BC Supreme Court confirms the lower threshold for dismissing
an employee without notice during their probationary
Many employers require new employees to complete a probationary
period to allow the employer to assess the employee's
suitability and fit within the organization. In Langford v
Carson Air Ltd. , the B.C. Supreme Court considered
an employer's ability to dismiss an employee without notice
during the probationary period, and offered some guidance on the
actual purpose of a probationary period.
Carson Air hired Ms. Langford as a First Officer in August,
2012. Her employment was governed by a written contract, which
stated that she would be required to complete a six month
probationary period, and that, at any time, she could be dismissed
for cause without notice or pay in lieu of notice.
Ms. Langford was scheduled to begin training in September, 2012
but given that she initially lacked a required medical certificate,
her training was only completed in November, 2012.
Ms. Langford's first flight was with Carson Air's
director, who concluded that Ms. Langford's radio skills were
"atrocious" and that her previous flying experience was
not relevant to the role. Ms. Langford then completed other
flights, always under watchful supervision, and only with
In December, 2012, Ms. Langford brought her dog to work, even
though she was scheduled to fly on that day. It was a company
requirement that anyone scheduled to fly be available to leave
within 30 minutes of being called upon. More significantly, Carson
Air also discovered that Ms. Langford was missing a particular
qualification which Transport Canada required of all pilots before
allowing them to fly commercially. This meant that Ms. Langford had
been flying unlawfully for approximately six weeks.
Carson Air decided to end the employment relationship, on the
basis that Ms. Langford was not willing to take responsibility for
her actions, and because they were concerned about her lack of
judgment. Ms. Langford was informed that she had not successfully
completed her probationary period, and was dismissed without
further notice or pay in lieu of notice.
Ms. Langford brought a civil action against Carson Air, claiming
damages for, amongst other things, wrongful dismissal. The trial
judge found that Ms. Langford was dismissed for the following
reasons (at para 70):
[...] a failure to fit in with other employees, and a
failure on the part of the plaintiff to take responsibility for the
difficulties that arose during her employment [...]
Citing an earlier Court of Appeal Case, Jadot v Concert
Industries Ltd. (1997), the Court held that the test
for dismissal of a probationary employee is
"suitability". This is in contrast to the higher
"just cause" standard for a regular employee. An employer
must ensure that its decision is reasonable and properly motivated,
and that the probationary employee is given a fair opportunity to
demonstrate suitability. In this case, all of Ms. Langford's claims were dismissed.
Interestingly, the trial judge found that Ms. Langford's
"sweeping criticisms" of her colleagues at trial
confirmed that she did not fit with Carson Air's operations and
Lessons for Employers
Probationary periods are an excellent tool to asses an
employee's suitability for a job, both technically and for
The terms of a probationary period, including the
employee's entitlements on termination, should be set out in a
written employment contract.
A new employee may be dismissed during his or her probationary
period, without notice, on the basis of "suitability", so
long as that decision is reasonable, properly motivated, and the
employee has been given the chance to prove his or her
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about your specific circumstances.
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