The recent Federal Court of Appeal decision in Wilson v Atomic Energy of Canada
Limited addressed the long-standing question of
whether federally regulated employers under the Canada Labour
Code can terminate employees without just cause. Judge Stratas
at the Federal Court of Appeal found that federally regulated
employers may dismiss employees without cause upon reasonable
notice or pay in lieu thereof, stating that:
"In conclusion...Part III of the Canada Labour Code
does not jettison the common law principles which govern the
termination of an employment relationship. Had Parliament intended
to implement a drastically different legal order in which common
law principles played no role, it would have said so in plain
Background and procedural history
Mr. Wilson was employed by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL)
for four and a half years. He was terminated on a without cause
basis and offered six months severance in exchange for a release.
Under the Canada Labour Code which governs AECL, he would
only have been entitled to 18 days of notice.
Mr. Wilson did not sign the release. Instead, he filed a
complaint under Part III of the Canada Labour Code,
alleging that he had been unjustly dismissed. The labour
adjudicator appointed to hear the complaint found that the
Canada Labour Code does not allow for termination without
cause, and therefore Mr. Wilson's termination was unjust as he
had been terminated without cause.
Disagreements amongst labour adjudicators
On judicial review, the Federal Court disagreed with the labour
adjudicator's decision, and found that the Canada Labour
Code does allow for dismissal without cause. In upholding the
Federal Court's decision, Judge Stratas at the Federal Court of
Appeal took note of the long-standing disagreement amongst
adjudicators as to whether Part III of the Canada Labour
Code permits dismissal without cause. He acknowledged that for
a long time, the answer to the question depended largely on which
adjudicator you get.
Judge Stratas rejected the line of case law holding that Part
III of the Canada Labour Code disallows terminations
without cause, and found that a dismissal without cause is not
automatically unjust under the Canada Labour Code.
This post was also contributed by Ruoxi Wang (Articling
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Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
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