes v. Peel Educational & Tutorial Services Limited, a private school terminated a teacher for just cause after discovering that the teacher had submitted falsified and incorrect student marks. The school had provided the teacher two opportunities to change the inaccurate marks.  Instead he lied to his employer and covered up his mistakes.

Recognizing that teachers occupy a special position of trust and have professional obligations to students and the school, the court found that the teacher’s actions constituted serious misconduct. The school trusted the teacher to properly evaluate student progress. The teacher intentionally acted against these interests.

The teacher did not describe any circumstances in his life that were affecting his job performance. If he did, this could have explained his actions. The teacher’s actions had endangered the school’s accreditation. The Court stressed that even though the school did not suffer harm, it is the severity of the potential harm that is considered in just cause.

Lessons to be Learned:

  1. Termination for just cause can deny employees significant pay in lieu of notice. Be cautious about your actions at work.
  2. If you are experiencing health issues, including mental health or addiction, that are affecting your work, inform your employer and seek assistance.
  3. Employers often cannot prove just cause. If you were terminated and did not receive notice or pay, speak to a lawyer.

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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