Was I Just Fired? Understanding Your Employer’s Words and Actions

May 3, 2017

Normally, an employee knows if he has been fired. The employer sits him down, provides a termination letter and often offers a severance package.  However, on occasion, an employer’s conduct is confusing. We regularly meet with clients who want to understand whether they have been constructively dismissed or terminated.

For more information about constructive dismissal, keep reading here.

In a recent decision, the Ontario Court of Appeal considered whether an employer’s words could amount to a termination.

The Case

In Sweeting v. Mok, the employee was a nurse and office assistant to a doctor.  She had worked for the doctor for more than 22 years. Their relationship began to sour over the implementation of an electronic records system. During a particularly tense meeting, the employer doctor berated the employee and eventually told her, “Go! Get out! I am so sick of coming into this office every day and looking at your ugly face.”

Ms. Sweeting believed that she had been fired after this meeting. The doctor disagreed and said that since she did not return to work, she had resigned.

The trial judge found that the employee had been fired.  The judge held that a reasonable employee would take the doctor’s words as a termination. Further, the judge found that this angry outburst alone was enough to destroy the working relationship. The Court of Appeal agreed.

Lessons

This case highlights the fact that an employer’s words can have serious consequences.  If your employer has said or done something that made you feel like you were terminated, legally you may have been. This is particularly true if there was a heated exchange during a discipline meeting.

If you would like to speak to a lawyer at MacLeod Law Firm about termination, you can reach us at [email protected] or 647-204-8107.

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