Ana Kraljevic Law Firm


When can my employer terminate me for just cause?

The law allows an employer to dismiss an employee summarily, (i.e., without notice) where the employer has “just cause” for terminating the employment relationship. As stated at paragraph 11 of the landmark case, Regina v. Arthurs (1967), 1967 CanLII 30 (ON CA), 62 D.L.R. (2d) 342 (Ont. C.A.), the following are instances where the law will accord the employer with the right to summarily dismiss a delinquent employee:

  1. if the employee if guilty of serious misconduct;
  2. habitual neglect of duty;
  3. incompetence;
  4. conduct incompatible with his duties, or prejudicial to the employer’s interests in a material manner; or
  5. wilful disobedience.

The key question that is before the courts when an employee challenges a just cause termination is whether the employee has engaged in misconduct that is incompatible with the fundamental terms of the employment relationship. In practice, it is a high standard to meet and is frequently referred to as the “capital punishment” of the employment relationship. As stated by the court in Dowling, dismissal is only warranted when the misconduct is sufficiently serious that it strikes at the heart of the employment relationship. The court will examine the following factors to determine whether a just cause dismissal is justified:

  1. the nature and extent of the misconduct;
  2. the surrounding circumstances; and
  3. whether dismissal is warranted proportionate having regard to all of the factors.

Application of the standard consists of:

1. determining the nature and extent of the misconduct;

2. considering the surrounding circumstances; and,

3. deciding whether dismissal is warranted (i.e. whether dismissal is a proportional response).

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