An important development for employers and dismissed employees
occurred as of August 1, 2014, when the Government of Alberta
raised the limit for claims in the Provincial Court of Alberta (the
"Court") from $25,000 to $50,000. This will have
important legal and practical implications on how wrongful
dismissal litigation is conducted in Alberta.
Many wrongful dismissal cases are currently argued in the Court,
and more cases will likely be heard due to the increased monetary
limit. Previously, the Provincial Court jurisdiction was limited to
amounts in dispute that were $25,000 or less. Because the court
dealt with employment-related matters in a less expensive and more
informal manner than the Court of Queen's Bench, many dismissed
employees took advantage of the Court's ability to adjudicate
wrongful dismissal matters where severance was not more than
There are inherent challenges when litigating in the Court. It
is a very busy court and it takes a fairly lengthy time-period to
have a trial scheduled. In some cases, the lack of questioning or
document production can be challenging for both the employer as
well as the dismissed employee. However, this is one of the
advantages of a simplified litigation system.
The judges are practical and, because Provincial Court judges
also act as Umpires under the Employment Standards Code,
they are knowledgeable about employment law concepts and issues.
This is not the forum to argue weak cases, whether a plaintiff or a
The last change to monetary limits occurred approximately 13
years ago when the limits were raised from $7,500 to $25,000. The
immediate expectation was that the Court would become clogged with
numerous wrongful dismissal awards, but that was not the case.
What does this Increase Mean for Alberta Employers?
From a human resources perspective, better documentation will be
required if the employer is contemplating termination and expects
litigation. Documents are an important part of the evidence and are
important to defend such claims because the dismissed employee can
1. claim up to $50,000; and
2. proceed to court without a lawyer.
The employer cannot act unreasonably and expect the termination
will not be challenged in court.
Likewise, whatever legal issues the employer may choose to
argue, it must act reasonably and be seen as acting reasonably in
respect to how they treated the employee, how it terminated the
employee, and how it conducts itself in litigation. The Provincial
Court judges are cognisant of irresponsible approaches to wrongful
If trial dates are delayed because of the increased caseload at
the Court, then this may have the unintended effect of creating
additional time for the dismissed employee to mitigate their
damages by finding alternate employment.
This publication is intended to provide our
general comments on developments in the law. It is not intended to
be a comprehensive review nor is it intended to provide legal
advice. Readers should not act on information in the publication
without first seeking specific advice on the particular matter. The
firm will be pleased to provide additional details or discuss how
this information is relevant to a specific situation.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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